Editorial

Science and the Mass Media: A Clash of Cultures
Science and the Mass Media: A Clash of Cultures
How many journalists does it take to change a light bulb?Three. One to report it as an inspired government program to bring light to the people, one to report it as a diabolical government plot to deprive the poor of darkness, and one who aims for a Pulitzer prize, reporting that the electric company hired a light bulb assassin to break the bulb in the first place.To put it another way, mass media content is "a socially created product, not a reflection of an objective reality."1 In contrast, sc

Opinion

Remarkable Research, Humble Conditions
Remarkable Research, Humble Conditions
Brad FitzpatrickThe Balkan region, so frequently engulfed in wars, is not considered a fertile ground for scientific research. Each generation in the former Yugoslavia is disturbed by at least one war. Despite the odds, quite a few properly educated, wise, and brave Yugoslav minds have made significant scientific contributions.Scientists need to communicate freely and regularly with all members of the scientific community. They must have free access to foreign scientific innovations, including n

Letter

Conflicting Interests at NIH
Conflicting Interests at NIH
I'm glad to see The Scientist examine the issue of conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment for scientists at the National Institutes of Health.1A major question is whether the current salaries of high-level NIH scientists, generally ranging from $180,000 to $200,000, are too low. Obviously, it is possible to earn more elsewhere, but would the NIH be unable to attract top scientists if they don't allow their employees to supplement those salaries with outside income?Congress may be relu
Evolution and the Ape's Mind
Evolution and the Ape's Mind
What do we need to reconsider with respect to the nature of the ape mind? Why did the human brain undergo an accelerated period of evolution that left it far more sophisticated than the apes? As I understand the hypothesis, Tim Crow associates deviations of psychological function with psychosis, that is, schizophrenia, Asperger syndrome, and autism, and the capacity for language and emotional expression.1 Indeed, Crow attributes psychosis to variation in the genes controlling hemispheric asymmet
Look at SUNY Downstate
Look at SUNY Downstate
Your article on research opportunities for life scientists in the New York metropolitan area largely overlooks SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.1 SUNY Downstate is the only full academic medical center in Brooklyn, Staten Island, or Queens. It is a thriving research, education, and healthcare institution with a long and interesting history.SUNY Downstate is home to 85 faculty researchers, including Dr. Robert Furchgott, whose research at Downstate on nitric oxide won him the 1998 Nobel

Snapshot

Water by the Numbers
Water by the Numbers
Estimated number of people in 2003 who lacked access to sanitation:2.4 billionEstimated number of people in 2003 who depended on groundwater:2 billionProjected cost per year of providing worldwide water access by 2015:$30 billionNumber of countries that experienced serious water shortages by the mid-1990s:about 80 (comprising about 40% of the world’s population)Amount of bottled water produced in 2001:1.31 million liters, up from 1.2 million liters in 2000Group that consumed the most bottl

Frontlines

A Tick-Slimming Secret
A Tick-Slimming Secret
Reuben Kaufman and graduate student Brian Weiss have found that for females, the secret to staying slim is staying virginal. Fortunately for males, human and otherwise, this works only if you're a special type of tick. Kaufman and Weiss have isolated the engorgement factor protein (EF) in the semen of the tick family ixodidae; this protein inspires gluttony in inseminated females. They have dubbed it "voraxin," from the Latin vorare, to devour.Tick blood lust is ghastly: Some can consume up to 4
Economic Progress, Medical Regress
Economic Progress, Medical Regress
ACTIONS AND REACTIONS:©Wiley-Liss, IncBlood pressure of Samoan males, by age, in the 1979 and 1991–93 samples.Modernization has changed the Samoans' lifestyle, and their cardiovascular health as well. A study by Stephen McGarvey, director of Brown University's International Health Institute, and colleagues found that youngsters between the ages of 10 and 18 in American Samoa and independent Samoa had higher blood pressures in 1991–1993 than did the same age group in 1979; they a

5-Prime

Gesundheit!
Gesundheit!
1. 'Tis the season – What are allergies?They result from the immune system overreacting to foreign particles like pet dander, pollen, dust mites, and food proteins. An initial encounter prompts the body to produce antibodies against the particle, or allergen. When a person is exposed again, the allergen triggers the antibodies to bind mast cells, and they release other inflammatory agents such as histamine and leukotrienes, which cause the runny noses, coughing, and watery eyes, collective

Foundations

A New Pathway for Inositol
A New Pathway for Inositol
Courtesy of Cantley labIn the mid 1980s we discovered a phosphatidylinositol kinase that co-purified with several oncoproteins and that correlated with cell transformation. When my graduate student Malcolm Whitman presented his results at a lab meeting, I noticed that in this autorad, the phosphatidylinositol phosphate produced by the oncoprotein-associated PI kinase (Type I) migrated slightly more slowly in thin layer chromatography (TLC) than that produced by PI 4-kinase (Type II).The reproduc

