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'I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier'

By | February 23, 1987

Fifty years ago, the great un solved problem of biology seemed to be the structure of proteins. Bill Astbury, a physicist and X-ray crystallographer working for the Wool Research Association in Leeds (United Kingdom), discovered that the fibrous protein keratin, found in wool, horn, nails and muscle, gave a common X-ray diffraction pattern consisting of just two reflections, a meridionalone at 5.1 Å and an equatorial one at 9.8 Å. Astbury called this the a-keratin pattern. When these f

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A Tour of the Human Mind

By | February 23, 1987

Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain. Patricia Smith Churchland. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1986. 800 pp. $27.50. Can there be an object of scientific study as compelling, yet baffling, as the human mind? In Neurophilosophy Patricia Churchland argues that a new paradigm in the study of the human mind is emerging, one that promises rich and often unexpected understanding of the underlying nature of mentality. In this claim she is not alone: great excitement has been gene

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Balanced Views or Self-Censorship?

By | February 23, 1987

It is most disturbing to read the letter by Brian Nordstrom (The Scientist, January 12, 1987, p. 10). He feels his intelligence has been insulted by your treatment of the evolution versus creationism question, and considers your arguments to be one-sided. He apparently thinks he can balance his education by canceling his subscription. That's a bit like the recent case in which parents demanded that their children not read certain books in school, insisting all the while that they only sought to

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Becoming an Expert Witness

By | February 23, 1987

The legal system relies heavily on expert testimony on a wide range of subjects. Indeed, the likelihood that a scientist may be called upon to be an expert witness is sufficiently great that all scientists should understand the process. This is especially true in cases of environmental and health and safety suits, where court actions may be critical to the well-being of individuals, the community and society at large. The role of expert witness provides opportunities for public service and profe

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Britain's Buoyant Blast Into Space

By | February 23, 1987

History of British Space Science. Harrie Massey and MO. Robins. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1986. 420 pp. $89.50. Britain has always had a wealth of scientific talent. The research activities of these able minds have kept the United Kingdom at the forefront of many of the major scientific and technological advances of recent decades. This is particularly true in space science. Historically, World War II played a catalytic role in these research activities. One man, Professor Sir Harri

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British Research and Star Wars

By | February 23, 1987

The morale of the British scientific community is at its lowest level ever, largely because of the low level of research funds. The total British government expenditure on R&D in 1987 is estimated to be 4.6 billion pounds ($6.5 billion), of which 52 percent is earmarked for military R&D and 21 percent for other government departments. Only 1.2 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) is left for nongovernmental researchers. Britons spend 12 times more on alcohol than their government allocates for nongover

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Cultural and Religious Reaches of Science

By | February 23, 1987

Hanbury Brown is an Australian astronomer whose observatory has shut down. This has given him time to write a book both superficial and boring, filled with platitudes, rhetorical questions, pious hopes, Whig history and annoying inconsistencies. Scientists will profit little from reading it. Neither will it improve non-scientists' appreciation of science's role in our civilization. The first two chapters survey the growth of science since the 17th century and attempt to sketch the leading ideas

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D Spending

By | February 23, 1987

Corporate restructurings are forcing some U.S. companies to curtail R&D spending even as they are being urged to increase such investments to remain competitive. Many companies, saddled by the massive debts often involved in such transactions, are having "to change their business strategy from long-term to shorter-term cash flow, which can't help but have an adverse effect on R&D," said Roland W. Schmitt, senior vice president and chief scientist at General Electric and chairman of NSF's Nationa

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Eastern, Western Alphabets Reveal Basic Differences

By | February 23, 1987

The fascinating excerpt "The ABCs of Abstract Science" from Robert K. Logan's book The Alphabet Effect (The Scientist, January 12, 1987, p. 15) must make readers wonder why China and Japan did not long ago give up their ideographs in favor of a phonetic alphabet or syllabary. The alpha-bet appears to be directly linked to deductive logic, abstract theoretical science and an atomistic conception of the material world. However, this last point, as Joseph Needham keeps on emphasizing, is not enough

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Experts Shape French Bioethics Policy

By | February 23, 1987

PARIS—The recent decision by the French government to ban for three years any genetic manipulation of the human embryo within the country's leading research centers follows a recommendation from its own expert committee on bioethical questions. The ability to shape public policy has been a hallmark of the committee since it was formed in 1983. Its report, denouncing a "zeal to procreate" among some segments of society, warned that current advances in genetics could be exploited in eugenics

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