December 1988

News

Tales Of Optimism Inside Olivetti's Brave New Labs
Tales Of Optimism Inside Olivetti's Brave New Labs
IVREA. ITALY—In a cluttered laboratory on the first floor of a new building in the northern Italy town of Ivrea, three Olivetti employees huddle together at a bench. One scribbles with a pencil on a small electronic slate connected to a computer, while the others peer intently at the screen, where the image entered on the slate appears. Their goal to shoehorn a telephone, a scanner (for entering documents into the computer), a printer, and the electronic “paper” into a box li
When Psychiatrists Take The Stand, Science Itself Goes On Trial
When Psychiatrists Take The Stand, Science Itself Goes On Trial
Psychiatrist Kenneth Kool may have used the jargon of his profession, but you got the point: Gary Heidnik is delusional, he testified. And psychotic. And possessed of an unbalanced perception of reality. “I’m of the opinion,” he added, “that Gary Heidnik is not sane and has not been so over the years. Plus,” Kool tossed in almost gratuitously, “Heidnik’s lifestyle is bizarre and regressed.” Psychiatrist Robert Sadoff was equally obdurate. R
Big Collisions Are In Store For The SSC
Big Collisions Are In Store For The SSC
WASHINGTON—Two days after the end of an election campaign in which science was scarcely mentioned, the subject grabbed headlines when Energy Secretary John Herrington announced that Texas would be the site for the proposed superconducting supercollider. All of a sudden, politicians—especially those from Texas—were tripping over each other’s superlatives to praise basic research. “We need to reestablish the primacy of the United States in science,” thundere
Universities Buy Into The Patent Chase
Universities Buy Into The Patent Chase
For being at the right place at the wrong time, Bernard Erlanger missed the road to riches back in 1957. The Columbia University microbiologist knew that he had helped pioneer a powerful technique for making antibodies to steroids, and he even suspected that it might have commercial applications. Indeed, the method is now commonly used for everything from controlling animal litter size to testing human hormonal disorders—and the paper Erlanger wrote has become one of the most cited in his
Scientists Lament Lowell Weicker's Election Defeat
Scientists Lament Lowell Weicker's Election Defeat
WASHINGTON—Elections are supposed to bring change. But the November 8 vote that denied Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.) a fourth term in office was not the sort of change scientists had in mind. “I have to talk through my tears,” laments lobbyist Lynn Morrison of the American Federation for Clinical Research. “Losing Lowell Weicker from the Senate is going to be tough for the entire biomedical community.” Weicker’s narrow defeat at the hands of Connecticut&#
RAKING IT IN AT PATENT U.
RAKING IT IN AT PATENT U.
So which patents—along with their universities and scientists— are leading the race for royalties? An exact ranking is difficult, thanks to inflation and closely guarded revenue figures. But here are a few of the top contenders, along with notable also-rans. Number One Patent: The biggest income producer of all time is probably cisplatin, a cancer drug developed at Michigan State University and licensed to Bristol-Myers. Royalties for this drug have already topped $55 million̵
DID HARVARD ABANDON 'ETHIC' FOR DOLLARS?
DID HARVARD ABANDON 'ETHIC' FOR DOLLARS?
As university after university joined the patent chase, one academic institution stood out as a bulwark of ethical resolve—that is, until now. The university was Harvard, and even though the school began licensing inventions more than a decade ago, it earned its reputation as a bastion of purity because of landmark decision in 1981. At issue then was a controversial proposal involving molecular biologist Mark Ptashne, whose advances in recombinant DNA techniques were giving rise to new t
New Biotechs Take On The Chemical Pesticide Industry
New Biotechs Take On The Chemical Pesticide Industry
SAN DIEGO—It is a rare scientist at Mycogen Corp. who makes it through the day without checking a small, hand-scribbled sign posted in the main hallway of the startup’s laboratory. The unassuming notice lists the bid, ask, and closing prices of Mycogen’s over-the-counter stock—and everyone in the company owns stock. “There are a lot of people who have a lot of money riding on what those numbers do every day” says Kathryn Nette, director of fermentation for th
Lasker Awards Go To Three Scientists And A Senator
Lasker Awards Go To Three Scientists And A Senator
This year, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation chose to honor Vincent P. Dole, the physician who first recognized that narcotic addiction is a physiological problem that can be treated medically, and two molecular biologists, Thomas B. Cech and Philip A. Sharp, who made independent fundamental discoveries about the role of RNA in living cells. Each Lasker award includes a $15,000 honorarium. Cech and Sharp share the honorarium for this year’s award in basic medical research. At an aw

