January 1990

News

Monte Verde Archeologist Prevails In Dispute Over Settlement's Age
Monte Verde Archeologist Prevails In Dispute Over Settlement's Age
Tom Dillehay's claim that the Chilean site is the oldest known New World excavation finally gains acceptance Thirteen years ago, archeologist Tom Dillehay was teaching at the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia and pursuing his interest in early Andean cultures. Then a student asked the young researcher to identify several large bones found at Monte Verde, a wet and boggy site in south central Chile. Dillehay recognized the bones immediately as belonging to a mastodon. Dillehay had no wa
Challenger's Whistle-Blower: Hero And Outcast
Challenger's Whistle-Blower: Hero And Outcast
The engineer who opposed the doomed launching of the shuttle finds himself ostracized as he embarks on several new careers. PHOENIX--When the shuttle Challenger blew up, the explosion lit a fuse in Roger Boisjoly's conscience. A structural engineer for Morton Thiokol Inc., the firm that later bore blame for the disaster, Boisjoly had argued against the launch the night before and, like the rest of the nation, watched in horror when the shuttle blew up. "I left the room and went directly to my
Critics Rip U.S. Biotechnology Panel
Critics Rip U.S. Biotechnology Panel
A new report says a White House committee has failed to properly oversee the nation's biotech policies. WASHINGTON--The Biotechnology Science Coordinating Committee, which was created to address the scientific problems arising from the burgeoning biotechnology industry, is being criticized for failing to do its job. The government body has been accused in one recent report of overstepping its charter by encroaching on the authority of other federal agencies and of hiding its work from the publ
Soviet Official Admits That Robots Couldn't Handle Chernobyl Cleanup
Soviet Official Admits That Robots Couldn't Handle Chernobyl Cleanup
Russian robotics experts labored to reduce human cost of cleanup. Would U.S. technology have made a difference?
Observers Urge U.S. To Drop Hard Line On UNESCO
Observers Urge U.S. To Drop Hard Line On UNESCO
WASHINGTON--The Bush administration's continued opposition to rejoining the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization is based on complaints that are no longer valid, say those who advocate renewed United States ties with the international agency. The latest evidence, they say, is the admini-stration's hard-line response to actions taken at UNESCO's recent meeting in Paris that were meant to improve its management practices and defuse some controversial issues that contr
Workshop Weighs Peak's Biological And Astronomical Value
Workshop Weighs Peak's Biological And Astronomical Value
Too late, scientists agree too little is known about an Arizona mountaintop set to become a haven for astrophysical research University of Washington anthropologist Don Grayson went to Tucson in October to take part in discussions concerning the history of mammals in the desert Southwest. He left believing that he had taken part in an autopsy. The victim was Mount Graham, a mountain slated to become the home of up to seven telescopes. Like many of the 50 participants in the "Workshop on the Bi
Politics And Culture Pose Hazards In Global Rain Forest Exploration
Politics And Culture Pose Hazards In Global Rain Forest Exploration
Nationalism is major issue in much of developing world as U.S. scientists seek to learn more about this endangered ecosystem When Harvard entomologist E.O. Wilson thinks about the 1950s, his recollections are tinged with more than a little nostalgia. Not because life was necessarily better then, he explains. But his kind of science was certainly easier to do. Wilson, a noted authority on tropical ants and widely recognized as the "father" of sociobiology, the study of how biological traits in
Yale Prof Is First Woman To Win Warren Prize
Yale Prof Is First Woman To Win Warren Prize
Joan A. Steitz, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at the School of Medicine at Yale University, New Haven, Conn., is the first woman ever to win the 118-year-old Warren Prize, presented every three years by Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Steitz, 48, will share the 1989 prize with the 1989 Nobel laureate in chemistry, Thomas R. Cech, professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado. Prize winners receive a plaque and $2,500. Steitz, an investigator with the Howar
People
People
Paul Jennings, professor of civil engineering and applied mechanics at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, has been named vice president and provost of Caltech. An internationally known authority on earthquake engineering, Jennings has been chairman of Caltech's division of engineering and applied science since 1985. As vice president and provost, he will be responsible for all day-to-day academic affairs that relate to Caltech's teaching and research programs. Jennings, who has d

