June 1988

News

Upstart Phylogenists Slug it Out Over Primate Data
Upstart Phylogenists Slug it Out Over Primate Data
Caviling, carping, and quarreling, is this any way to advance science? New HAVEN, CONN. "For a science that deals with the apparently simple question of who is related to whom, phylogeny has been positively littered with bones of contention. The root problem, explains former Yale University taxonomist Charles Sibley, is that a creatures appearance may not always bean accurate guide to its place in the pantheon of beasts. So until recently, phylogenists were left to cavil over the appropriate
An MIT Brainchild Is Exploring New Territories Of The Mind
An MIT Brainchild Is Exploring New Territories Of The Mind
Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department revolutionizes psychology CAMBRIDGE, MASS--Daniel Osherson works with equations on paper. He is interested in the abstract and arcane topic of "inductive inference”" in particular, the theory of how evidence can support a hypothesis. William Quinn toils over collections of fruit flies in a biology lab, trying to discern how small genetic differences can cause subtle changes in memory and learning among populations of Drosophila. As unlikely as it m
NSF Struggles To Pay A Fair Wage
NSF Struggles To Pay A Fair Wage
The foundation battles to get the best and the brightest WASHINGTON--William WuIf is the kind of person who believes that when you’ve been supported by a system, you have an obligation to give something back someday. So the University of Virginia computer scientist was sorely tempted when the National Science Foundation asked him to come to Washington for two or three years to run its computer and information science and engineering directorate. As a young professor, Wulf had benefited f
The Great U.S. Supercomputer
The Great U.S. Supercomputer
Competition with fancy machines and wads of cash, state schools steal national center scientists Christmas came early in 1985 for serious number crunchers. In the spring of that year, the National Science Foundation christened five national supercomputing centers and sent them forth into the world to meet the grand challenges of science and engineering. The NSF's idea was to fund these silicon meccas so that they could maintain state-of-the-art technical facilities and provide supercomputing
Notable Books
Notable Books
E.O. WiLson, editor, NationalAcademy Press; Washington, D.C.; 496 pages, $19.50 (paperback); $32.50 (hardback) People have far fewer genes than do salamanders or many flowering plants, says Wilson as he piles up statistics to demon- strate the abundance of genetic information stored in living things. This richness—and its fragility—are examined from different angles by this volume’s 55 contributors. PATTERNING IN SEED PLANT SPECIES Jonathan D. Sauer, University of Californi
Feeding Frenzy Over Science Fraud
Feeding Frenzy Over Science Fraud
Congress is in a tizzy; science leaders are worried legislation could do harm to the innocent WASHINGTON--Fraud in science has become a cause célébre among Washington politicians. For a two-week period this spring, it seemed that everywhere one looked there were concerned and aggrieved congressmen. And as the politicians aired the dirty linen of science in public and fulminated over measures they claimed needed to be taken to assure the public that science would be pursued in a spot
Can Superconductivity's Davids Out-Innovate The U.S. Goliaths?
Can Superconductivity's Davids Out-Innovate The U.S. Goliaths?
The Japanese think so and have-tried to sign up super startups who can’t attract U.S. corporations to their superwares SACRAMENTO, CALIF--"It’s too low-tech for some people," admits Ray Anderson cheerfully. "But I like the idea: using low tech to make high tech." Anderson casts a slightly apologetic glance around his company’s big workshop. A crazy quilt of clutter fills it: stacked chairs, boxes, empty Pepsi cans, silvery asbestos-lined gloves, metal shelves, wooden benches
The Agricultural Research Service's Bitter Harvest
The Agricultural Research Service's Bitter Harvest
ARS’s respected administrator has retired but not without blasting his successor WASHINGTON--When Terry B. Kinney Jr. decided to retire as administrator of the Agricultural Research Service, he planned an orderly transition. He announced his intentions early so that his boss would have ample time to find a replacement, and he made it clear that he would remain long enough to train his successor. In addition, he discussed with others the need to bring on a savvy Washington insider. Kinn
Unwarranted Fear About The Effects Of Radiation Leads To Bad Science Policy
Unwarranted Fear About The Effects Of Radiation Leads To Bad Science Policy
Few issues have caused more fear and confusion than the question of the hazards of low-level radiation. There has been a remarkable failure to examine closely the evidence when discussing the issue and planning future studies. As a result, the public’s radiation phobia has been needlessly reinforced, and public money is being used on studies that are bound to be inconclusive. The problem arises, in part, because the general public—and even most scientists—are not aware that
