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SSC Faces Uncertain Future

By | February 23, 1987

WASHINGTON—President Reagan's decision to support the construction of a Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) may be the most significant step in its long history. But the January 30 announcement is far from the last word on the subject. A host of unresolved issues remain, from its high price and its uncertain return to its impact on the scientific community in the United States and around the world. Politics is sure to play a major role in choosing the site, including the value of support f

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The Utility of Trial and Error

By | February 23, 1987

The Neglect of Experiment. Allan Franklin. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1986. 290 pp., illus. $42.50. A physicist-turned-philosopher, Allan Franklin is interested in experiment. The "neglect" of his title attaches to his new discipline. Philosophers and historians have traditionally taken the nature and role of scientific experiment for granted. Only recently have a few students of science, Franklin among them, seriously begun to examine experimentation. This book collects his essays, a

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Union Chief Faults U.K. On Spending

By | February 23, 1987

PALMERSTON NORTH, N.Z.—The head of the major trade union representing scientists and technologists in Britain has denounced "the failure of successive British governments, particularly the present Conservative administration, to provide sufficient funds for science and for R&D, or to take a positive lead in drawing up a national strategy for science." Speaking at the ANZAAS Congress here last month, Clive Jenkins, general secretary of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial

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We Must Be Technologically Competitive

By | February 23, 1987

The principal responsibility of the U.S. government, and that of any free nation, is to provide for the economic well being of all of its citizens and for the national security. It seems, however, that the state of our economy and trade relations are treated today as secondary to geopolitics and defense issues in the thinking of the executive branch. The expanding U.S. budget and trade deficits are symptomatic of the real ailment in the United States: the decline of our industrial base and a pen

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What Cost the Supercollider?

By | February 23, 1987

For decades, increasingly expensive particle-accelerator projects have been advocated in language almost identical to that now being used to promote the $6 billion superconducting supercoflider (SSC), including promises of "scientific leadership," "spin-offs," of technological and medical "breakthroughs," and so forth. But there is only meager evidence that past promises have been fulfilled and that present promises are any more credible. In a story on the SSC, The New York Times on January 19 s

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Workshop Promotes Robotics in the Lab

By | February 23, 1987

SANTA FE, N.M.—The Department of Energy believes robotics and other automated processes can free molecular biologists from much of the tedious work now performed manually in their laboratories. But responses among the 160 scientists, technicians and research administrators who attended a workshop on the subject here last month suggest the department needs to work on its sales pitch. The three-day meeting was organized by Tony Beugelsdijk, a chemist specializing in laboratory robotics at Lo

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AAAS: On the Brink of Gradual Change

By | February 9, 1987

WASHINGTON—Next week's annual meeting in Chicago will permit the American Association for the Advancement of Science to carry out its fundamental mission of promoting the public understanding of science. But something of even greater importance to the 139-year-old organization will take place after the meeting, when a successor to Executive Director William Carey will be announced. Carey, 70, is retiring March 31 after serving for a dozen years as head of the oldest, largest and most prest

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Altering the Public Image of Science

By | February 9, 1987

Storm Over Biology: Essays on Science, Sentiment, and Public Policy. Bernard D. Davis. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1986. 324 pp. $22.95. "What is this, a vanity publisher?" This, according to The New York Times, was Stephen Jay Gould's response to the printing of these provocative essays. In contrast, I am grateful that Bernard Davis has seen fit to publish them in book form, as I am with each new collection of Gould's charming essays. The book consists of 44 chapters, all but one reprinted f

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An Urgent Need to Map Biodiversity

By | February 9, 1987

The scientific imagination has been stirred by a call for complete sequencing of the human genome (The Scientist, October 20, 1986, pp. 11-12). The prospect is attractive because it offers an Everest-like goal, the entrainment of new advances in high technology, and the promise of practical applications in medicine. A close parallel exists in the mission envisioned by other biologists to describe and characterize the remainder of life on Earth. Where the genome project will search inwardly to ma

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Anatomy of an American Museum

By | February 9, 1987

Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History. Douglas J. Preston. St. Martin's Press, New York, 1986. 244 pp., illus. $18.95. To paraphrase Robert Hutchins, whenever the urge to write an institutional history arises, it is best to let the urge pass. Dinosaurs in the Attic is the exception to the dreary litany of the past which characterizes most institutional histories. Here is a thrilling "Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History." The book is a

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