First Person

Denis Duboule
Denis Duboule
What happened when the science bug bit?Courtesy of Denis DubouleIt overrode everything else. It's a little bit of a problem now; it's all or nothing. It's something you are always thinking about, even when climbing a mountain, or swimming with children in the sea.What else changed?I have stopped playing tennis, stopped playing music, but I ride a bike; it's also obsessional. I race against myself. It may have something to do with reaching 50. [He's 49] You have to show yourself that you can stil

Feature

Facing the Global Water Crisis
Facing the Global Water Crisis
DRY EARTH:Photo by Roger Lemoyne/LiaisonA woman sits on the ancient steps that once led down to Lake Rajsamand near Udaipur, India. The lake dried up in 2000 due to drainage of its feeder rivers for agricultural purposes and drought.Eli Raz, an Israeli geologist, found himself in something of a hole, and a rather deep one. He had stopped his car on a desert highway near his home by the Dead Sea to inspect some rock formations. As he was walking a few hundred meters from the road, he felt a rumbl

Research

Listen Up
Listen Up
The outer ear funnels sound waves from the air to the ear drum. For humans, sounds in the range of 20–20,000 Hz are transmitted by three bones (the smallest bones in the body) resting under the ear drum to a membrane lying on the cochlear surface. Vibrations passed on by the fluid-filled spiral tube reach the hair cells inside, each of which supports a tuft of 30–150 stereocilia arranged in rows of increasing height. These cells transduce mechanical signals into chemical ones through
Making Sense of Mechanosensation
Making Sense of Mechanosensation
OPEN WIDE:© 2002 Nature Publishing GroupMscL has one of the widest channel openings. Here transmembrane (TM) segments are in the open state. The side view is shown in relation to a hypothetically distorted bilayer. (Reprinted with permissionStress – the bane of modern existence. Even cells have to deal with it, in its mechanical forms, at least. Osmotic pressure and shear forces from the environment signal dangerous situations that threaten the integrity of the cell membrane. Membrane
How Did Natural Selection Shape Human Genes?
How Did Natural Selection Shape Human Genes?
UPSIDE-DOWN MITO-MAPLE:Courtesy of Douglas C. WallaceResearchers constructed a phylogenetic tree based upon human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation. A branch bifurcates whenever they found an additional polymorphism. At the top of the inverted tree is mitochondrial "Eve"; the illustration shows two mtDNA sub-branches, or lineages, found in Europe and the Middle East. The J1- and J2-branch polymorphisms in the cytochrome b gene might have spread because they were climatically advantageous. (Rep

Hot Paper

Landmarks of Human Variations
Landmarks of Human Variations
BUILDING BLOCKS:© 2001 AAASAlong a 106-kilobase stretch of human chromosome 21, one study found that 18 haplotype blocks represent a segment of 147 SNPs from 20 individual copies of the chromosome. One block, containing 26 SNPs and spanning 19 kilobases, is detailed at right. The four most common haplotypes, occurring in 16 of the 20 chromosomes sampled, can be identified by two tag SNPs (bottom right). (Adapted from N. Patil, Science, 294:1719–23, 2001)The myriad medical breakthrough

Vision

Evolutionary Teamwork
Evolutionary Teamwork
Frederic D. BushmanCourtesy of Frederic D. BushmanThe endosymbiotic theory, which posits that organelles such as chloroplasts and mitochondria descended from formerly independent cells, has received wide acceptance in the last third of the 20th century. But recent findings suggest that endosymbiotic processes may have contributed still more cellular components, chloroplasts and mitochondria being simply the most easily identified examples.Genomic analyses across a broad spectrum of organisms hav

Briefs

Presynaptic Plasticity
Presynaptic Plasticity
Brad FitzpatrickA group of slow-witted, mutant mice and a protein called RIM1α may provide insight into learning and memory mechanisms. University of Texas Southwestern researchers showed that knockout mice missing RIM1α, a presynaptic protein previously studied in vitro, performed worse at learning and memory tasks than did two other sets of genetically altered mice, each a mutant for proteins involved in neurotransmitter release.1The oft-studied molecular players in learning and memo
Assistance from Sap Suckers
Assistance from Sap Suckers
Courtesy of Cesare BrizioResearchers say they have safely delivered therapeutic agents into mammalian cells by attaching them to insect-derived peptides. The technique may help overcome the difficulties in getting vaccines and drugs into cells where they're needed. The Wistar Institute's Laszlo Otvos, Jr., and colleagues found that pyrrhocoricin, an antimicrobial peptide originally isolated from the European sap-sucking insect, Pyrrhocoris apterus, entered the cells without damaging them.An arti
Interdisciplinary Research from F1000
Interdisciplinary Research from F1000
These papers were selected from multiple disciplines from the Faculty of 1000, a Web-based literature awareness tool http://www.facultyof1000.com.L.T. Vassilev et al., "In vivo activation of the p53 pathway by small-molecule antagonists of MDM2," Science, 303:844–8, Feb. 6, 2004.This paper is important because it challenges the conventional wisdom that protein-protein interactions are poor drug targets. p53 ... is inhibited when bound by MDM2. ... It is possible to disrupt the p53-MDM2 int