John Maddox Offers Surprising Insights Into His
John Maddox Offers Surprising Insights Into His
In 1955, a puckish, 30-year-old Weishman resigned as lecturer in theoretical physics at the University of Manchester to become science correspondent of the Manchester Guardian. Unwittingly, the energetically eclectic John Maddox thus took his first step toward the editorial chair of Nature, which he has occupied with distinction on two occasions—between 1966 and 1973, and from 1980 until the present. A robust defender of what he calls “the scientific enterprise,” Maddox has
From Symbols To Signals: Getting Closer To Machine Intelligence
From Symbols To Signals: Getting Closer To Machine Intelligence
Until recently, most artificial-intelligence researchers accepted the view that thinking consists of the manipulation of discrete symbols, such as the written or spoken language. With this understanding, they achieved a degree of progress, notably in machine understanding and generation of natural-language communication, in symbolic mathematics programs, and in the automatic proving of theorems and assertions by machines. Groups at MIT, Carnegie-Meilon, and Stanford dramatically extended theore
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
The Scientist has asked a group of expert. to periodically comment upon recent articles that they have found noteworthy. Their selectIons, presented here in every issue, are neither endorsements of content nor the result of systematic searching. Rather they are personal choices of articles they believe the scientific community as a whole may also find i.nteresting. Reprints of any articles cited here may be ordered through The Genuine Article, 8501 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19004. BY SOK
U.S. Dominates Publishing 0f Genome Mapping Articles
U.S. Dominates Publishing 0f Genome Mapping Articles
Between 1977 and 1986, the United States produced more than 42% of all articles on mapping and sequencing the human genome that appeared in 3,200 of the world’s leading scientific journals, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) reported in a study issued in late April. “The United States is the clear leader in basic research, publishing more articles on mapping and sequencing than European or Asian nations,” it concluded. The next largest contributor over t
Faculty Salary Growth Slows Down
Faculty Salary Growth Slows Down
Faculty salaries seem to be losing steam, according to the latest annual survey from the American Association of University Professors. In 1986-87, the average salary levels for all disciplines rose 5.9%, but in 1987-88 the increase was only 4.9%. Adjusted for inflation, the increase was less than 1%. Private independent institutions gave bigger raises than did public or church-related universities. Salaries differed according to region. The highest average salary ($43,590) came from the Pacif
'On/Off' Science Careers Are Gaining Favor
'On/Off' Science Careers Are Gaining Favor
There is a growing market out there for part-time and/or temporary work in the sciences. Employers have long seen the advantages—savings in overhead and benefits plus greater flexibility in many activities—but now the practice of research is changing, moving toward almost interchangeable scientists performing routine, clearly divided tasks. At the same time, based on our work in the professional relations office of the American Chemical Society I see an increasing interest in this
Science Grants
Science Grants
Following Is a selection of notable grants that have been awarded recently by public and private funding sources. PHYSIOLOGY: Auditory Cortex. $1,894,000 over three years from NIH to University of California, Irvine; L. Kitzes NEUROSCIENCE: Growth factors or other trophic factors in brain injury. $25,000 from Toyota USA Foundation to University of California, San Francisco; F.M. Longo, WC. Mobley Molecular and developmental neuroscience and computational neuroscience. $375,000 from Del E. We
New Kresge Foundation Initiative Hikes Support For Lab Renovation
New Kresge Foundation Initiative Hikes Support For Lab Renovation
The ramshackle state of some of the nation’s science labs has prompted the Kresge Foundation in Troy, Mich., to step beyond its regular pattern of giving and add a special program for upgrading scientific equipment. The foundation, with assets of more than $1 billion, traditionally restricts its funding to construction and building-renovation projects. Now, says Kresge program officer Gene Moss, the foundation expects to give away between $10 million and $20 million for scientific equip
Robert Gale's Inside Story Of His Chemobyl Days
Robert Gale's Inside Story Of His Chemobyl Days
FINAL WARNING: The Legacy of Chemobyl Robert P Gale and Thomas Hauser Warner Books; New York 230 pages; $18.95 The second anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in April was marked by the publication of several books, each trying to tell the story from a different angle, each attempting to serve a different political purpose. One of them, Richard Mould’s Chernobyl The Real Story (Pergamon Press), got the full endorsement and cooperation of Soviet authorities. The book contains 160 photog