Briefs

National Lab Briefs
National Lab Briefs
Fermilab Faces Life Without The SSC The selection of Texas as the site of the multibillion-dollar superconducting supercollider last month (see story, page 1) has big loser Fermilab worrying about its future. Within hours of the selection, recent Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, director of the Illinois accelerator complex, launched a preemptive strike against an expected decline in morale by assuring the lab’s nearly 400 physicists and engineers that a proposed expansion of the lab’s
Government Briefs
Government Briefs
More Support For Innovations? Congress is impressed enough with the Small Business Innovation Research Program to think about giving the scheme an extra boost. Begun in 1982, the.program funnels money to small new high-tech businesses in order to speed the flow of potentially commercial ideas from the laboratory to the market. The funds come from a tax on the research budgets of all large federal science agencies including NASA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Defense.
University Briefs
University Briefs
Cambridge Welcomes Entrepreneurs Cambridge University has traditionally lagged far behind its U.S counterparts in spawning a ring of high-tech industries (The Scientist, May 16, page 8), but now an “innovation center” founded by Trinity College in 1986 has been so successful that the college will open another this month. Meanwhile, St. John’s College has opened an incubator of its own on a 22-acre site owned by the college. To date, St. John’s has invested $9 million in
Industry Briefs
Industry Briefs
Beating The Japanese At Their Own Game You wouldn’t enter a fist fight with one hand tied behind your bad so why fight Japan’s technological prowess with the serious handicap of being thousands of miles away from the island nation A far better strategy, argues John R Stern, executive director of the U.S. Electronics Industry’s Japan office, is to set up shop in the Land of the Rising Sun. In a recent talk at the Industrial Biotechnology Association’s annual meeting, Ste
Entrepreneur Briefs
Entrepreneur Briefs
I’ll Bring The Ideas, You Bring The Cash What if you are an entrepreneur with a terrific prototype but without the cash to develop it further? Or maybe you are the head of R&D in a huge corporation and you need a few good ideas to jumpstart your division. In either case, the man you want is Ray Brill. His firm, Advanced Technology Innovations (ATI), has carved out a unique niche by matching the technological needs of large companies with the innovative solutions of small firms, universit
Funding Briefs
Funding Briefs
For Would-Be Biotechnologists The demand for biotechnologists is growing faster than the supply, according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). As a result, the institute has created a new program: Biotechnology Research Training grants. NIGMS will fund an institutional training program as well as individual predoctoral, postdoctoral, and senior fellowships. These provide an annual stipend ranging from $8,500 to $31,500 for three- to five-year projects that apply engi

Opinion

Science Isn't Really Willing To Investigate Misconduct
Science Isn't Really Willing To Investigate Misconduct
Seven years ago, Jerome Jacobstein, a nuclear physician at Cornell University began to suspect what he thought was serious research misconduct on the part of colleague Jeffrey S. Borer. Borer, a cardiologist, was working with Jacobstein on studies of how the heart functions under stress. While reading a draft of a report on their work by a medical student under Borer’s direct supervision, Jacobstein discovered that much of the methodology was, he thought, inaccurately described, with the
Fraud Is A Symptom Of A Deeper Flaw
Fraud Is A Symptom Of A Deeper Flaw
Two recent congressional investigations of “scientific fraud” (The Scientist, July 11, page 1) have rekindled a dispute about what it is, what causes it, and what to do about it. The current debate focuses narrowly on whether federal agencies will be required to develop and administer regulations, or whether universities can formulate and administer their own guidelines without external pressures. The record seems to indicate that external regulation is needed, because universit
Preventing Fraud Is A Task For Scientists, Not Congress
Preventing Fraud Is A Task For Scientists, Not Congress
For the last five months, representatives of higher education associations and scientific societies have been working out guidelines on research fraud and misconduct The goal is to help universities to construct a process for dealing with any charges of impropriety made against members of faculty or staff. Universities must, by law, have such a process or forfeit eligibility for National Institutes of Health funding, and there are good reasons to believe that at least some institutions can, w
Why Arthur Mourant Decided To Say 'No' To Ronald Fisher
Why Arthur Mourant Decided To Say 'No' To Ronald Fisher
[Ed. note: Thirty years ago, the eminent geneticist and statistician Ronald A. Fisher approached blood testing specialist Arthur Mourant with the idea for a joint research project. Why not use blood groups to see if smokers differed genetically from nonsmokers? Mourant was tempted for a number of reasons, not the least of which was maintaining his long and fruitful professional relationship with the famous Fisher, author of the classic textbook The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection (Oxfor