Software Watch

Taking Control of the Cluster
Taking Control of the Cluster
When Gernot Stocker noticed that the biologists in his lab were not using the department's brand-new, 24-node computer cluster, he started taking notes. Running sequences on a desktop computer could take days, yet these scientists preferred that to the cluster for a simple reason. "Biologists don't like command-line software," says Stocker, a graduate student at the Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics at Graz University of Technology in Austria. "They're used to using Web browsers."So Stoc

Tech Watch

RNAi Makes Strides in Mammalian Functional Genomics
RNAi Makes Strides in Mammalian Functional Genomics
©2004 Nature Publishing GroupGenomic RNA interference (RNAi) libraries have proven valuable resources for scientists who study Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans. Mammalian libraries, though, have lagged behind. No longer: Teams at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories (CSHL)1 in New York and the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NCI)2 in Amsterdam have separately created human libraries that target between 8,000 and 9,000 genes.While both sites used state-of-the-art technology, knowledge about RN

Patent Watch

Making a Better Protein
Making a Better Protein
Courtesy of XencorIf you're trying to optimize a protein's biological activity, to make it a more potent therapeutic agent, for instance, the selection process can be painstaking. Say you wanted to make one change at a time in a 200-amino acid protein. That's 200 multiplied by 19 (for the other naturally occurring amino acids that your original protein could place at that site), or 3,800 possibilities. Make two changes at a time, and you're in the millions. Make three, and you get the picture. S

Technology

Vision Quest
Vision Quest
Alfred Pasieka/Photo Researchers, IncAblend of medical, electronic, and engineering break-throughs has improved the quality of life for many people faced with physical handicaps. New prosthetic limbs can move and flex like the original equipment and even respond to the wearer's own mental commands and cochlear implants let the deaf hear. Blindness, however, has proven less amenable to technological solutions. Yet that, too, may soon change. An assortment of engineers confronting that challenge n
Measuring Cytokine Levels
Measuring Cytokine Levels
Courtesy of of Pierce BiotechnologyCytokines and their kin, alternatively called interleukins, growth factors, interferons, necrosis factors, and others, are soluble messengers responsible for communication between nearby cells, especially those of hematopoietic origin. They serve multiple, often overlapping functions, from prompting the maturation of antibody-producing B cells to instigating blood vessel growth.Not surprisingly then, cytokines function both as indicators of inflammation or dise

Tools and Technology

Fluidigm Completes Protein Crystallization Platform
Fluidigm Completes Protein Crystallization Platform
CRYSTAL CITY:Courtesy of FluidigmFluidigm's TOPAZ 1.96 screening chips employ microscale channels and valves for diffusive mixing of protein and crystallization reagents. Future chip designs will steadily increase parallel throughput.Protein structure determination using X-ray crystallography typically suffers from two major bottlenecks: producing sufficient quantities of material, and finding appropriate crystallization conditions. The TOPAZ™ Crystallizer, released last year by microfluid
Protein Purification Gets Easier
Protein Purification Gets Easier
Courtesy of Amersham BiosciencesResearchers who need to purify large numbers of His- or GST-tagged proteins take note: A new robotic system can speed up the process. Piscataway, NJ-based Amersham Biosciences' http://www.amershambiosciences.com ÄKTAxpress is a fully automated, robotic chromatography system that can simultaneously purify up to 16 different proteins to greater than 95% purity, according to Karsten Fjarstedt, ÄKTA product manager.The standard ÄKTAxpress system, which
Improved Imaging, Proteomics-Style
Improved Imaging, Proteomics-Style
Courtesy of PerkinElmer Life and Analytical SciencesBoston-based PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences http://las.perkinelmer.com has introduced the ProXPRESS™ 2D Proteomic Imaging System. A second-generation instrument, the ProXPRESS 2D is "improved with regard to speed, sensitivity, and flexibility," says Alessandra Rasmussen, business unit leader for proteomics and array systems.At the heart of the new imaging system is a CCD camera that offers higher throughput with significantly i