Briefs

National Lab Briefs
National Lab Briefs
Scientists, beware! The West German hacker who invaded scores of U.S. military computer systems last year could easily strike again. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory who finally tracked the electronic wizard down have been studying his M.O. Their conclusion: His tactics were often ridiculously simple. Many of the systems he entered used account names and passwords so obvious as to be worthless. And many current systems continue to use similar passwords. The best defense? Difficult p
Government Briefs
Government Briefs
Requests to fund university research facilities, also known as "academic pork," that have become a growing and controversial part of the congressional budget-making process have been trimmed in the 1989 appropriations for the Department of Energy. Only two such projects, totaling $16.6 million, appear in the bill passed May 17 by the House, in contrast to nine projects, worth $73.7 million, that the House approved last year. Loma Linda University’s Proton Beam Cancer Treatment Center ($1
Private Institute Briefs
Private Institute Briefs
Want to take a cruise in the Black Sea? Short of defecting to the Soviet Union, the best way may be to join up with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The institution’s research vessel Know the first U.S. ship to enter the Black Sea in 13 years, is in the middle of a planned series of six trips to the Soviet body of water. Its scientists are using the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster to study circulation patterns and chemical processes in the sea. Meanwhile, back in
University Briefs
University Briefs
Rebuffed in February by a California lower court, four former and one current University of California professors and the American Federation of Teachers have vowed to continue their fight against the university’s tenure and promotion peer review process by filing an appeal. The professors’ suit charges that the standard practice of keeping the identity of peer reviewers secret violates each candidate’s right of due process. "This is the first time in the country that this se
Industry Briefs
Industry Briefs
When the news is this good, it’s hard to keep it to yourself. It might even be illegal. That’s why Chiron Corp. violated a basic tenet of the science profession by announcing in a press conference, rather than in a scientific journal following peer review, that it had isolated the virus for hepatitis non-A, non-B. States Ginger Rosenberg, associate director of business development of the seven-year-old Emeryville, Calif., medical research company, to have done otherwise may have v
Entrepreneur Briefs
Entrepreneur Briefs
When he couldn’t find a job, the Depression forced Lewis Harris to become an entrepreneur. In 1933, he opened his own research, development, and testing lab with only his new degree in pharmaceutical chemistry from the University of Nebraska and $100 he had intended to use for his honeymoon. (The wedding was postponed for two years, until business was steady.) Last month, Harris Technology Group was named Nebraska’s Small Business of the Year, one of the few science-minded companie
Association Briefs
Association Briefs
No other scientific field has as many Nobel laureates per capita as the field of crystallography, and the American Crystallographic Association boasts five living Nobelists among its members. Six laureates—including all five ACA member Nobelists—will be in Philadelphia from June 26 to July 1 for the association’s annual meeting. Their symposium on Methods and Applications in Macromolecular Crystallography helps explain why conference organizers are predicting the highest atte
Funding Briefs
Funding Briefs
NSF has elevated its programs in instrumentation and related areas to the level of a division in the Directorate of Biological, Behavioral, and Social Sciences. The new Division of Instrumentation and Resources includes such programs as instrumentation and instrument development, field stations, database software development, history and philosophy of science, ethics and value studies, and special projects such as science and technology centers. John Wooley is acting division director. The fir

Opinion

Opinion
Opinion
Opinion Don’t Link U.S.-Soviet Exchanges To Human Rights Author:HERBERT ABRAMS Date: June 13, 1988 One of the major controversies surrounding exchanges between U.S. and Soviet scientists is whether action on human rights should be a prerequisite for communication. A number of scientists have argued that it should. A few years ago, for example, the National Academy of Sciences canceled formal exchanges with the Soviet Union because of the plight of a number of Soviet scientists, particular

Commentary

Share Those Cell Lines!
Share Those Cell Lines!
In the interview on the following pages, John Maddox raises an issue in the ethics of science about which we need more open discussion in quest of a better articulated consensus. Exactly what is the obligation of scientists to distribute cell lines, virus strains, DNA clones, and other critical research materials? In the physical sciences, one generally expects to be able to follow a published recipe with available materials and achieve the results claimed. In biology, however, it often happe

Letter

Letters
Letters
In his comment (April 4, 1988, page 8) to my opinion (November 30, 1987, page 11), Howard Temin either missed or misinterpreted the point had tried to make. I was concerned with the fact that the ubiquitous spread of CD-HeLa cells might expand the habitat of HIV not the host range. In addition to the increased use of such modified HeLa cells for large scale production of HIV or for virus research, accidental spread of such cells could contaminate other cells cultures without the researchers k

Research

A Star Dies, And A Cottage Industry Is Born
A Star Dies, And A Cottage Industry Is Born
Research A Star Dies, And A Cottage Industry Is Born Author: DAVID PENDLEBURY Date: June 13, 1988 It took 160 thousand years for light from an exploding star in the Large Magellanic Cloud to reach Earth, but only one year for astronomers and physicists to emit their own burst of energy in the form of journal articles on this once-in-a-lifetime event. Since February 23, 1987, when the first light from the explosion was seen, the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) has recorded some 180 ar
Nailing Down Iron Assimilation
Nailing Down Iron Assimilation
Iron is both a nutritious and potentially noxious element. Its precise regulation in cells is necessary to assure synthesis of several proteins of which the metal is an integral part. At the same time, the cell must avoid generation of tissue-damaging oxygen radicals, which are known to arise from certain transition metals, such as iron. Environmental iron is mostly in a form (the 3+ oxidation state) that is characterized by extreme insolubility at biological pH. In order to dissolve iron, ma

