The Weapons of Seduction
The obvious way to get scientists and engineers away from weapons laboratories is to stop offering the incentives that draw them there. Press refers to William Broad's "moral plea that young scientists resist the seductive attractions of military research." It is hardly surprising that … such pleas have not diverted many scientists from working for the military. I suggest instead that society direct the plea to public officials, to redirect the way our tax revenues are spent.
This is especially relevant to large-scale problems such as the interaction between productive forces and production relations, socialist ownership and the economic forms it takes, commodity….
Economic theory should and can resolve these problems. In order to do so it must be armed with an arsenal of the most up to date scientific methods, including the many and fast expanding possibilities of mathematics, cybernetics, and the mathematical theory of optimal management and microelectronics. According to Karl Marx, science will reach perfection only when it can be used by mathematics. And this, as we know from natural sciences and technical research, can only happen with the aid of mathematical models, which are capable of realistically representing the actual objects themselves.
A Difference of Opinion
If we wish to continue using animals in our university laboratories and research institutes, we must (1) allow greater participation on the part of the general public, including animal rights advocates, in the decision-making process when animals are being considered as part of an experimental design, (2) work with animal rights groups in developing general guidelines for the use of animals, and (3) develop strong and effective internal control systems with teeth to them so that abuses will be detected and punishment meted out if appropriate.
We in the biomedical community are viewed with deep suspicion by many intelligent, concerned, and caring individuals, and perhaps rightly so. Only by cleaning up our own act and leading with the open hand of cooperation can this atmosphere of mistrust be allayed.
A Penny for His Thoughts
What's that doing for AT&T shareholders? At the moment, nothing. But Sloane's forays into one of the more obscure corners of mathematics—the packing of spheres—are beginning to pay off in the down-to-earth business of data transmission.
To mathematician Sloane, pen-flies are two-dimensional spheres, a warm-up to more abstract objects—spheres of eight dimensions and more….
For Sloane's employer, the immediate relevance of sphere-packing is to the billion-dollar business of manufacturing modems.
Big Science, Little Science
It's a big question: Where do you get the money? In favor of big science, there is the point that you're not going to get answers unless you spend a lot of money….
The race so far has gone pretty well…. It has been to the benefit of both sides. But of course, the race so far was in the order of a few hundred million dollars. Once you get into the billions, as you do with the [superconducting super]collider, it's a different matter. I would be very happy if the supercollider were done cooperatively between Western Europe and the United States.
Science or Hoopla?
The discovery of the Titanic was also a mixed blessing professionally. "I'm glad we didn't find it," says Barry Raleigh, the director the rival Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University. "It's not science, is it? I think it's hoopla."
Talisman or Tool?
In general, clinicians believe that test "results should complement the history, physical examination, and clinical evaluation, and [thus] help assure a correct diagnosis." Scientists rely on tests to enhance their own critical powers rather than to replace them. When policy makers force medical methodology to function in a system for which it was not conceived, they risk using science as talisman rather than as tool.
Even though scientific tests appear to provide efficient solutions to social and legal problems, these tests should not be accepted unless they also meet our standards for fair dealing.
The Whole World in Our Hands
Is it the imagined world-to-come of Utopian thinkers? Or, perhaps the paradise of life-after-death envisioned by the religious? No, it is actually the vision of a radical group of scientists attempting to develop new ways to manipulate the atom.
We have all learned in school that atoms are the basic building blocks of the universe. What is foreseen by these scientists—most of them from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—is a time when people will be able to use atoms so precisely that we will actually be able to construct bits of the universe at will.
This emerging field is called nanotechnology. Its name comes from the Greek word nano, meaning dwarf. Scientists use this word as a prefix to indicate a billionth. In dealing with single atoms, nanotechnologists are working at the scale of one billionth of a meter.
"Nanotechnology will make a lot of things that previously seemed like science-fiction dreams practical and real, and force us to deal with them," [K. Eric] Drexler concludes. "Some are great opportunities and some are dangers."
In evaluating the nanotechnology concept, Freeman Dyson, a physicist at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, says, "Naturally, there is a lot of hype and exaggeration. It is possible, but it's a question of when."
Night Lights Need Friends Too
Back at the university, meanwhile, the scientists are now attempting to cross a cricket with a king-size bed.
It is the same thirst for long-term Soviet access to US super-computers that causes Roald Z. Sagdeev to ask audaciously for a satellite data link from a US supercomputer to the USSR to do some "fundamental research." Of course if some US citizen wished to run an extremely interesting Soviet basic-research calculation, that could be arranged, but in my opinion, hands-on access by Soviet-bloc scientists should be barred until the international situation changes drastically.
Are the sufferings of hundreds of refusenik scientists and tens of thousands of others in the Gulag, so eloquently portrayed by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, to be forgotten in a mad rush to aid the Soviet war machine by providing untrammeled access to super-computers?
There's a catch, though. Of those chemistry degrees, half were in biochemistry. Are biochemists chemists? In many universities, biochemistry is not in the chemistry department. My statistics from the U.S. Department of Education reflect this confusion—they place biochemistry in biological science. This poses the key question—what is chemistry? I believe our future as a discipline depends on the breadth of our definition and how we reflect that in our courses.
NASA Still Needs Help
It is time to get someone in there who knows how to run a business.
This man doesn't have to be an engineer and in fact probably shouldn't be…. It is time for the President and the Congress to locate a man who can take charge. We'll send the professional bureaucrats…. to some agency where performance and results are not as important as inertia.
Let's Privatize Research
It is easy to see that a private-enterprise system, particularly one with eventual insurance reimbursement, might provide greatly increased access, across the population, to emerging technologies. Since such a benefit must ultimately translate broadly to society, society as a whole, not just the government and academe, must ultimately determine the size and scope of a private, investor-owned approach to cancer research and treatment.