Editorial

Spraffing About Science
Spraffing About Science
Three recent conversations: 1. While in a bookstore perusing the bicycling magazines at length (with only the vaguest intention to buy), a disheveled man beside me starts making loud pronouncements on the nature of time, triggered by the cover art on a popular science magazine. He catches my eye, and partly out of my British obligation to "good manners" and partly because I'll talk with anyone who has an opinion about science, we engage in a shouted exchange about how time is measured, and j

Opinion

The Art of the Scientific Metaphor
The Art of the Scientific Metaphor
Ned Shaw It is not too much to say that science and the technologies that derive from it have altered the very nature of human society. It is surprising, then, if science is all that important in human culture, that people would seem indifferent about its nature. Considerably more attention is paid to how movies are made, novels are written, or great paintings are born than to how scientists make new knowledge. Given its centrality in modern life, shouldn't people be more interested in how sci

Letter

Evolutionary Role of Left-handed Proteins
Evolutionary Role of Left-handed Proteins
Evolutionary Role of Left-handed Proteins Professor Graham Cook's suggestion1 that serine in the primordial soup played a role in determining the left-handedness of amino acids in organisms is complemented by the possibility that this amino acid played a critical role in initiating evolution of the genetic code.2 Serine-containing peptides form hydrogen bonds to the nucleotide base cytosine, as shown in the accompanying formulation. The presence of serine codons largely in the cytosine col
Faster, Stronger, Better
Faster, Stronger, Better
Faster, Stronger, Better In regard to your article on scientists living longer,1 could it be that scientists are just tougher all round? A similar argument (with apologies to those who are married) might explain why married people live longer than singles: They are just tougher; the less tough can't stand marriage and become (or stay) single. Leonard X. Finegold Physics Department Drexel University Philadelphia, Pa. L@drexel.edu 1. S. Sanides, "Researchers find key to long life: Doing
Insecurity Laws
Insecurity Laws
Insecurity Laws I appreciate the effort you put into the excellent article on Dr. Butler and others under attack for their efforts1 to protect us all. I am sure in the long run your article will be helpful not only to those about whom you have written, but others who will be vulnerable to attacks under the new security legislation. William B. Greenough, III, MD Professor of Medicine Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Baltimore, Md. 1. J. Miller, "Caught in the political crosshairs,"
On Protein Folding
On Protein Folding
On Protein Folding One paragraph in this story1 contains confusing terminology. The use of the term nitrogen-hydrogen bond for amide-hydrogen is a simplification too far. "Hydrogen bonds" in proteins exist between the backbone amide nitrogen and carbonyl groups. Carbon monoxide groups are not present in proteins; I suspect the author meant carbonyl. N. Said Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy Medical College of Georgia, Augusta nsaid@mail.mcg.edu 1. P. Hunter, "Protein folding,"
Conscience Pause
Conscience Pause
Conscience Pause More hot air from scientists who persist in believing that they are "special" and deserve special rights.1 Sigh ... This has nothing to do with the public interest or the "sophistication of the scientific method;" rather, it is an expression of status anxiety in a group of people who, not so long ago (say, in the 1950s) were still notables but of late have become proletarianized. Specifically, if egregious violations of public health and safety rules are noticed by an emplo

Frontlines

Lying About Your Age is Getting Tougher
Lying About Your Age is Getting Tougher
Frontlines | Lying About Your Age is Getting Tougher A person's voice is an age indicator, say researchers at the University of Florida, Gainesville. The team, led by Rahul Shrivastav, assistant professor of communication processes and disorders, determined that two key elements, pitch and rate of speed, can reveal age. Shrivastav analyzed 30 voices, which listeners frequently had identified as being old or young, to determine common characteristics. Using computer software to manipulate
Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon: Equals in the Hunt
Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon: Equals in the Hunt
Frontlines | Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon: Equals in the Hunt The hunting prowess of the Neanderthal matched those who supplanted them, the Cro-Magnon, say researchers who have examined ungulate teeth and bones found in a cave in which both types of hominids lived.1 The Grotte XVI in southwestern France contains remains dated from about 65,000 to 12,000 years ago. The study adds to a growing body of evidence that questions the idea that Cro-Magnon displaced Neanderthal because of their super