Data Points

Anchor or Engine in Eastern Europe?
Anchor or Engine in Eastern Europe?
As the European Union inches towards its goal of spending 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development, 10 new member states are set to join the EU in May that lag behind the rest of Europe in spending by a wide margin. Where some see an impediment to growth, others believe the untapped potential of Eastern Europe may be crucial to the EU's ability to compete globally in knowledge-based industries.- Ken Kostel

Moonlighting

Racing Ecology
Racing Ecology
Lee Talbot, an environmental science professor at Virginia's George Mason University, has been racing – in a formula car, oval-track sports racer, or vintage roadster – since 1948. At age 73, he shows no signs of slowing down. "I've been winning well over half the events I've entered, and this is against people who are on average 50 years younger than I am!"His wife and two sons travel to North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia to watch him compete in what he describes as an enforced

Tip Trove

Maintaining Social Equity at Work
Maintaining Social Equity at Work
It's important to ask for what you want and be clear and concise about it; give the person you're asking some alternatives from which to choose. Employees dissatisfied with their pay should consider how their salaries compare to others, and what parts of their benefits package they wouldn't get elsewhere. If nothing can be done about pay, what other currencies can your organization offer in terms of other things it can do for you? For a scientist, it might be attendance at a particular conferenc

Profession

Pockets of Excellence in Eastern Europe
Pockets of Excellence in Eastern Europe
Courtesy of Imperial College UnionAndras Dinnyes runs the first nuclear-cell-transfer technology lab in Eastern Europe, at the Agricultural Biotechnology Center near Budapest. Amply accoutered with high-tech equipment, the lab is designed to eventually provide knockout mice for scientists across the continent. It has also attracted funding from outside sources, including the Wellcome Trust and the European Union's Sixth Framework Programme.Like a smattering of research labs with connections to W
Assessing the Agroterror Threat
Assessing the Agroterror Threat
Terrorism seems a remote threat at the 1,200-acre Arrowhead Ranch, where Clay Boscamp has run cattle for the past 40 years. The nearest urban area is Waelder, Texas, population 947, and the closest thing to a security operation is the local Neighborhood Watch. "I sure don't worry about it much," Boscamp says. "I feel pretty confident the government has made plans."The government is scrambling to make plans, and operations such as Boscamp's have not been forgotten. The Department of Homeland Secu
New Names Illumine Avian Brains
New Names Illumine Avian Brains
NOMENCLATURE NEWS:Courtesy of Anton ReinerSchematic line drawings of transverse sections of the cerebrum in pigeon (first and last) and rat (middle), showing the outdated interpretation of cerebral organization and the outdated nomenclature for birds, the established interpretation of mammalian cerebral organization and nomenclature, and the current interpretation of the organization of avian cerebrum and new nomenclature. In each schematic, the yellow region represents pallium, the turquoise re
How to Navigate Scientific Language
How to Navigate Scientific Language
If writing a personal essay is a drive on Germany's Autobahn, then writing a research article is Friday evening gridlock in Manhattan. One is free-flowing and colorful with a rhythm that stirs the senses. The other is formulaic, dense, slow-moving, and grating on the nerves.Both types of writing fall under the category of nonfiction and are governed by certain rules of the road, such as grammar and truthfulness. Both can benefit from the use of a guide to style and usage; Strunk and White's The

Postdoc Talk

At a Crossroads
At a Crossroads
Life after graduate school is like being at a crossroads. You are happy that you got that coveted title, "Dr.", in front of your name. Now you have the license to demonstrate your independent thinking without having your supervisor breathing down your neck.Or so I thought!Nowadays, I realize that a postdoc is at the lowest position in the pecking order of people with "Dr." in front of their names. You are treated like an incompetent laboratory rat, rushing around in order to obtain desirable dat

Science Rules

EU Exacts Toll from Underfunded Countries
EU Exacts Toll from Underfunded Countries
With the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), the European Community has focused funding on projects designed to forge lasting research partnerships across Europe and to achieve highly ambitious goals, such as developing novel technologies for proteomics research, and decreasing the Europe-wide burden of allergy and asthma.The European Life Scientist Organization (ELSO) recently launched a petition to lobby for changes, but it's the scientists from the 10 countries that joined the European Union in

Closing Bell

A Way of Life (Almost) Going Up in Smoke
A Way of Life (Almost) Going Up in Smoke
When James Joyce, the great Irish novelist and self-proclaimed artist of life, settled in Zurich in 1915 to escape the War, he little imagined that almost 90 years later people would flock to a pub there bearing his name, to smoke. Joyce wrote most of Ulysses in Zurich and became quite fond of the city, precisely because it seemed the polar opposite, in attitude, of his native Dublin. It was spotlessly clean and homogeneously handsome without any notable landmark or character. Joyce described th