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Bring Back the Blackboard

By | November 11, 2002

Image: Anthony Canamucio The scene: the Baltimore Convention Center, Oct. 16, 2002. The laptops were aligned on the table next to the podium, their owners fidgeting in their seats just below, caffeined up, plugged in, and ready to go. A cacophony of cell phones sounded a final "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" before fading into temporary silence. Visions of stem cells graced the screen as the first speaker quickly checked his slides, and the huge room filled for this first symposium of the 52nd

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The Brain Revolution and Ethics

By | October 28, 2002

Image: Anthony Canamucio No area of science is command-ing more ethical attention these days than genetics. No other area of science with potential application to plants, animals, and people can match the speed with which new knowledge is being created in genetics. But lurking over in the disciplinary corner--somewhat out of sight of the ethicists' gaze--are the neurosciences. Advances in radiology, psychiatry, neurology, neurosurgery, bioengineering, and psychology are furthering our understa

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The Academy Responds

By | October 14, 2002

Image: Anthony Canamucio Although Henry I. Miller is certainly welcome to express his opinions about the risks of biotechnology,1 he should not criticize a detailed report without reading it carefully. Miller indicates that the 2002 National Research Council report2 "invokes a variety of specious arguments." His main example is that the report puts forth "a general assumption that the risks associated with the introduction of genetic novelty are related to the number of genetic changes and th

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Nescience, not Science, from the Academy

By | September 30, 2002

Image: Anthony Canamucio The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self- perpetuating society of distinguished scientists and engineers "dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare," and committed to "advis[ing] the federal government on scientific and technical matters." The Academy regularly conducts studies for a variety of sponsors, most often the federal government. The public, as well as those who are knowledgeable abo

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The Queen Bee Syndrome

By | September 16, 2002

Image: Anthony Canamucio I serve on the senior appointments and promotions committee (SAPC) of a medical school. Over the years, I've realized that male basic scientists, as a group, sail through the SAPC effortlessly. Many of these men work in fields that include probably 10 other individuals in the whole world, half of whom are their mentors, or former fellow graduate students or postdoctoral fellows. These are their peers, and we can readily obtain laudatory letters of recommendation from t

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Contamination of the Arctic

By | September 2, 2002

Image: Anthony Canamucio It has come as a surprise that many chemicals of anthropogenic origin such as pesticides are detectable at significant concentrations throughout the Arctic ecosystem, despite the fact that they have never been used there. Apparently these substances are readily transported there in atmospheric and oceanic currents. The Chernobyl accident provided ample evidence that no corner of our planet is protected from substances discharged in the industrialized middle latitudes.

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Detective Rummage Investigates

By | August 19, 2002

It is very ego-warming to be recognized by quotation. Ever since this first happened to me, I always consult books of quotations to see if I appear there and, of course, I am always looking for opportunities to create epigrams that might appear in future collections. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to trace their source. I recently received an inquiry from an editor who wanted to use a quotation attributed to me in a publication and asked if I knew where it had first appeared. I thought I

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Wishful Thinking and Semantic Specificity

By | August 19, 2002

Image: Anthony Canamucio In a recent commentary in Science, on the semantics of cloning,1 three eminent members of the scientific community asserted, "Scientists who are fluent in the language of any specific discipline can speak to one another using shorthand expressions from this dialect and can convey an exact understanding of their intended meanings." It is a comforting thought, but the preponderance of evidence does not support this grand claim, if by "can convey" the authors mean to sugg

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Take Therapeutic Cloning Forward

By | July 22, 2002

What will the US Senate actually do about therapeutic cloning--the procedure of using nuclear transfer to derive embryonic stem cells? The saga continues with the sudden plot changes, reversals of fortune, mischievous machinations, and the cliff-hanger ending worthy of a mystery thriller. The latest twist has not occurred in the Senate itself but in the laboratory. The journal Nature published two reports on stem cells in rodent models that are no less than thrilling to those of us who hope fo

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Pew on Biotech? Pugh!

By | July 8, 2002

Image: Anthony Canamucio Controversies--or perhaps pseudocontroversies would be more apt--continue to engulf recombinant DNA technology, the "new biotechnology," applied to agriculture and food production. One theoretical concern is that consumers might experience allergic reactions to foods made from recombinant organisms. In a June 2002 report, the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology concluded that regulatory agencies might have difficulty evaluating the potential for allergic reactions

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