Snapshot

Scientist by Nature ... and Nurture
Scientist by Nature ... and Nurture
Click for larger version of survey graph (22K) Some 425 readers told us about the influences that guided them to become scientists; they cited an average of three influential factors. By far the most important, according to 70% of our respondents, was innate curiosity. "I cannot help but poke things until I find out how they work," says one. Another notes, "I have known since I was a toddler that I would become a biologist." Secondary school teachers (46%), parents (46%), and college teacher

Foundations

The Birth of the Southern Blot, 1975
The Birth of the Southern Blot, 1975
Foundations | The Birth of the Southern Blot, 1975 Courtesy of Ed Southern Gels used for electrophoresis of nucleic acids and proteins are permeable. This obvious fact didn't dawn on me until I tried to dissolve some agarose by floating it on a solution of sodium perchlorate and noticed a bead of liquid form on the top. I reasoned that if DNA molecules were carried through with the flow it would be possible to capture them on a nitrocellulose membrane, using the setup shown in the sketch.

First Person

Ann Graybiel
Ann Graybiel
First Person | Ann Graybiel Courtesy of MIT Talk to neuroscientist Ann Graybiel for a short period of time and she immediately generates certain impressions: The words tenacious, steadfast, and curious come to mind. Since 1971, Graybiel has stayed the course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying basal ganglia, discerning their architecture and describing their neurochemical organization. Known to the press as the woman who studies how behavior becomes habit, Graybiel is co

5-Prime

The Myriad Definitions of Self
The Myriad Definitions of Self
5-Prime | The Myriad Definitions of Self Courtesy of Larry H. Anderson The Biological Basis For each of the genome's thousands of genes, multiple alleles exist. No two people have the same combination of alleles, so each individual's genotype is unique. DNA, found in each cell, is both a genetic fingerprint and a genealogical record. It determines the phenotype--sex, blood type, hair and eye color, susceptibility to disease, and other features--that contributes to an individual's sense of

Off The Cuff

Your Life- or Lab-Partner in Scientific Terms
Your Life- or Lab-Partner in Scientific Terms
Off The Cuff | Your Life- or Lab-Partner in Scientific Terms With my life partner there can be some friction, but it's that gravity that keeps us together. --Leslie Hoyt (mlkh1@aol.com) Approximately 100-kg bilaterally asymmetrical male hominid currently imbibing 100-200 ml of aqueous 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine solution. (Lab partner drinking coffee) --Kevin J. Hricko Sr., Pfizer (kevin.hricko@pfizer.com) Qualitative analysis of external features reveal that the male specimen, Homo sapie

Science Seen

How the Visionless Dream
How the Visionless Dream
Science Seen | How the Visionless Dream Courtesy of Helder Bertolo  A congenitally blind person drew this scene, which was taken from a paper about visual dreaming.1 Up until now, such images were considered the sole domain of the sighted. 1. H. Bertolo et al., "Visual dream content, graphical representation and EEG a activity in congenitally blind subjects," Brain Res Cogn Brain Res, 15:277-84, 2003. function sendData() { document.frm.pathName.value = location.pathname; result

Feature

Cutting Neurons Down To Size
Cutting Neurons Down To Size
© Mehau Kulyk/Photo Researchers, Inc. A typical neuron's axons and dendrites, when loaded with dye and magnified, resemble long, untended tresses on an extremely bad hair day. They extend wildly, usually to one side, and then bend at weird angles as their ends split into branches and sub-branches. This neuronal coiffure must appear even more chaotic before the nervous system has undergone the developmental equivalent of a crew cut crossed with a topiary trimming. From the late embryonic

