A sizeable number of scientists are among the 25 winners of this year's half-million-dollar MacArthur awards. Although often referred to as the "genius" awards, the 5-year, no-strings-attached MacArthur Fellowships are often bestowed on community activists as well as artists and scholars.
So far, just 13% of the 588 fellows named since 1981 are scientists. This year, it's 28%. They include Daniel Schrag, the 34-year-old Harvard geochemist who recently revived the controversial notion of "snowball Earth"--that a pole-to-pole freeze 600 million years ago jump-started evolution. The others are: K. Christopher Beard, 38, a paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh; Hideo Mabuchi, 28, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech); Margaret Murnane, 41, a physicist at the University of Colorado, Boulder; Gina Turrigiano, 37, a biologist at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts; Erik Winfree, 30, a computer scientist at Caltech; Horng-Tzer Yau, 40, a mathematician at New York University.
The abundance of scientists is balanced by the presence of McGill University classics professor Anne Carson, 49, who, as commentator in a quirky 1995 TV series called The Nobel Legacy, came out with utterances such as "[the] delusion that there are such things as facts ... underlies the whole progress of science ..."