Father of ‘New Archaeology’ Dies
Lewis R. Binford, who
championed the use of the
scientific method in archaeology, died 11 April of
heart failure at his home in
Missouri. He was 79.
Binford, of Southern
Methodist University, was
a prime mover behind the inquiry-driven
“New Archaeology” of the 1960s and ’70s.
In 1962, he startled the field with a paper
arguing that archaeologists should focus on
how ancient people lived and died rather than
simply cataloging and describing artifacts.
When analyzing stone tools from France, for
example, Binford argued that different tools
were crafted for different uses rather than by
different tribes. He also lived with hunter-gatherers in Alaska and Australia in order to
understand the record left by human activities, producing studies that are now classics.
Although some later archaeologists
chafed at what they saw as the limits of scientific inference, Binford’s questions about
how people adapted to their environments
helped to transform the field, opening up
new areas of research. “Binford was the
most influential archaeologist of the past
half-century,” said archaeologist Colin Renfrew of the University of Cambridge in the
United Kingdom. “He was an exuberant,
expansive, larger-than-life individual.”
Prize for Sex Chromosomes
Discoveries about the X and Y chromosomes, which determine sex, have earned
two researchers this year’s March of Dimes
Prize in Developmental Biology. The prize
honors scientific research aimed at improving the health of babies.
In 1959, Patricia Ann Jacobs, now at
the University of Southampton School of
Medicine and the Wessex Regional Genetics
Laboratory in Salisbury, both in the United
Dark Matter? Keep Looking
Once again, physicists have not found particles of dark matter—the mysterious stuff whose
gravity holds galaxies together. Researchers working with the XENON100 particle detector
in the subterranean Gran Sasso National Laboratory in central Italy report that 100 days’
worth of data taking turned up three events that could be dark-matter particles smacking nuclei in the 62 kilograms of liquid xenon in their detector. But the scientists expect
roughly two false positives from ordinary particles, so the chances are that all three events
are “background,” the team explains in a paper submitted to Physical Review Letters. The
results show that other claimed dark-matter sightings—such as tantalizing results from the
CoGeNT detector in the Soudan Underground Laboratory in northern Minnesota—were also
spurious, the authors say. Physicists remain hopeful that bigger detectors will provide proof
positive of dark-matter particles within the next few years.
Kingdom, published a
paper explaining Kline-felter syndrome, in which
people have an extra X
chromosome. Since then,
“her contribution over the
years has been fantastic
in terms of understanding
says developmental biologist Robin Lovell-Badge,
who studies sex determination at the National Institute
for Medical Research in
Geneticist David Page of the Whitehead Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical
Institute, and the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology shares the prize for his studies of the Y chromosome and its functions
beyond simply determining male sex. “His
work on the evolution of the Y is particularly interesting,” Lovell-Badge says.
Jacobs and Page will share the $250,000
cash prize and will each receive a medal at
a 2 May award ceremony.
Off-Label Use Of Clotting Drug
An expensive clotting drug approved to
treat only hemophilia has become extremely
popular in hospitals to stem bleeding during
heart surgery, brain hemorrhages, trauma,
liver transplants, and prostate removal. A
massive new analysis drawing on 64 studies
of these “off-label” uses of the drug, recombinant factor VIIa (rFVIIa), found no evidence that it prolonged life; in some cases,
it caused dangerous embolisms. “The stakes
are high here in terms of patient outcome
and costs,” says Veronica Yank, a clinician at
Stanford University in Palo Alto, California,
who specializes in prevention research and
led the study published 19 April in Annals of
In a second paper in the same issue,
Yank and her colleagues showed that in U.S.
hospitals in 2008, 97% of the use of rFVIIa,
which costs $10,000 a dose and is made
by Novo Nordisk, was off-label. It’s legal
for physicians to prescribe drugs off-label,
but Jerry Avorn, a clinician at Brigham and
Women’s Hospital in Boston who co-wrote
an accompanying editorial, says hospitals
have a responsibility to act on these findings.
And if they don’t? “If I were a liability attorney, I’d find that interesting,” Avorn says.