Briefs

Government Briefs
Government Briefs
President Bush made a surprise visit December 22 to NIH to talk with AIDS patients and to applaud NIH employees "for helping to improve the lives of millions of people and around the world." His audience - which included the heads and deputies of each of the 13 NIH institutes as well as 500 selected intramural scientists - undoubtedly was happy to receive a pat on the back from the First Hand. But they were less than pleased with the 2 1/2-hour wait that they endured within Masur auditorium to
University Briefs
University Briefs
When Charles S. Johnson and his colleagues designed an experiment that standard nuclear magnetic resonance equipment couldn't handle, they decided to build a unit that could. The result: an electrophoretic NMR, a device that combines electrophoresis (a method of separating and identifying large molecules) and high-resolution NMR (a means of performing chemical analyses). "We're doing NMR in the presence of a large electric field," explains Johnson, Smith Professor of Chemistry at the University
Association Briefs
Association Briefs
Yet another voice in the scientific community's debate over animal research has made itself heard. The New York-based Medical Research Modernization Committee, a group of health care professionals who say that "most animal `models' are irrelevant or outdated," has published its first issue of Perspectives on Animal Research. Stephen Kaufman, an ophthalmologist and coeditor of the new journal, says its main purpose is to evaluate the clinical significance of different research methods, such as c
Funding Briefs
Funding Briefs
In November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its 1990 competitive research grants, an extramural program with $40 million to spend and high hopes for $500 million in 1991. Grants for up to five years are awarded according to peer review to investigators at colleges, universities, research institutions, or state agricultural experiment stations. The biggest slice of the 1990 program is a biotechnology research initiative. Begun in 1985, the program has grown to $19 million. Also, th

Opinion

Three Faces Of Addiction Require Integrated Research Effort
Three Faces Of Addiction Require Integrated Research Effort
Chemical addictions result from a complex interaction among biological, psychological, and social variables. Recovery requires a broad spectrum of treatments applied to each of these levels. This complexity creates a unique challenge for researchers because no single branch of science is capable of describing all aspects of addiction. While the biological sciences are necessary to describe the complex neurological and neurochemical symptoms, the psychological sciences are needed to describe the
Battle Against Drug Addiction Must Be Waged From Better Financed Laboratories
Battle Against Drug Addiction Must Be Waged From Better Financed Laboratories
The "war on drugs" will not be won in the jungles of Colombia or along the borders of the United States. Drug abuse will come under control when we, as scientists, find ways to relieve addicts of their compulsive need for a fix. Addictions are chronic diseases originating in adolescence and young adulthood. Although the decision to experiment with drugs may have been voluntary, what occurs thereafter is a physiological disorder, not a "failure of will." Susceptibility to addiction is an inhere

Letter

Letter: And Migma Facts
Letter: And Migma Facts
The article by Robert Crease about Bogdan Maglich and migma aneutronic fusion seems more like a gossip column than a scientific critique. Notwithstanding Crease's comments on Maglich's personality, there remain facts not mentioned in the story about the research that Maglich, along with distinguished colleagues, has conducted over an 18-year period that bear national attention and scrutiny: Maglich has performed four experiments, Migma I-IV (1973, 1975, 1976, 1982), each one getting closer t
Letter: Migma Omissions
Letter: Migma Omissions
In the interestingly written piece by Robert Crease, "Visionary Physicist's Crusade Serves As Lesson In Futility" (The Scientist, Nov. 27, 1989, page 1), the reader is not told what has happened with our aneutronic energy research during the past 14 years. There are three areas in which this omission might grossly distort factual information: Funds: In fairness to the American investors and the U.S. government, the Saudis' $1.5 million (received in 1975) is not the only funding our aneutronic
Letter: 'Nuclear Winter' Hysterics
Letter: 'Nuclear Winter' Hysterics
In reference to your article on "Nuclear Winter" (The Scientist, May 1, 1989, page 1) and the commentaries that continue to appear in your Letters section: Most discussants of the current spate of computer-based atmospheric catastrophes assume that computer models and outputs are more reliable than the reality of observation. Although large-fire research in a war and wildland context has been going on for many years, a popularized study of the supposed effects of large fires, directed toward s