Letter

Third World Collaboration
Third World Collaboration
Third World Collaboration Eugene Garfield’s commentary in the October 31 issue of The Scientist (page 10) concerning the connection of Third World scientists to laboratories in developed countries was of special interest to me. I applaud his arguments concerning the global value of such collaboration. I am the chairman of a subcommittee of the American Physical Society’s International Scientific Affairs panel, which is looking into the possibilities for extended collaboration bet
Brookhaven Child Care
Brookhaven Child Care
Eight years ago, Brookhaven assisted in setting up Just Kids Learning Center with a $15,000 no-interest loan from Associated Universities Inc., which operates BNL for the Department of Energy. That was just a year after Fermilab’s establishment of its Children’s Center, with $10,000 in seed money from Universities Research Association, the DOE contractor operating Fermilab. The AIM loan was paid off three years later, and though no financial ties or formal agreement exists betwee

Commentary

Sakharov: A Symbol Of Change In Soviet Science
Sakharov: A Symbol Of Change In Soviet Science
The visit last month of Andrei Sakharov to the United States represents not merely a personal victory for the Nobel laureate and the scientists who have worked persistently for his rehabilitation. It is also a reflection of the profound changes going on in the Soviet Union, especially through the Soviet Academy of Sciences— changes that are reshaping that nation’s scientific enterprise. I was honored to be present at two occasions Sakharov attended while he was in Washington

Hot Paper

Hot Papers
Hot Papers
Y-H. Chien, M. Iwashima D.A. Wettstein, KB. Kaplan, J.F. Elliot, W Born, M.M. Davis, “T-cell receptor delta gene rearrangements in early thymocytes,” Nature, 330 (6150), 722-7, 24-31 Dec. 1987. A.S. Fauci, “The human immunodeficiency virus: Infectivity and mechanisms of pathogenesis,” Science, 239 (4840), 617-22, 5 Feb. 1988. V. Kumar, S. Green, G. Stack, M.Berry, J.-RJin, P. Chambon, “Functional domains of the human estrogen receptor,” Cell, 51 (6), 941-51

Research

Disorder Brings Unity To Far-Flung Disciplines
Disorder Brings Unity To Far-Flung Disciplines
What can we learn about biological evolution by studying disordered magnetic materials? That kind of question—one that brings together fields that at first seem to have very little in common—might have seemed quite strange before this decade. But during the 1980s there has been a serious and growing effort by some scientists to tackle phenomena common to widely disparate disciplines. This effort has led.to a surprising cross-fertilization among fields that previously enjoyed littl
How MPTP Revitalized Parkinson's Research
How MPTP Revitalized Parkinson's Research
Until five years ago, scientists investigating Parkinson’s disease were frustrated in their attempts to unravel the biochemical mechanism of this debilitating disease. Lacking an animal model, they were limited to observing its progressive symptoms in humans and to post-mortem examinations of the brain tissue of Parkinson’s patients. Then, in 1983, J. William Langston, now director of the California Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease and Related Disorders, in San Jose, ide
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
PLANT AND ANIMAL SCIENCES BY FRANCISCO J. AYALA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology University of California, Irvine Irvine, Calif. " The cuckoo Cuculus canorus parasitizes a variety of hosts, but particular strains favor just one species and lay eggs colored to match those of their particular host. Host discrimination against badly matching eggs is the selective force. Cuckoos lay a better mimetic egg whenever the host species is more discriminating. M. de L Brooke, N.B. Davies,
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
GEOSCIENCES BY PETER J. SMITH Department of Earth Sciences Open University Milton Keynes, U.K. " Seismic reflection studies in the North Atlantic, southwest of Bermuda, show that the oceanic crust is not as uniform as hitherto supposed. In particular, dipping reflectors in the lower crust indicate either major fault zones or, more probably, chemical signatures of magma chambers once active on the mid-Atlantic ridge, note the authors of a new study. J. McCarthy, J.C. Mutter, J.L. Morton, N.H.
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
LIFE SCIENCES BY BERNARD DIXON European Editorial Office The Scientist Uxbridge, U.K. " Of the three types of interferon, the most potent as a modulator of the human immune system is interferon-gamma. Thus, the expression of its specific cellular receptor gene in mouse cells will facilitate research into its mode of action and could bring progress in the control of immunological disorders, too. M. Aquet, Z. Dembic, G. Merlin, “Molecular cloning and expression of the human interferon-ga
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
. PHYSICS BY SOKRATES T. PANTELIDES IBM Research Division Thomas J. Watson Research Center Yorktown Heights, N.Y. " In the last 10 years, first-principles pseudopotentials revolutionized band-structure calculations for solids, especially when no d or f orbitals are involved. History is now repeating itself. Pseudopotentials are shown to lead to an efficient implementation of the variational Monte Carlo approach to the many electron problem in real solids. S. Fairy, X.W. Wang, S.G. Louie, &
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
CHEMISTRY BY MARYE ANNE FOX Department of Chemistry University of Texas, Austin Austin, Tex. " Host-guest chemistry is an important vehicle for characterizing the factors involved as molecules react. Two recently published Nobel lectures presents fascinating overview that takes the reader from Pedersen’s original discovery of macrocyclic ethers through the preorganization and structural recognition in Cram’s early studies to more recent uses of hosts as enzyme mimics and synthe

