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Math Clinic Puts Theory to Practice

By | March 9, 1987

CLAREMONT, CA.—Teledyne Microelectronics needed a better way to market its light-emitting diode panel displays for military and commercial aircraft and vehicles. So last year it asked a team of applied mathematics students from Harvey Mudd College to design and build the computer, drive, electronics and software for such a demonstrator. "We've very satisfied," explained Richard Davis, an engineer with the Torrance, Calif., company. "They did an excellent job." The demonstrator, which can b

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NAS Calls Science Main Task in Space

By | March 9, 1987

CHICAGO—A new National Academy of Sciences report will recommend that basic science become "the principal objective of the space program." Speaking here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Thomas M. Donahue outlined some of the major recommendations of the Academy's Space Science Board report, entitled "Major Directions for Space Science: 1995-2015." Donahue is an astrophysicist at the University of Michigan and chairman of the Space Science Bo

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NIH Funds Designer AIDS Drugs

By | March 9, 1987

WASHINGTON—When Donald Armstrong of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and his collaborators began to search for compounds that could kill the AIDS virus, they took an increasingly popular approach to the development of anti-viral drugs: they designed their own. Since October the National Institutes of Health have spent or set aside about $25 million for projects like Armstrong‘s that take a targeted approach to developing drugs against AIDS. Most extramural funding for the p

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Pentagon Revives Plans To Create SDI Institute

By | March 9, 1987

WASHINGTON—The Reagan administration is seeking congressional sponsors for a bill that would revive plans to create a federally funded think tank to support research on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). A move by the Pentagon last year to establish the proposed SDI Institute was blocked on Capitol Hill after questions were raised about the need for the center, its staffing and independence. According to one Senate staff member who requested anonymity, "the SDI Institute is in better

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Reflections of a Biologist

By | March 9, 1987

Off-Beat Biologist: The Autobiography of Alan S. Parkes. Alan S. Parkes. The Galton Foundation, Cambridge, UK, 1985. 444 pp., illus. $30, £20. "Early in 1982, at the age of eighty-one, I set out in my usual spirit of 'have a go' to write a full-scale autobiography." An ebullient readiness to "have a go" at new challenges or opportunities, regardless of his formal or experiential qualifications for the task, typified Sir Alan Parkes' attitude in personal and professional life. This characte

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Science Policy Needs Historians

By | March 9, 1987

Last year, the National Academy of Sciences published an eight-volume report on the current state and future progress of physics in the United States. Even more wonderful than the achievements and prospects reported there, from the standpoint of the interested layman, is the number of apparently equally worthy projects and opportunities for the consumption of federal funds. The authors of Physics Through the 1990s do not order priorities. They endorse all the worthy proposals put forward by the

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Scientific Truth and the Courts

By | March 9, 1987

As a nonscientist, I am not qualified to question The New York Times' editorial conclusion that there is no association between spermicides and birth defects (The Scientist, January 26, 1987. P. 13). But I do question its conclusion that "both law and science seek after truth." Until all those involved in the resolution of problems such as in Wells v. Ortho recognize that law does not necessarily seek truth—except in some very long-range, societal sense not relevant to the short-term needs

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Scientists and Media Madness

By | March 9, 1987

My first two scientific experiences of media madness occurred in the early 1960s when I was a real microbiologist. One day, the new local television station sent along a camera team to see what we were all up to. After a quick glance around the lab, the boss pointed at a fraction collector and asked me to switch it on. "It is on," I replied, explaining that the machine clicked around once very 15 minutes as each test tube collected liquid from the ion exchange column above. "OK, I understand," t

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Shame On You, Mrs.Thatcher

By | March 9, 1987

The Conservative government of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher claims it provides "level funding" in its current support of scientific research. But, with sharply rising cost, level funding really amounts to underfunding, which can only hasten the decline of British science. Although that decline began at least a few years before Mrs. Thatcher assumed leadership in 1979, her government has done nothing of substance to reverse the trend. I say, shame on you, Mrs. Thatcher. Your budget po

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Should Journals Pay Referees?

By | March 9, 1987

Like most scientists, I have had a few bad experiences during the peer review of my manuscripts. My most painful experiences have been with the delays in publication brought on by apparent referee apathy to meeting the three- to four-week deadline of most journals. May I offer a suggestion for abolishing delays due to referee apathy? As others have suggested, paying referees may improve the quality of their reviews. However, I believe that payment should be restricted to those referees who provi

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