News

Neural Nets Are Sparking Heated Debates Among Their Enthusiasts
Neural Nets Are Sparking Heated Debates Among Their Enthusiasts
A scientist’s dream: a “thinking” computer smart enough to recognize objects by sight, understand human speech and respond in kind, even learn by example. And if that’s not enough, the computer’s pattern of thought would help unlock the mysteries of how the human brain works. That’s the promise of the hot new approach to computing that’s been dubbed neural networking— and scientists are paying attention. Neural network courses and doctoral progr
Superconductivity Formula Gets Frigid Reception In The Field
Superconductivity Formula Gets Frigid Reception In The Field
Nobel laureate Philip Anderson was shocked when he picked up the New York Times last month. There on the front page was an article announcing a bold new theory in his field. The story said that Caltech chemist William Goddard had come up with a simple explanation for high- temperature superconductivity—probably the hottest mystery in materials science today. Not only that, the article reported, but calculations based on Goddard’s theory showed that the idea of room-temperature su
Alaska Pumps $100 Million Into Science
Alaska Pumps $100 Million Into Science
ANCHORAGE ALASKA—Fishermen off the coast of Alaska’s Bering Sea last year caught a record two million metric tons of cod, flounder, and other bottomfish, nearly 50% more than the harvest of a decade ago. During the same period, the yield of Alaska king crab plunged by 90%, to a scant 42 million pounds. Marine scientists think there might be a causal connection between the two trends, but they have no data to back up their hunch. Hundreds of miles to the east, in the state’s
Of Great God Cybernetics And His Fair-Haired Child
Of Great God Cybernetics And His Fair-Haired Child
The advantage of neural networks over Al is that they “think” like a real brain, instead of performing computations in a linear sequence.
Cell Biologist Ruoslahti Nurtures While He Works
Cell Biologist Ruoslahti Nurtures While He Works
The name Erkki Ruoslahti appears so frequently below the titles of groundbreaking cell biology papers in top-quality journals, it should be a household word in cell laboratories by now. Three of his team’s papers have been listed among The Scientist’s ‘Hot Papers’ during the past three months; two other papers have made it into the Institute for Scientific Information’s Current Contents listing of the 100 most-cited life-sciences articles for 1986. Many Stars Wh

Briefs

National Lab Briefs
National Lab Briefs
The Department of Energy-funded Solar Energy Research Institute is looking for new partners to stay alive. After eight years of diminishing DOE money—partially attributable to the Reagan administration’s lack of support for solar energy—the 11-year-old Golden, Cob., lab has enlisted NASA to underwrite part of its alternative energy research. It is also completing deals with EPA and the Department of Defense that could add 10% to SERI’s $58 million budget next year, accor
Government Briefs
Government Briefs
At Last, A Science Policy From Bush At the very end of his campaign for president, George Bush finally offered scientists a glimpse of how they would fare under his administration. And, in what came as a surprise to many scientists, it was a view that embraced many of the positions urged upon both candidates by the major scientific organizations. Speaking three weeks ago to a Columbus, Ohio, audience of broadcasters, Bush pledged to promote his science adviser to a Cabinet-level position (with
University Briefs
University Briefs
The Latest Word On Communication The U.K’s Economic and Social Research Council announced last month the creation of the Human Communication Research Centre at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. It will be the first Interdisciplinary Research Centre that the council has located in Scotland, and will unite studies in psychology, linguistics, computer science, and artificial intelligence, says University of Edinburgh psychologist Keith Stenning. The goal will be to understand how p
Private Institute Briefs
Private Institute Briefs
The American Museum of Natural’ History's summer expedition to Madagascar yielded some "devastating" news about the health--that is, the lack of it—of the country’s unique flora and fauna, says museum biologist Melanie Stiassny. During the first comprehensive survey of ichthyofauna in the country, Stiassny and biologist Peter Reinthal discovered a new species of silverside fish and several primitive species of cichlid fish. But they also found that rain forest destruction is e
Entrepreneur Briefs
Entrepreneur Briefs
The Formula For Success Although 34% of their investments are total or partial losses (see chart), venture capitalists still make money. How? By backing companies with the right ingredients for success, says Don Gooding, director of research at venture capital firm Accel Partners—and he’s talking about more than savvy science among the key ingredients. Last month, Gooding spoke to small business owners in a seminar on how to find venture capital at Federal High Tech ‘89, a go
Industry Briefs
Industry Briefs
Opportunity In The Land Of The Rising Sun How can a small biotech firm penetrate the Japanese market? What kinds of technology are Japanese corporations looking for? How can a partnering agreement protect the commercial interests of the companies inyolved? Across the broad expanse of the Pacific, U.S. and Japanese firms are eying each other with mutual interest—and some trepidation. Enter consulting firm Venture Economics. Together with Arthur Young and Japan Associated Finance Co., Ven
Association Briefs
Association Briefs
Sharing Soviet Science Glasnost may be opening up Soviet society, but it’s not happening fast enough for Soviet ref useniks. So from December 8 to 10, the Committee of Concerned Scientists is taking advantage of the gains of glasnost by sponsoring an unusual international scientific conference in Moscow—one organized by Soviet ] and held in private apartments without the sanction of the Soviet government. Although, like any scientific meeting, it is meant to promote the sharing of
Funding Briefs
Funding Briefs
Advance Notice On Neural Networks This month, the DOD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is elected to announce a two-year “seed grant” program in neural network research. The program grows out of a report from MIT’s Lincoln Labs that DARPA commissioned a year ago, which suggests increased funding for neural network research over the next eight years. The long-term goals of this project will be to explore the advantages of neural nets over conventional computer
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. BIOMEDICINE Research. $75,000 from Dow Corning Corp. to Clemson University for biomedical and bioengineering research and development Cell growth and protein synthesis in vascular cells. $243,543 from W.W. Smith Charitable Trust,’ Rosemont, Pa., to Connect

