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Andrei Sakharov's Return...

By | January 26, 1987

Nothing in recent developments in the Soviet Union has been as exciting and pleasing as the release of Andrei Sakharov after nearly seven years in exile. His return was long overdue, and the exile (which was illegal even by Soviet standards) was entirely unnecessary. It cost dearly the health of Sakharov and his wife, Yelena Bonner, and inevitably damaged scientific cooperation between the East and West. I have known Sakharov since the summer of 1964, when he made his short but strong speech at

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Federal Judges v. Science

January 26, 1987

Katie Wells was born in 1981 with serious birth defects. Her parents attributed them to a contraceptive jelly and sued the maker, Ortho Pharmaceutical Judge Marvin Shoob of the U.S. District Court in Georgia ruled they had proved their case and assessed $5 million in damages against Ortho. The Court of Appeals declined to overturn the judgment and last month the Supreme Court refused to intervene. What is wrong with that? First, the facts. Scientific experts often differ and the courts generally

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Gene Sequencing: No Easy Answers

By | January 26, 1987

The sequencing of the human genome was discussed by two of its proponents in the October 20, 1986 issue of The Scientist  (pp. 11-12). Their statements were sound and true, but incomplete in that there was no discussion of the social and ethical implications of this profound technological goal, and only good was seen to come from it. In the context of today's entrepreneurial science-technology adventures, this is at best simplistic. Science should learn from experience. That biology is trea

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'Five Senses to the Rescue'

January 12, 1987

In troubleshooting one must never forget the portable laboratory equipment that one carries around—the senses of sight, sound, scent, taste and touch. There is also the common sense that stops one tasting things if there is any cyanide about. Long years ago the Deutsche Hydriewerke started marketing non-soapy detergents of the cetyl or oleyl sulfate variety. Prior to World War II, the British textile industry was as dependent on German supplies of these materials as it had been on German d

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...and Taking It Seriously

By | January 12, 1987

Suppose you were faced with the following examination question: Which of the following statements do you think is more applicable to science? (1) "History is more or less bunk" [Henry Ford]; (2) "If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!" [S.T. Coleridge]. How would most scientists answer? Some—such as those involved in taxonomy—might opt for the second alternative, but I suspect a majority would prefer the first. Yet it is difficult to avoid all history in sci

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Researchers and Lab Security

By | January 12, 1987

Laboratory managers like to attend to positive subjects (such as the emergence of new products and processes) while their research colleagues tend to focus on the laboratory bench. But it is becoming clear that fraud, extortion and other crimes are with us on such a large scale that advance preparation is necessary; mere tactical responses are no longer sufficient. For this reason, scientists, engineers and laboratory managers alike must learn to adapt to a new age in which security is of paramo

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Sakharov's 'Happy Ending'

January 12, 1987

On December 19, 1986, the Soviet Foreign Ministry announced that Soviet physicist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov was being released from his five-year internal exile in Gorky. The Ministry said that the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner would be allowed to resume his work at the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow, and that his wife, the physician Elena Bonner, had been pardoned for her "anti-Soviet slander." During a visit to the United States last year to undergo multiple bypass surger

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Science Meetings' Five-Star Prices

By | January 12, 1987

The cost of participating in international scientific conferences steadily rises. Currently, registration fees range from $100 to $500 or more. While scientists may grumble among themselves about these high fees, they continue meekly to pay them. Are these high fees justified? It seems to depend, in part, on the kind of conference. Nonprofit groups like professional societies, research institutions and universities set a fee that covers the actual costs of the meeting. If an outside subsidy is a

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Time to 'Interfere' in Science Ed

By | January 12, 1987

Nearly all recent surveys of science and mathematics curricula in our secondary schools paint a picture of gloom and doom. A cross section of high school curricula and faculty taken across the United States reveals a lack of consistency in both the number and quality of courses. The research-oriented colleges and universities that draw upon today's high school graduates to populate their freshman classes are, however, generally blasé about the situation. A great deal of the colleges' effort

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A Fly-By-Light Discovery

By | December 15, 1986

HUMOR Author: GREGORY BYRNE Date: December 15, 1986 What do you get when you cross a firefly and a tobacco plant? Tobacco that glows in the dark? Yes, word has come from the University of California, San Diego, of a remarkable new discovery that pushes scientific re search into the 21st century and beyond. It's not in the area of particle physics, laser technology or magnetic resonance imaging, but it's bound to be the biggest noise since the Big Bang. They've made tobacco plants that glow i

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