Research

The Infection Connection in Schizophrenia
The Infection Connection in Schizophrenia
Adapted from image by I.I. Gottesman ©2001  GENES AND MORE: The risks of developing schizophrenia over a lifetime to the relatives of schizophrenia sufferers accord with a largely genetic explanation. Yet with 48% concordance for identical twins, environmental factors may play a role. It's a scary thought that one could develop a debilitating mental illness such as schizophrenia as easily as catching a cold. Well, it's more complicated than that, say advocates of the so-called infec
Schizophrenia's Complexity
Schizophrenia's Complexity
Click to view a PDF explaining the origins of schizophrenia (60K) function sendData() { document.frm.pathName.value = location.pathname; result = false if (document.frm.score[0].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[1].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[2].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[3].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[4].checked) result = true; if (!result) alert("Please select") return result; } .myradio{back
It's Neuron Time
It's Neuron Time
British novelist Aldous Huxley in a bid to study perception supposedly taped his conversations after swallowing the hallucinogenic drug mescaline. During one such chat, a researcher asked him to describe how time felt. "There seems to be plenty of it," was all Huxley could offer.1 Silly as that sounds, few have done much better in explaining time or its sensation. Yet scientists are taking the first stabs at answering at least one part of the question: how the brain perceives time. For exam
Young Minds Adulterated
Young Minds Adulterated
ImageSource Photography It seems that the adolescent brain may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and alcohol. At a recent conference where researchers discussed published and unpublished work, studies showed that alcohol's impact on a variety of brain activities appears more severe in adolescent rats. Similarly, though results don't always agree, the adolescent brain also appears to be extremely sensitive to the effects of nicotine. Adolescent drinking in the United States

Hot Paper

Caution: Brain Working
Caution: Brain Working
For centuries, philosophers and biologists alike dreamed of watching the brain operate to see its active response to sensations, actions, or even thoughts. In some ways, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) provides such a view. This technology essentially measures blood flow to areas of the brain, and presumably neural activity, in real time. The technique could help researchers specifically map the brain. The visual cortex, for example, appears to light up when a subject sees someth

Research Briefs

Research Briefs
Research Briefs
A Sperm Finds Its Egg Courtesy of Richard Mooi For sea urchins, sex is an out-of-body experience. And in external fertilization, species-specific gamete receptors serve as one way to prevent cross-fertilization. The discovery of an egg protein responsible for this specificity ended a 25-year quest for Charles Glabe, molecular biologist at University of California, Irvine. Glabe and postdoc Noriko Kamei identified the glycoprotein on sea urchin eggs, called egg bindin receptor 1 (EBR1), whic

Technology Front Page

Front Page
Front Page
GADGET WATCH | Object Inspector in Your Pocket Protector Courtesy of Chris Chou Chris Chou wants you to put your microscope where no microscope has gone before: in your pocket. Chou is the inventor of the microscope pen, a portable, lightweight, but durable microscope that fits easily into a shirt or pants pocket and comes with a convenient pen clip to keep it there. Measuring 0.75 x 5.5 inches and weighing in at a mere two ounces, the microscope pen provides all-glass optics, 100x magnifi

Technology Profile

fMRI: The Perfect Imperfect Instrument
fMRI: The Perfect Imperfect Instrument
Courtesy of Chloe Hutton, Functional Imaging Lab  THICK OR THIN? The cerebral cortex thickness metric can be used to study the progression of diseases such as Alzheimer disease, epilepsy, mental retardation, and schizophrenia, and to investigate how brain function is affected in the abnormal regions. According to legend, functional neuroimaging can trace its roots to the stroke of noon on a day in the late 19th century, when Italian physiologist Angelo Mosso observed a sudden increase in
Hot Stuff: Annual Thermocycler Roundup
Hot Stuff: Annual Thermocycler Roundup
Courtesy of Biometra Biometra's TGradient Things are getting hot in the thermal cycler world. Since The Scientist's last annual review of thermal cyclers,1 a number of vendors have updated their product lines, and several plan to release new products within the next year. With improved user-friendliness and visual appeal, the thermocycler class of 2003 features something for every user. Most thermal cyclers use thermal engines based on the Peltier effect, in which heat is transferred fro

Technology

Slice of Life
Slice of Life
Courtesy of David Kleinfeld Many techniques for creating three-dimensional images of tissues have accompanying problems. Image reconstruction from serial tissue sections suffers because sections can warp as they dry, distorting the composite picture. Prolonged photoexcitation can bleach fluorescent dyes used to provide subcellular detail, eventually rendering the sections useless. And, even two-photon microscopy can reach only 100-600 microns deep into a sample. But a new crop of imaging tech
CompuCyte Unveils Three-Step Cytometers
CompuCyte Unveils Three-Step Cytometers
Courtesy of CompuCyte The high-content cell-imaging market is heating up thanks to two new product releases from Cambridge, Mass.-based CompuCyte. The new iCys™ Research Imaging Cytometer and iCyte™ Automated Imaging Cytometer both feature CompuCyte's patented laser scanning cytometry (LSC) technology in an inverted format (i.e., the sample is scanned from below, rather than above), enabling analysis of a wide variety of sample formats and facilitating high-throughput screening. T