Opinion

Corporate Science's Wish List For The Next President
Corporate Science's Wish List For The Next President
The votes have all been counted, and a president-elect of the United States is now celebrating his victory. However, the future president’s well-grounded enthusiasm over his victory will necessarily be tempered by his realization that his administration has a tough road ahead in tackling the difficult issues facing the country. And some of the key issues concern science and technology policy. What should the new president do? Some quarters of the research community despair that there is
If The Data's Good, Use It--Regardless Of The Source
If The Data's Good, Use It--Regardless Of The Source
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency became embroiled in controversy over the question of using results from Nazi scientists. An agency report had included data from experiments conducted on French prisoners investigating the toxicity of phosgene. Once the fact became known, the response was swift; 22 EPA scientists petitioned the agency administrator, Lee Thomas, to expunge the offending data from the report, and Thomas obligingly complied. When I read about the ruckus in t
This Is Just Another ""Typical"" Essay
This Is Just Another ""Typical"" Essay
We’ve all seen it a thousand times in the literature: “Figure 2 shows the results of a ‘typical’ experiment ...“ Now, Webster defines typical as “pertaining to a type; being a representative specimen.” And an informal survey of my nonscientific friends and relatives resulted in the following list of synonyms for typical: something that usually happens, average, normal, ordinary, and ho-hum. But to scientists publishing research papers, “typica
Two Societies Wage War Over Fertile Turf Of Hot, Young Field
Two Societies Wage War Over Fertile Turf Of Hot, Young Field
At first it looked as if the suddenly hot field of neural networks would stand as testimony to the benefits of cooperation and teamwork. Interdisciplinary research—still an avant-garde concept in many disciplines—was the norm, with neurobiologists, chemists, physicists, computer scientists, and psychologists working together to advance the field. Experimental insights into the behavior of nerve cells were inspiring improved computer control of robot arms, while differential equation

