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Fueling the Fears of Science

By | June 24, 2002

Volume 16 | Issue 13 | 10 | Jun. 24, 2002 Previous | Next Fueling the Fears of Science By Arlene Judith Klotzko Image: Anthony Canamucio In so many ways, it is hard to remember what life was like before the carnage of Sept. 11. What it felt like to be safe from unknown horrors. What seemed so important and now does not. What was top of the national policy agenda and now is not. All through last

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I never met Stephen Jay Gould, though I did attend a lecture he gave two years ago. Still, that hour explained many of the opinions I'd heard of him: love, hate, joy, envy, and respect. Like a lot of people who make a difference, Gould was a study in contrasts. You also had to wonder whether he ran according to a different clock than the rest of us. The campy cliché 24/7 didn't apply to Gould—he could not have fit so much in a 24-hour day and a 60-year life. Gould was first and forem

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East is East, ...

By | May 27, 2002

I have lived in this country somewhat longer than in the country of my birth. There are times when I wonder, as is probably true of many expatriates, what I really am. Am I Indian, American, or some bastardized version that is neither? There is not very much in my behavior now that is completely Indian, at least to the casual observer. But at a deeper level, I realize that my reactions to many situations seem to be informed more by my cultural heritage, than by the culture in which I live. I th

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Elementary Zenetics: do or dai

By | May 13, 2002

DNA sequences have been depicted in many ways. I have seen them color coded, to highlight certain features. Jacques Ninio proposed a geometric representation in which each base was shown as an arrow drawn at a particular angle to the previous one to capture the global properties of a gene in an abstract pattern. The most amusing was Susumu Ohno's transformation of sequences into music; he would play recordings of these little etudes during his lectures, noting which genes were Mozartian and whic

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A key point of Harvey Black's Feb. 18 article in The Scientist on targeted research initiatives and earmarking of funds1—that, by sidestepping peer review, this practice may subvert scientific inquiry and, more specifically, reduce funds for basic research—is a valid concern. However, criticism of targeted research programs on this tenet alone amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. After all, these initiatives are often created to fill specific needs otherwise unmet or

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Forget Tacos

By | April 29, 2002

I got a letter from the Sierra Club not long after the 2000 election, sandwiched between the usual bills. In an envelope ominously marked "priority," the granddaddy of environmental groups pleaded for "an emergency contribution of $75." Why the crisis? According to the Sierra Club, George W. Bush was going to "sacrifice our natural treasures, air, and water for the profits of special interests." The new regime in Washington was "very bad news for the environment." Sorry; while the administratio

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Proteomics: An Infinite Problem with Infinite Potential

By | April 15, 2002

Proteomics is an exciting discipline in its infancy that means different things to different people. It is also a field limited by the technologies currently available to its practitioners. Important questions arise: How can we usefully define proteomics? Which research questions offer the greatest promise for the field? What new tools will be needed to pursue those questions? Perhaps the most appropriate definition of proteomics is "any large-scale or systematic characterization of the protein

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The Father of Us All

By | April 1, 2002

Contrary to the implication in some obituaries, Max Perutz, who died on Feb. 6, 2002 in Cambridge, England, just a few months before his 88th birthday, did not determine the first three-dimensional structure of a protein molecule. John Kendrew did that. Max did determine the structure of the hemoglobin molecule, but Kendrew's low-resolution myoglobin structure predated the 5.5 Ångstrom-resolution hemoglobin structure by more than a year, and when Max published his low-resolution work showi

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Life Sentences: Ontology Recapitulates Philology

By | March 18, 2002

A few years ago, at a meeting at Dana Point in Southern California, I mistook the number of the room in which our breakfast was to be served and found myself in a room full of strangers. I can't remember whether they were the Veterinarians or the Veterans of Southern California (VSOC), but all were very large men wearing very large placards on their chests suspended around their necks with imitation gold chains and bearing the message "HI! I'M CHUCK" or BILL or HANK. With my failing eyesight, I

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The Aha! Factor

By | March 18, 2002

In one of my pathology lab courses for second-year medical students, we were reviewing the gross and microscopic findings from the autopsy of a patient who had died following acute pulmonary embolism. As I was going through the features that help one distinguish an ante-mortem thrombus vs. a postmortem clot, one of my more outspoken students said sardonically, "This will help me take better care of my patients!" That comment raised, at least in my mind, a question that I've been wrestling with

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