Profession

Numbers on the Brain
Numbers on the Brain
Numbers on the Brain Click to view a PDF detailing figures in neuroscience (198K) function sendData() { document.frm.pathName.value = location.pathname; result = false if (document.frm.score[0].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[1].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[2].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[3].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[4].checked) result = true; if (!result) alert("Please select") return result; }
Scientists Brave New Bioterrorism World
Scientists Brave New Bioterrorism World
A proposal for a self-policing system to prevent terrorists from learning cutting-edge biotech information puts US life scientists face-to-face with the prospect that the broad freedoms they've traditionally enjoyed could be constricted. A National Research Council (NRC) committee formally suggested in October that scientists create a voluntary system to review all future American biotechnology experiments.1 Under the proposal, research judged too sensitive would be voluntarily moved into hig
Doggy Drug Targets Push Research Prospects
Doggy Drug Targets Push Research Prospects
Getty Images When it comes to medical treatments to deworm Rover or get pain relief for arthritic Whiskers, pet owners spend generously. On average, US pet owners pay as much as $500 annually for health care for their dogs and cats. People in the 45- to 54-year-old age bracket who earn upwards of $50,000 a year have been willing to spend $935 or more annually to care for Fido and Fluffy.1 "The role that pets play in the lives of people is becoming increasingly important, as is the additional
Uniformed Scientists Do Unique Work
Uniformed Scientists Do Unique Work
Taxi YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY: British military medical men of a foregone era hunker down for a good peer through their microscopes. Today, military scientists are allowed to conduct independent research; in the US Navy, a junior scientist often gets his or her own lab. Most people joining the armed forces usually want to serve in a certain branch. Not Stan Cope. When he finished his doctorate in tropical medicine and infectious disease 15 years ago at the University of California, Los Ang
Getting Prevention in Government Hands
Getting Prevention in Government Hands
Getty Images The UK government is studying a proposal from its own Health Protection Agency, supported by prominent members of Parliament, to invest at least $50 million (US) in a national vaccine center capable of rapid response to large-scale bioterrorism attacks and unexpected epidemics of viral or bacterial diseases. According to Ian Gibson, head of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, it is now nearly certain that the government will fund a massive expansion o
Career Corner: Jobs for Techies to Try
Career Corner: Jobs for Techies to Try
A.P. Gill, an IT professional working on clinical research-database analysis, wants to know about hot areas in scientific information consulting. Frank Mara, vice president of marketing for Ingenuity Systems, Mountain View, Calif., says companies are looking for consultation on experimental platforms, such as mass spectrometry and microarrays. People with knowledge about proteomics and high-throughput siRNA screening are in demand as well, says Mara, whose company provides databases and analy

Science Rules

Nordic Countries Find Funding for All
Nordic Countries Find Funding for All
File Photo To make it easier for scientists from Nordic countries to apply for multinational European Union grants, the Nordic Medical Research Councils and the Nordic Councils of Ministers launched a program in October that aims to encourage more collaboration across Scandinavia. The initiative has a budget of about $1.25 million (US), which will be divided among two to three research networks--the virtual Nordic Centres of Excellence in Molecular Medicine. The money will be given to researc

Postdoc Talk

Mommy Postdoc, PhD
Mommy Postdoc, PhD
Courtesy of Heather Patisaul Only two months into my first postdoctoral position, I did something a good postdoc is not supposed to do: I got pregnant. I was thrilled to be expanding my young family, but I couldn't help but be apprehensive about how the news would go over among my science colleagues. As many of us already know, it is generally believed that science and family are not easily mixed; one usually suffers for the sake of the other. This wasn't my first foray into the forbidden. I

Closing Bell

The Hirsute, the Hairless, and the Human
The Hirsute, the Hairless, and the Human
Homo sapiens has no shortage of distinguishing features: We alone among primates are furless (that most mammalian of characteristics); we are the only species clever enough to ponder why that might be; and we can ponder such matters while pacing back and forth on two legs. Our cleverness, however, hasn't helped us determine why we have these qualities, but as recent developments in the hirsute-less debate reveal, they make for interesting pondering. A mammal needs a good reason to discard it