Letter

Religion
Religion
The Opinion article by William Provine is self-contradictory and in error based on history and philosophy. As a historian of science, Mr. Provine might well review the lives of such fathers of modem science as Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, Lord Kelvin, and James Clark Maxwell. Their motivation for pursuing their studies of the natural world came from a view of God as the creator whose essential attribute is goodness.
Too Much Impact
Too Much Impact
I must protest the practice by authors of using the word impact to mean influence or effect. Impact should describe a collision, and impacted should describe teeth. This trend may have started in advertising, perhaps by a writer .who wanted to add forcefulness to his writing. The influence of this trend can now be felt in scientific writing, and has had an adverse effect on communication. If things get worse, scientific articles may become like certain newspaper ads. That contain incomplete
Religion
Religion
The article by Professor Provine dealing with science and religion is perhaps the saddest communication I have ever read in a publication directed at scientists. It is filled with dogmatic statements that in another sense would make a religious fundamentalist blush. The impugning of the faith of millions requires enormous self-confidence and self-righteousness. Of course, in those many millions of the faithful are the overwhelming majority of our greatest scientists. I have no idea what prompted
Religion
Religion
The article by William Provine championing the superiority of science over religion was disturbing to me. My concern is not at all due to my religious sensibilities being shocked, but rather the shock is to my scientific sensibilities. Historically, the revolution brought by scientific knowledge was in kind and not in content. It was the nature of scientific knowledge—not its content—that contrasted so violently with the absolute authority of the medieval church. This is the real co
Religion
Religion
Although I agree with much of William Provine’s editorial on the incompatibility of science and religion, I believe it goes too far. He equates incompatibility with the religions with which he is familiar with incompatibility with religion itself. He seems at one point to equate religion with theism. These are not the same thing. Buddhism (in its original form, and still today in Zen) can be characterized as an atheistic or agnostic religion. He denies free will (because choices are &#
Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures I wish to congratulate you on the new format of The Scientist. I find it now much more interesting and exciting than the former editions. Over the last few years I have been collecting same figures and drawings from the scientific literature, which looked to my perverse satirical eye to represent something than they were intended to. Here is one example borrowed from the proceedings of the Oholo Biological Conference (held in Israel in 1981) and presented side by side with its sa
'Memory' Molecules
'Memory' Molecules
Bernard Dixon’s article, “A Brief History of Dubious Science (The Scientist, September 5,1988, page 5), makes an unjust reference to the research on an “alleged memory molecule” by Georges Ungar. The author indicates marked decrease in citations for Ungar’s paper published in the July 1972 edition of Nature without trying to pinpoint the main contributing factors. After initial interest and enthusiasm, which is indicated by increased citations in 1974, Georges U
Science And Religion
Science And Religion
I found the discussion in the September 5, 1988, issue of The Scientist about religion and science (pages 10-11) to be counterproductive, at least the articles by Provine and Saffran. I believe that Lady Warnock is right in saying that science is threatened by religious fundamentalism, and the corrective in my view is to clarify the relationship between science and religion. I believe that a case can be made that science and religion are complementary. FRED GRINNELL Department of Cell Biology
Benveniste Replies
Benveniste Replies
Benveniste Replies It was rather surprising that such large space has been devoted by The Scientist to the “affaire Benveniste.” Yet one cannot find the point of view of the major actor of this comedy, except by indirect quotation. I do not wish to prolong the controversy much more, since these data are either true or not true. To clearly see the data, a scientist need only calmly read our paper in Nature and the subsequent Nature report. The controversy exists only because the data

Commentary

An Open Letter To The President-Elect
An Open Letter To The President-Elect
Dear Mr. President-Elect: In January, when you take the Oath of Office, you will face difficult choices. As you well know, your decisions will have a profound impact on domestic and international affairs for years to come. You’ll be hearing many and often contradictory opinions on issues of science and technology. I urge you to listen carefully to advice from all quarters. The science agenda of the nation is too important to be neglected. Special attention to science and technology is

Research

Medicine Nobelists Tower In Citation Standings
Medicine Nobelists Tower In Citation Standings
The names James Black, Gertrude Elion, and George Hitchings probably didn’t ring any bells for the general public when this year’s Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was announced. But among the scientific community this trio of pioneering pharmacologists is widely recognized. In fact, for decades now scientists have been paying their own kind of tribute to Black, Elion, and Hitchings by consistently citing their papers—and at levels far above average. Sir James W Black,
A Pioneer Presses Search For 'Other Side of Biology'
A Pioneer Presses Search For 'Other Side of Biology'
When I was a high school student, I came across Erwin Schrödingers What Is Life?. I still remember my exultant reaction—a combination of adolescent pride in feeling able to understand ideas considered beyond a young person’s means, and a genuine intellectual thrill engendered by the problems that Schrödinger addressed. Upon rereading the book, it appears to me that its major value was to provoke interest in a central problem of biology. Schrödinger’s question
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
GEOSCIENCES BY PETER J. SMITH Department of Earth Sciences Open University Milton Keynes, U.K. " The absence of Hadean sediments at the Earth’s surface need not mean that they were never produced. They could all have been subducted along with the igneous crust after being mixed with dense meteorite impact debris. A.F.K. van Groos, “Weathering, the carbon cycle, and the differentiation of the continental crust and mantle,” Journal of Geophysical Research, 93 (B8), 8952-8, 1
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
LIFE SCIENCES BY BERNARD DIXON European Editorial Offices The Scientist Uxbridge, U.K. "Are the malignancies in AIDS patients secondary consequences of their immunodeficient state? Or are they caused by the virus itself? New evidence suggests that the principal type of tumor is induced by a single viral gene. But why, then, is that tumor almost unknown in hemophiliacs with AIDS? J. Vogel, S.H. Hinricha, R.K. Reynolds, P.A. Luciw, G. Jay, “The HIV tat gene induces dermal lesions resemb
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
The Scientist has asked a group of experts 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 Interesting. Reprints of any articles cited here may be ordered through The Genuine Article, 3501 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19104, or by t
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
CHEMISTRY BY MARYE ANNE FOX Department of Chemistry University of Texas, Austin Austin, Tex. " Organoboranes can be readily converted to other functional groups under mild conditions, making them versatile intermediates of organic synthesis. Their use in optically active compounds has been reviewed recently. H.C. Brown, B. Singaram, “Development of a simple general procedure for synthesis of the pure enantiomers via chiral organoboranes,” Accounts of Chemical Research, 21 (8), 2
London Dominates List Of Top U.K. Science Cities
London Dominates List Of Top U.K. Science Cities
Ask anyone in the United Kingdom which city in their country contains the greatest number of working scientists and you’re al most sure to hear it’s London. But if you ask which cities grew the fastest in number of publishing scientists during the last decade, probably few would guess Nottingham and Leicester. Yet, these two Midlands cities outpaced all others in a list of the top 20 science-active cities in the United Kingdom, according to a recent analysis by The Scientist. Th

