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Our Unknown Martyrs

By | February 9, 1987

Behind every famous scientist who died or suffered greatly for his work there stand in serried ranks hundreds of others—the unknown martyrs of science. For them there is no roll of honor, no shrine of remembrance. No sacred flame burns for them in any academy, and if their names were briefly known to colleagues, they were soon forgotten again. This is the gratitude of mankind remembering its unknown soldiers everywhere, but not its scientists. The dramatic accident of the space shuttle Cha

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Piltdown Proves a Point

By | February 9, 1987

In 1908, a workman digging in a gravel pit in the Sussex hamlet of Piltdown discovered a fragment of a human cranium's parietal bone. He delivered it to Charles Dawson, an amateur geologist and antiquarian, thus setting off one of the most controversial and bizarre episodes in the study of human paleontology. For the next 40 years Eoanthropus clawsoni was a respected member of modern man's family tree, and a representation of this distinguished ancestor stood proudly in the American Museum of Na

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As a freshman congressman in 1963, Rep. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Calif.) was an early opponent of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. Last year, he helped lead a successful congressional drive for a moratorium on testing of experimental anti-satellite weapons and supported a pledge by university physics students and professors to refuse funding from the Strategic Defense Initiative program. Throughout his career on Capitol Hill, in fact, Brown, while representing a district heavily dependent on

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Science News Sails Along

By | February 9, 1987

WASHINGTON—The growing popularity and continued financial health of Science News offers hope to readers saddened by the recent demise of two mass-circulation science magazines sacrificed in an attempt to bail out a third. Published here continuously since 1922 by the nonprofit Science Service, Science News reached its highest circulation level ever in 1986, going from 179,000 subscribers in June to more than 215,000 by the end of December. The magazine does not know how many of its new rea

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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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