Commentary

Senior Scientists Could Play A Key Role In Resolving Big Problems In Peer Review
Senior Scientists Could Play A Key Role In Resolving Big Problems In Peer Review
Two seemingly disparate problems appear on the current research menu. One is the growing number of retired scientists whose mental acuity belies their chronological age; the other is that aspect of scientific fraud involving publications that have somehow slipped the scientific barriers of peer review. As the story on page 19 points out, there is an increasing population of scientists who either have sought retirement or have had retirement thrust upon them and are still interested in their pa

Research

Articles Alert
Articles Alert
The Scientist has asked a group of experts to comment periodically upon recent articles that they have found noteworthy. Their selections, presented herein every issue, are neither endorsements of content nor the result of systematic searching. Rather, the list represents personal choices of articles the columnists believe the scientific community as a whole may also find interesting. Reprints of any articles cited here may be ordered through The Genuine Article, 3501 Market St., Philadelphia,
Venerable Papers: Ten Classic Articles Over 50 Years Old
Venerable Papers: Ten Classic Articles Over 50 Years Old
When considered today, most papers written prior to 1940 - when the structure of DNA was not yet known, and even before DNA was shown to be the medium of genetic inheritance - seem relics from science's "antediluvian" period. In the past 50 years, there has been a flood of discoveries in virtually every field of science, and as the pace of research accelerates, papers are aging ever more rapidly. RANK PAPER CITATIONS 1. C.H. Fiske, Y. SubbaRow, "The colorimetric determination of phosphor

Hot Paper

Hot Paper: Life Sciences
Hot Paper: Life Sciences
Y. Hirata, H. Yoshimi, S. Takata, T.X. Watanabe, et al., "Cellular mechanism of action by a novel vasoconstrictor endothelin in cultured rat vascular smooth muscle cells," Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 154, 868-75, 15 August 1988. Yukio Hirata (Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan): "Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is a novel 21-residue vasoconstrictor peptide originally characterized in the culture media of porcine vascular endothelial cells. The discovery of ET-1 as the most
Hot Paper: Physics
Hot Paper: Physics
E. Verlinde, "Fusion rules and modular transformations in 2D conformal field theory," Nuclear Physics B, 300, 360-76, 27 July 1988. Erik Verlinde (The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J.): "Conformal field theory has received considerable attention because it describes the vacuum solutions of string theory, which is a promising candidate for a consistent quantum theory of all forces in nature. A primary goal is to classify all such vacuum solutions, in the hope that one of them agree

Profession

Senior Scientists Face Funding Hurdles, Mandatory Retirement
Senior Scientists Face Funding Hurdles, Mandatory Retirement
In 1984, biologist Maurice Hilleman - a Lasker award winner, a recipient of the National Medal of Science, and a man who had pioneered more than a dozen vaccines - found himself out of a job. Hilleman, who had worked for 27 years at the West Point, Pa.-based Merck Sharp and Dohme Laboratories, was a senior vice president and director of vaccine research at the pharmaceutical company. The fact that he was one of the firm's most productive scientists and that he didn't want to leave his post didn
Genome Project Spawns New Research On Ethics
Genome Project Spawns New Research On Ethics
With human genetics, it seems, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. As the science of genetic diagnosis matures, researchers are learning how to spot dozens of hereditary weaknesses and diseases by simply testing a cheek scraping or a sample of blood. But treating or preventing most of those genetic conditions is still largely the stuff of speculation, and will likely remain so for years. Therein lies an ethical problem, as described by Dorothy Nelkin in her book Dangerous Diagnostics (
Science Grants
Science Grants
Below is a list of notable grants recently awarded in the sciences - large federal grants as well as awards of all sizes from private foundations. The individual cited with each entry is the project's principal investigator. BIOLOGY Research into biological methods of halting the spread of the destructive mole cricket through use of nematodes. $100,000 from the Florida Turfgrass Research Foundation to the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida, Gainesville; J.H

Technology

Microphysiometer Could Open New Avenues In Research
Microphysiometer Could Open New Avenues In Research
A unique silicon potentiometric sensor, now in its final stages of development, will give researchers an innovative tool for monitoring the effects of drugs, toxic agents, enzymes, and other substances in mammalian and bacterial tissue cultures. The device, called a silicon microphysiometer, uses photocurrent technology to measure cells' real-time metabolic responses to physical and chemical stimuli (Entrepreneur Briefs, The Scientist, Nov. 13, 1989, page 11). One feature that is certain to be