Hot Paper

Hot Papers
Hot Papers
P.W Anderson, Z. Zon, “Normal’ tunneling and ‘normal’ transport: Diagnostics for the resonating-valence-bond state,” Physical Review Letters, 60 (2), 132-5, 11 January 1988. J.R. Cooper, C.T. Chu, L.W Thou, B. Dunn, G. Gruner, “Determination of the magnetic field penetration depth in superconducting yttrium barium copper oxide: Deviations from the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer laws,” Physical Review B - Condensed Matter, 37 (1), 638-41, 1 January 1988. J.

Profession

Help Wanted: Publisher Seeks Scientist To Pen Best-Seller
Help Wanted: Publisher Seeks Scientist To Pen Best-Seller
In the early 1960s, Robert Jastrow, then a young, adjunct professor of astronomy at Columbia University set out to write his first book—an examination of space science that, as he foresaw it, would stimulate the minds of his academic colleagues but, at the same time, be comprehensible to the general public. His motives were altruistic, he says now. His natural passion for teaching and writing was fired by the strong conviction that even the most esoteric scientific concepts can beR
Funding Shortfall Cripples Lab Renovation
Funding Shortfall Cripples Lab Renovation
A poll of 244 U.S. colleges and universities revealed that the schools are planning to spend what might appear to be a huge amount of money—$777 million—this year on the repair and renovation of scientific and engineering research space. But, according to a recent NSF report, that whopping sum amounts to barely a third of what the schools say they need. About 39% of R&D space in the schools needs repair or renovation if it is to be used effectively, says the NSF report Those schoo
Three PC Programs Present Basics Of Neural Net Concepts
Three PC Programs Present Basics Of Neural Net Concepts
The past decade’s emerging neural network technology holds promise for a new breed of computers that may surpass conventional computers and even artificial intelligence (Al) technology in computing power and versatility. For solving many problems, scientists have dreamed of machines that work like human brains, and man-made neural networks come surprisingly close. Like the brain, neural networks are taught, not programmed, and, like humans, their responses are sometimes wrong. But in situ

Books etc.

A Sociologist Challenges The 'Validity Of Science'
A Sociologist Challenges The 'Validity Of Science'
There exists a common desire among some nonscientific academics—sociologists, historians, philosophers, literary theoreticians, for example—to discredit the validity of science as a means of obtaining reliable knowledge about our world.
Is It History? Philosophy? Or None Of The Above?
Is It History? Philosophy? Or None Of The Above?
THE PASTEURIZATION OF FRANCE Bruno Latour Translated by Alan Sheridan and John Law; Harvard University Press; Cambridge; 273 pages; $30.00 Sociologist Bruno Latour’s book, The Pasteurization of France, is really two books in one—the first more or less historical, the second purely philosophical. In the first section, called “War and Peace of Microbes,” Latour analyzes of a small part of 19th-century research on infectious disease, focusing on Louis Pasteur, his discove

New Products

Neuroscience Expo Unveils Innovative Tools
Neuroscience Expo Unveils Innovative Tools
Prominent among the array of new products being presented by almost 200 exhibitors at the Society for Neuroscience’s 18th annual meeting in Toronto this week are two categories of tools: those that enhance microscopy and those that aim to simplify laboratory tasks. A third category comprises computer-based tools that are designed to both improve microscopy and make lab tasks easier, a good example of which is the Argus 100 Digital Imaging Workstation. The Argus 100, a turnkey system speci