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What We Don't Know About Lab Animals

By | November 17, 1986

Scientists and members of the public have been drawn increasingly into a serious debate over the use of animals in research and teaching. At the' core of this interchange is the moral justification for animal use, as well as the quality of life for animals in laboratory environments. The latter point, quality of life, is important to all scientists-for practical as well as humane reasons. Animals in distress can confound research outcomes. Primatologists are particularly concerned with this issu

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When It Smells , Hold Your Nose

By | November 17, 1986

Never make up your mind about someone's work until you've heard them under fire on a platform," an old university mentor, Alan Emslie-Smith, said to me many years ago. By stressing the importance of seeing scientists in the flesh, he was not criticizing the learned journals, their editors or their refereeing procedures. He was simply suggesting that the intuitive judgments we all make when reacting to politicians and automobile salesmen were equally appropriate in reacting to physicists and micr

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A Universe Made of Strings? What's New?

By | October 20, 1986

Everything in the universe is made out of strings. So say the proponents of the latest theory to take physics by storm. All the basic particles of which the universe is made are tiny strings instead of points, as previously assumed. Physicists are attracted to the superstring theory because of its beautiful mathematical structure. I am attracted to it because I knew it all along. In the first place, I have seen these strings. They are luminous, and if you pull them you can watch the universe cha

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Scientists and Education

By | October 20, 1986

Speaking at a Ciba Foundation symposium in London some years ago, Alvin Weinberg talked of the dangers that can arise when a highly technical issue such as nuclear reactor safety is subject to frenetic public debate. "There develops an escalation of contingency," the then-director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory said. "Each unlikely event connected with a reactor, once it becomes a matter of public discussion, seems to acquire a plausibility that goes much beyond what was originally intended. I

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Tax Reform: Why All the Whining?

By | October 20, 1986

There has been considerable discussion lately about the many ways in which "tax reform" adversely changes the ground rules of operation of independent colleges and universities. Still greater reliance on direct government appropriation is not a good an-swer: that would further erode the pluralism and independence that have been the genius of the U.S. system of higher education and scholarship. In one respect, however, tax reform may encourage private philanthropy. The charitable deduction agains

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Tax Reform: Why All the Whining? (2)

By | October 20, 1986

There has been considerable discussion lately about the many ways in which "tax reform" adversely changes the ground rules of operation of independent colleges and universities. Still greater reliance on direct government appropriation is not a good an-swer: that would further erode the pluralism and independence that have been the genius of the U.S. system of higher education and scholarship. In one respect, however, tax reform may encourage private philanthropy. The charitable deduction agains

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Two Cheers for Human Gene Sequencing

By | October 20, 1986

The human genome consists of three billion base pairs that encode some 100,000 to 300,000 genes. Could we work out all the sequence of this DNA? What use would that information be? The sequence alone would not tell us, today, what the genes were and how they function. A major goal of biology is to solve the structure-function problem: to be able to predict from the DNA sequence what the structure of a protein might be-and, ultimately, how it might function. The solution to this problem, which ma

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