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Reasons for Optimism in the Search for E.T.

By | March 23, 1987

I wish to thank Harlan J. Smith for his flattering review of my book The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (The Scientist, February 9, 1987, p. 21). He fears that I'm too optimistic we'll find signs of E.T. within the next decade or so, but there are many reasons for this. First, never before in history will the sky have been searched so thoroughly (for example, by Ohio State, the Harvard/Planetary Society, NASA and the Soviet SETI projects). Also, the Planetary Society is now discussing

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Scientific Ideas Can Be Wrong

By | March 23, 1987

Craig K. Svensson's "A Creationist Responds" (The Scientist, January 26, p. 12) asks a central question: "Who has the right to control which view my child is taught in a public school classroom?" He then answers his question from two viewpoints—parent and professor. Svensson's answer as a parent is clear. Parental religious beliefs should control exposure to ideas. Young people should never be exposed at public expense to ideas in conflict with those of their parents. He alleges constituti

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Shall We Peddle Human Genes?

By | March 23, 1987

Eager to press on with the megaproject to sequence the human genome, molecular biologists are figuring out ways to pay for it. Some of these schemes surely qualify as the most creative financing since Ollie North decided to underwrite Central American wars that U.S. citizens don't want to fight by soaking the Iranians for weapons U.S. citizens don't want to sell them. The Washington Post reports, tongue in cheek, that the scientists have rejected car washes and bake sales in favor of several oth

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So They Say

March 23, 1987

Verbatim excerpts from the media on the conduct of science. Beware Mathematicians! …scientists should always oppose the appointment of pure mathematicians to head scientific committees and institutions. Sir John Kingman [the mathematician appointed to report to the U.K. government on the teaching of English] was formerly director of the SERC, and Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer is the present head of the University Grants Committee. Mathematicians tend instinctively to view research as being don

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Student-Faculty Ties Examined

By | March 23, 1987

CHICAGO—Universities should regulate, and possibly even ban, some relationships between students and those faculty with financial ties to industry, says a Harvard physician who has studied ties between academia and industry. His 1985 survey of almost 700 grad students and postdocs in biotechnology-related fields found that a majority believe the benefits of increased financial support of students and faculty by industry outweigh the risks. A little more than one-third were getting such sup

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Sweden Seeks Aid Abroad

By | March 23, 1987

STOCKHOLM—The two largest biotechnology companies in Sweden have set up foreign research centers to compensate for a shortage of trained scientists at home. Pharmacia is developing a center for genetic engineering research in La Jolla, Calif., while Astra has recently opened a research facility in Bangalore, India. Both centers will be staffed by local scientists. "We cannot find the right people here in Sweden," said Sune Rosell, head of research and development for Astra. The company pla

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Taking a New Look At Contraceptives

By | March 23, 1987

The article by N.W. Pirie (The Scientist, January 26, 1987, p. 19) calls for a renewed search for novel methods of birth control. Pirie is right in highlighting this as a neglected area worth more attention than it currently receives. Spermicides are a logical choice to interrupt fertility, and the only major drawback of current products is a moderate failure rate. Pirie rightly points to the need to aggressively apply insights into sperm function to contraceptive development. As Pine suggests,

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The Costs of Export Controls

By | March 23, 1987

If there is a key word in the United States in the late 1980s, it is "competitiveness." It's a word that's used in many contexts to mean many things. In his new book The Technical Enterprise (Ballinger, 1986) Herbert Fusfeld discusses how social, economic and political pressures like the drive for competitiveness are at work in shaping the technical system today. In this adaptation from the book, he describes the practice of using export controls to keep technological advances from potential adv

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The Ripening Of Science In England

By | March 23, 1987

The Age of Science. David Knight. Basil Blackwell, New York, 1986. 240 pp. $24.95. This new book by David Knight, senior lecturer in history of science at the University of Durham, might plausibly be described as a popular survey of English science and its cultural role from 1789 to 1914. "Survey," however, scarcely does justice to Knight's program. Rather than scaling historical peaks for the perspectives they offer, Knight leads his reader on a brisk ramble through overgrown byways of Victoria

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The SSC Crowns 50 Years of Advances

By | March 23, 1987

The Superconducting Supercollider, the $6 billion particle accelerator whose construction was just endorsed by the President, is inevitable. The only serious questions surrounding it for the past half dozen years have been when and where. Why inevitable? Because the SSC is the unarguable means of answering the most fundamental scientific questions we can formulate: How are the forces of nature related, and what does that tell us about the underlying structure and behavior of matter? Progress in

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