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September 3, 2007
Volume 85, Number 36
p. 96

Pigeon Birth Control

Pigeons planning to procreate in Hollywood better beware. According to a report by the Associated Press, the birds are ruffling the feathers of some Hollywood residents, who complain about the mess these avian pests are leaving behind.

To curb the population of Pigeons in TinselTown, which has grown to around 5,000, community leaders have started a pilot program to add OvoControl P, a birth control agent, to bird food placed in new rooftop feeders.

"We think we've got a good solution to a bad situation," says Laura Dodson, president of the Argyle Civic Association, the group heading the contraceptive effort. "The poop problem has become unmanageable, and this could be the answer."

The idea of using the contraceptives came from the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which considers the pill a humane alternative to electric shock gates, spiked rooftops, and poisons.

Jesse Springer
Cartoon: Uncovering the truth.

The skyrocketing pigeon population is being blamed in part on people who like to feed the birds. One woman, known by locals as the "Bird Lady," has been spotted dumping 25-lb bags of seed around town.

OvoControl P was developed by Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.-based Innolytics and contains the compound nicarbazin. According to an Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet, the compound interferes with the formation of the so-called vitelline membrane, which separates the egg's yolk from the surrounding egg white. With the help of birth control, Hollywood's pigeon population is expected shrink to half by 2012, Dodson said.

Science Idol

The Union of Concerned Scientists has announced the winner of its 2007 Science Idol editorial cartoon contest.

Jesse Springer's cartoon, depicting politicians shoveling dirt onto the word "truth" as scientists work to excavate it, was selected from about 400 submissions by artists throughout the U.S. The topics of the cartoons, which take on the issue of political interference in science, ranged from global warming to toxic mercury pollution.

"Cartoons are a powerful medium—they can reach, and potentially educate, a tremendous number of people," says Springer, an aspiring political cartoonist and self-employed graphic designer. "If I can draw some compelling cartoons that shed light on the negative impact of governmental interference with science, and more people become aware of the problem as a result, then perhaps we can start to see a change for the future."

© NATURE 1953
DNA: Famous sketch.

Twelve finalists were selected by a panel of judges including Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles and Garry Trudeau, creator of the syndicated cartoon Doonesbury. Nearly 20,000 Americans then voted for their favorite cartoon in an online ballot.

Cartoons from the other finalists can be viewed at

Ode To Odile

Odile Crick, the woman who drafted the famous sketch of the DNA Double Helix in the April 1953 issue of Nature, died of cancer in early July.

According to a July 30 article in the New York Times, Crick's late husband Francis, along with James D. Watson, had asked her to do the sketch because neither of them had any artistic capabilities. "Francis can't draw, and I can't draw, and we needed something done quick," Watson is quoted by the Times as saying. He pointed out that the two researchers recruited Watson's sister, Betty, to type up the accompanying paper.

Odile Crick's stepson, Michael, said that his stepmother never wanted to make a big fuss over her famous drawing. He noted that when her husband and Watson told her how big their breakthrough was, she sort of shrugged. She later confessed that she had not believed the two, saying to her husband, "You were always coming home and saying things like that, so naturally I thought nothing of it."

This week's column was written by Linda Wang. Please send comments and suggestions to