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Science's Mentoring Process

By | February 9, 1987

I well remember the sudden about-face of the science establishment's view of acupuncture—from adamant disbelief to cautious acceptance. What caused the change? It was not new facts about acupuncture, but instead the discovery of the enkephalins, the body's own opiates. Perhaps the needle stimulated their production. Scientists seem to be unimpressed by facts unless they can be connected to the established network of ideas. How then does science progress? And how did the enkephalin discover

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Should Biology History Offer Theses?

By | February 9, 1987

Overall, I find Gary Freeman's review of the book I edited, Defining Biology, (The Scientist, November 17, 1986) to be a reasonable one that endorses the value of these essays from the 1890s. I do find his claim that "the propounding of a thesis is a disease that is endemic to the history of biology business" quite odd. Is Freeman suggesting that history should give just "one damn thing after another," as it has sometimes been accused of doing? And is this mandate peculiar to history or also to

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So They Say

February 9, 1987

Verbatim excerpts from the media on the conduct of science. Another Japanese Target The Japanese readily concede that they trail the West in biotechnology, the use of engineering techniques to study living organisms. But cross biotech with electronics, and the story is different. In this new, hybrid field, called bioelectronics, Japan boasts of a lead in moving from lab to market. "Japan is ahead, without a doubt," says Isao Karube, biotechnology professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology. A big

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So They Say

February 9, 1987

Keith Stewart Thomson has been elected president of the Academy of Natural Sciences, a 4,000-member society founded in 1812 that sponsors research and educational programs and operates a Natural History Museum in Philadelphia. Thomson, who served as dean of Yale University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1979 to 1986, will join the Academy's staff as president this spring. Thompson has been with Yale since 1970 and has been a professor of biology, a curator of vertebrate zoology and

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Stewart-Feder (Finally) in Print

By | February 9, 1987

The appearance of Walter Stewart and Ned Feder's long-pending paper analyzing John Darsee's fraudulent scientific publications is extremely good news. It should be reassuring, both to scientists and to those who pay their bills. It shows that the system works. The venerable Nature, which published the paper in its January 15 issue, has once again served science well. The publication process was certainly protracted; various versions of the paper have been under consideration there and elsewhere

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Three Cheers for Birdbrains

By | February 9, 1987

A former secretary of mine asked me how could I stand writing about birdsong all these years. The answer is simple. Birdsong is a learned skill controlled by a remarkable brain. Try to link the bird's brain to the bird's song and things get very exciting. In 1964 it seemed as if the avian vocal organ, the syrinx, was a good place to start understanding the relation between brain and song. I started with chaffinches. I found that an alarmed chaffinch, which had had the nerves to the syrinx cut, b

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U.S. Controls Hamper Trade With Allies

By | February 9, 1987

WASHINGTON—The Japanese buy infrared, optical lasers from the American firm of Spectra-Physics for the cutting, welding and heat treating of various manufactured products. But each time any of its lasers need servicing or spare parts, Spectra-Physics has to navigate the slow and complex U.S. export licensing procedure that was created for another purpose, namely, to ensure that certain types of advanced technology do not pass to the Soviet Union and its allies. Although the San Jose-based

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'Biotic Revenge' and the Death of Dinosaurs

By | January 26, 1987

By way of his recent attempt to contrast the hard and "woolly" sciences, Beverly Haistead (The Scientist, December 15, 1986, pp. 12-13) posed the question of how to account for surviving species in the face of Alvarez's asteroid impact hypothesis of dinosaur extinction. We would like to suggest an alternative interpretation of the demise of dinosaurs based on a unique psychological capacity in many animal forms today. Tony Swain has called attention to the fact that during the Cretaceous period

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'Should Science Be Stopped?'

By | January 26, 1987

"Hope tiptoed back into the world, armed with sachets of benign bacteria," writes Nigel Calder is his new book The Green Machines (Putnam, 1986). It crept back into a world tottering on the brink of nuclear war, a world full of common people disgusted with the moral bankruptcy of the modern nation-state and the unwillingness of political leaders to do anything constructive to stop the madness. Writing from the vantage point of 2030 A.D., Calder envisions these people commandeering the "green mac

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... And His Future

By | January 26, 1987

The whole world of science is celebrating the return of Andrei Sakharov to his home and workplace in Moscow. This happy event not only signifies a change for the better in the political climate in the Soviet Union, it also shows that the continued public protests on his behalf were not futile. The world scientific community stood firmly by one of its most distinguished members through along, deeply troubled period. This support could not protect him entirely from unjust and brutal treatment, but

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