Profession

What Proxmire's Golden fleece Did For--And To--Science
What Proxmire's Golden fleece Did For--And To--Science
In early 1975, psychologist Ronald Hutchinson was proceeding smoothly with studies investigating why rats, monkeys, and humans clench their jaws. The work, bankrolled to the tune of $500,000 by several federal agencies over a decade, had placed Hutchinson at the forefront of research into the biological causes of aggression. But that April, a fiscally conscious legislator from Wisconsin skewered the research with a “Golden Fleece Award,” the second ever, designed to he bestowed mon
Industrial Physicists Out-Earn Their Counterparts In Academia, Government
Industrial Physicists Out-Earn Their Counterparts In Academia, Government
Physicists working for the government, however, have less reason to complain about being underpaid by comparison to the industrial scale: While young government physicists may start around $37,000 (versus $44,300 for industry) and may stay comparatively underpaid during the early stages of their careers, the salaries of older government physicists compare more favorably with those of industry physicists. Among the most experienced of them, in fact, median salaries in government come very close
NIH Extramural Funding: The Rich Get Richer
NIH Extramural Funding: The Rich Get Richer
Dollar Amount By 1987, the elite group of 10 institutions was still getting its outsized share—19% of the extramural awards—but the dollar amount had more than doubled to $996 million. Membership in the top of 10 has not shifted significantly during the past decade. Of those institutions at the top in 1978, only one had dropped out by 1987. Moving down the list of NIH recipents for 1987, the top 100 institutions as a whole received a little more than three-quarters of the whol
Programs Let MS-DOS Machines Take Advantage Of The 386 Chip
Programs Let MS-DOS Machines Take Advantage Of The 386 Chip
Intel’s 80386 chip holds a lot of promise for scientists working in all areas of computer-supported research. In addition to increasing memory capacity over its immediate predecessor, the Intel 80286, the 386 packs far more power. With it, for example, scientists will be able to run complicated molecular modeling or number-crunching programs on their desktop PCs. But it will be a while before that potential is realized in the IBM-compatible world since, for the full 386 power to be “

Books etc.

Dissecting The Nazis' Perverse Scientific Practices
Dissecting The Nazis' Perverse Scientific Practices
MURDEROUS SCIENCE:Elimination By Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies, and Others, Germany, 1933-1945. Benno Müller-Hillü Oxford University Press; Oxford 208 pages; $24.95 RACIAL HYGIENE:Medicine Under The Nazis Robert Proctor Harvard University Press; Cambridge; 414 pages; $34.95 REVIEWED BY FREDERICK H. KASTEN In the 40 years since the Holocaust, the deadly pseudomedical experiments carried out on involuntary human guinea pigs have been investigated by scholars, and so has

New Products

Applications Abound For New Generation Of 'Radio Pills'
Applications Abound For New Generation Of 'Radio Pills'
New sophisticated radio-telemetry capsules based on a 30-year-old technology have been specifically developed for clinical use, but their applications have the potential to reach beyond the hospital into basic research laboratories. The ‘radio pill’ is the name given to a device developed in 1957 by Bertil Jacobson, professor of medical electronics at the Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm. He produced a very accurate radio-telemetry capsule, transmitting at 400 KHz, to measure press
Research Yields Beramic Z: A Tougher, Cheaper Ceramic
Research Yields Beramic Z: A Tougher, Cheaper Ceramic
Because of their high thermal conductivity beryllium oxide ceramics—also known as beryilia ceramics—have been used for years in electronics, laser, and nuclear research. But for parts manufacturers who use these ceramics as a thin substrate, they have been extremely expensive, since—due to their porosity and relatively course grain—they tend to become brittle as they become thinner. The thin substrates thus tend to chip and break during production, and manufacturers ar