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APS Report Has Numerous Errors

By | July 13, 1987

A distinguished roster of American scientists contributed to [the American Physical Society report on directed-energy weapons]. The product of their endeavors was released to the public by the Council of the American Physical Society as an important contribution to the national debate over the best means of ensuring the survival of the American nation. In my view, however, this report is not worthy of serious consideration in that vital debate. This may seem an unduly severe indictment of a doc

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Editor's note: On June 19, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that states may not require public schools to teach "creation science" if they teach evolution. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution requires the separation of church and state, wrote Justice William J. Brennan Jr. for the majority, and the Louisiana state law in question "violates the Establishment Clause … because it seeks to employ the symbolic and financial support of government to achieve a religious

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Lessons From the Michelson-Morley Experiment

By | July 13, 1987

This year marks the centenary of one of the most important scientific experiments ever performed It was in Cleveland, Ohio in 1887 that Albert A. Michelson and Edward W Morley undertook a measurement that was a milestone in man's effort to understand the way in which light travels through space. Physicists regard this work as a crucial step in our journey toward an understanding of the very nature of space and time itself Had the results of this measurement been different, Einstein's theory of

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Public, Industry Agree on Biotech

By | July 13, 1987

The most important message for biotechnology in the new Office of Technology Assessment's study of public perceptions of the biotechnology industry is that knowledge dispels concern. Based on a nationwide probability sampling conducted last fall by Lou Harris & Associates, the study finds that nearly half of American adults describe themselves as very interested, concerned and/or knowledgeable about science and technology. It also reveals that fully 80 per cent of the American public expects tha

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The Arrogance of 'Pop Science'

By | July 13, 1987

Now that Time Inc. has sold Discover, its prize-winning popular science magazine, no major magazine or commercial television show started during the popular science "boom" of the last decade has succeeded. What happened? And, more important to science professionals, what's going to happen? The Rise and Fall Between 1977 and 1986 nearly 20 new magazines, 17 new television shows, and more than 60 newspaper sections devoted to popular science appeared. Several of these new ventures breached the wal

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AIDS Commission Needs Gay Panelists

By | June 29, 1987

EDITOR'S NOTE: In late May, the White House announced that it would not appoint an openly gay person to the president's new commission on acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Gary L. Bauer, the president's domestic policy adviser, said the administration was opposed to naming a member to the commission—recommended last year by the National Academy of Sciences—solely because he or she was gay. June Osborn, dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, organized a group o

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The Pugwash Conference Turns 30

By | June 29, 1987

On July 7 the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs will be 30 years old. Most international institutions serve their original purpose well for 10-15 years and then decline, but continue to linger on. The more successful the institution, the longer it lingers, perhaps in the hopes that its past successes will be repeated. Pugwash seems to be a case in point. It has already begun to fade away, leaving its goal of complete nuclear disarmament still totally unfulfilled. During its lifetim

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Tropical Biology: A Legacy of Neglect

By | June 29, 1987

Unlike most scientific fields, conservation biology rests on an explicit ethical principle: biological diversity is valuable in itself, irrespective of the economic or practical value particular species. A corollary is that untimely extinction of populations or species is bad. The highest priority of conservation biology is to design and establish viable parks in the tropics, where options for preserving biological diversity are quickly being fore closed. Some pioneering projects in conservatio

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Who's That Whale Behind Those Foster Grants?

By | June 29, 1987

My friend Goodbeaker has had one of the more quilted scientific careers I know of, yet one that somehow always seems to follow the cutting edge of research. An academic biologist of no great repute, she thought her career was made last year when her department chairman fled the groves of academe for Turkey in search of Noah's Ark. Passed over for promotion, she languished teaching freshmen the difference between sperm and ova until eight weeks ago when she somehow jumped on the superconducter ba

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Why You Should Typeset Your Papers

By | June 29, 1987

Throughout our scientific careers we are continually judged by the way we present our ideas, methods and results. Although it is generally agreed that scientific work should be judged only on its scientific merits, we all know of excellent papers that were poorly presented at a national meeting, and further handicapped by unreadable slides that compromised some exciting ideas. Intuitively, it is almost trivial to assume that not only the content, but also the presentation governs the effect of o

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