Hot Paper

Hot Papers
Hot Papers
The articles listed below—all less than a year old—have received a substantially greater number of citations than those in the same subject area and of the same vintage. A citation-tracking algorithm of the Institute for Scientific Information has identified these articles. M.A. Beno, L. Soderhoim, D.W Capone, D.G. Hinks, J.D. Jorgensen, et al., “Structure of the single-phase high-temperature superconductor YBa2Cu3-O7-delta, Applied Physics Letters, 51, 57-9, 6 July 1987.
Corn Crew Achieved Genetic First, And Then They Were All Let Go
Corn Crew Achieved Genetic First, And Then They Were All Let Go
Dorothy Pierce was a good pal to the four people who worked for her. They all called her “Dottie.” But as a supervisor, she also had to be tough enough to motivate her team of biotech researchers when the going got rough—and it did, it got very rough at Richmond, Calif. based Stauffer Chemical. The team’s moniker? The corn transformation group. Its task? To become the first scientists in the world to implant a foreign gene into maize. That was a year ago. Today, the fiv

Profession

Study Sees Big Leap In Science Jobs By 2000
Study Sees Big Leap In Science Jobs By 2000
Profession Study Sees Big Leap In Science Jobs By 2000 Author:WENDY WALKER Date: June 13, 1988 Brisk hiring for public-and private-sector life scientists expected to set pace The number of jobs in scientific fields will increase by 27% between now and the year 2000, according to a recent forecast by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At this rate of gain, scientists will find their specialties listed among neither the fastest-growing occupations—such as paralegals, medical a
Looking For The Patterns Behind Human Violence
Looking For The Patterns Behind Human Violence
HOMICIDE Martin Daly and Margo Wilson Aldine de Gruyter; New York, 328 pages; $42.95 (hardback), $18.95 (paperback) A characteristic common to good science and good literary criticism is that both are alert to subtext. Both can reveal that what you see is not what you get. Both can offer the excitement of discovering an unexpected pattern in a phenomenon of nature or in the behavior of a protagonist in a play. For a number of years, the authors of Homicide have been studying human behavior b
Do You Need A Workstation Or A Personal Computer?
Do You Need A Workstation Or A Personal Computer?
Although many scientists have access to supercomputers, special-purpose parallel processors, and all kinds of other heavy-duty number-crunching facilities, they still face the question of what to put on their desks. Whatever goes on the desk—or in the corner of the lab— should be able to communicate with remote computers, handle daily chores such as word processing, and even crunch some numbers. A few years ago, the options were relatively clear. Personal computers didn’t do
Why Desktop Publishing Is Right for Some Scientists, Wrong for Others
Why Desktop Publishing Is Right for Some Scientists, Wrong for Others
For anyone who has spent hours with pen in hand, poring over a word-processed scientific manuscript and filling in a multitude of blanks with equations and complicated graphs, the latest generation of desktop publishing software may sound like a dream come true. After all, some of these programs combine an array of capabilities that can make the operator the equivalent of a typesetter and layout artist. They allow the fluent integration of different functions— spreadsheets, word processor
Science's Newest Microscopes Are Exquisitely Sensitive To Surfaces
Science's Newest Microscopes Are Exquisitely Sensitive To Surfaces
Recent science magazine covers have taken to displaying dazzling images of the surfaces of metals and semiconductors. These come from scanning tunneling microscopes, which let scientists look at images of individual atoms and even smaller features. The operating principle of the scanning tunneling microscope is radically different from other microscopes. It makes use of the fact that solids are covered with a microscopic “atmosphere” of electrons. The instrument lowers a tiny met
Knitting And Braiding Aren't Just For Grandmothers
Knitting And Braiding Aren't Just For Grandmothers
Knitting, weaving, and braiding are generally reserved for yarn thread1 and hair. Scientific researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia, however, are experimenting with applying these techniques to fibers of metals, ceramics, and polymers—and they’re making everything from cars to finger joints. In the corner of a room in Drexel’s Fibrous Materials Research Laboratory—the only academic lab of its kind in the country—sits a 100-year-old machine originally de

New Products

Harnessing Supercomputer Power To Analyze And Model Proteins
Harnessing Supercomputer Power To Analyze And Model Proteins
A graphics supercomputer that for the first time combines high-speed computation, three-dimensional graphics, and molecular modeling and simulation software in a single interactive system was introduced last week at the American Chemical Society’s 3rd Chemical Congress in Toronto. The Molecular Simulator, targeted at biochemists, was jointly developed by hardware supplier Ardent Computer Corp. and software developer RioDesign, Inc. It can model and analyze the chemical structures of prot