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Muddled Thinking Is Hard to Swallow

By | September 21, 1987

Ever since I first became involved in research in 1932 I have been struck by the difference in quality of the thinking of even quite emi- nent scientists when they apply their minds, on the one hand, to their own specialized subjects and, on the other hand, to affairs of everyday life. Nor am I restricting my comments to the phenomenon of the distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society at the peak of a creative career who shows himself in committee to lack common sense, to say the least, when c

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NASA, Morton Thiokol Must Rethink Risk

By | September 21, 1987

On January 28, 1986 the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its flight, killing the seven astronauts aboard and sending the U.S. space program into limbo. All space flight involves risk, but it’s the job of the people on the ground to assess tbat risk and minimize it. The question today is whether NASA and Morton Thiokol, the firm responsible for the design of the rocket booster that failed in the flight, have adequately re-examined their approach to the issue of risk asse

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Not the End of the Physician-Scientist

By | September 21, 1987

In 1984 Gordon N. Gill, professor of medicine at the University of California at San Diego, published an essay entitled “The End of the Physician Scientist?” He described how from the mid- 1960s to the early 1980s the biomedical research enterprise in the United States passed largely out of the realm of clinical investigators and into that of Ph.D. scientists working at the molecular leveL He also noted that in the United Kingdom and Europe the split between basic science and clini

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PYIs Prosper, but Program Falls Short

By | September 21, 1987

WASHINGTON—The Presidential Young Investigators award program is supposed to lure newly minted scientists and engineers away from industry and into academia by offering them up to $100,000 a year for their research. The 200 young scientists chosen each year by the National Science Foundation are also asked, somewhat paradoxically, to build ties with industry by obtaining matching funds for the federal dollars they receive. But four years after it was begun, the PYI program has failed

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Sale of Lab To Unilever Endorsed

By | September 21, 1987

CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—The former director of the Plant Breeding Institute here has endorsed the government’s selection of Unilever as the new owner of the facility. The sale of the PBI and the National Seed Development Organization is part of Prime Minister Thatcher’s strategy to privatize many government-owned companies and institutions. The PBI is the country’s major institute for research on plant breeding, and the NSDO earned nearly $7 million last year by marketing se

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So They Say

September 21, 1987

Notions of NIH Directors: Past,., The fiscal year (FY) 1956 budget [for NIH] became operational on 1 July 1955.... The level of NIH activity at the time... amounted in total to $96.4 million. To some the figure may seem large. But the gross figures had little relevance to the science opportunities it would provide and to the needs of medicine. In view of the need for new knowledge in medicine, the main deficiency preventing progress was the inadequate funding of research.... It was equally

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Spaniard in Lead for UNESCO Post?

By | September 21, 1987

PARIS—Only a few weeks before UNESCO’s 50-nation Executive Board meets here for its semiannual session, a scientific front-runner has emerged in the race to succeed Senegal’s Amadou Mahtar M’Bow as director-general. He is Federico Mayor Zaragoza, a 53-year-old Spanish biochemist and pharmacologist who was deputy director-general for UNESCO, the chief U.N. agency for scientific research from 1978 to 1981. He has since served as minister of education and research in Ma

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SSC: On Land, In Space

September 21, 1987

WASHINGTON—This month’s deadline for submitting proposals for the $44 billion Superconducting Supercoilider has left the Department of Energy with 43 places to put the world’s biggest scientific construction project. All of the states expected to be in the running (see THE SCIENTIST, March 9, p. 1) submitted their bids on time, although California’s arrived with only eight minutes to spare after a legislative fight on affirmative action hiring goals. Some states couldn

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Suicides in Science: A Search for Answers

By | September 21, 1987

SAN FRANCISCO—It’s not uncommon for one scientist to build on the work of another. But it’s rare for that research to spawn an organization dedicated to saving the lives of its subjects. For Molly Gleiser, a chemist at the University of California-Berke- ley, the idea for Suicide Prevention Among Scientists began with an 1984 article in Chemical and Engineering News that described a study of the causes of death among female chemists. One figure jumped out at her: the suici

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Teller on SDI, Competitiveness

By | September 21, 1987

One of the most eminent and controversial scientists of this century, nuclear physicist Edward Teller is perhaps best known for his role in the development of nuclear weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory during World War II. Often called the “father of the hydrogen bomb,” he also played a controversial role in the loss of security clearance by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the former director of Los Alamos. More recently Teller has been an outspohen advocate of defensive weap- ons, in

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