October 1989

News

U.S. Ice Core Scientists Decide To Go It Alone

U.S. Ice Core Scientists Decide To Go It Alone

WASHINGTON—Scientists from all over the world are traveling to the earth’s coldest places to do what might turn out to be the decade’s hottest research. Buried deep in Greenland’s ice sheet may be answers to a problem—global warming—that threatens the entire planet. This problem has sparked much talk of international alliances among investigators. But in Greenland, United States scientists have split off from their European colleagues so that now there are tw

A Prodigy's Metamorphosis: Now He Peddles Software

A Prodigy's Metamorphosis: Now He Peddles Software

It’s two o’clock on an ordinary Monday afternoon, and Stephen Wolfram is just showing up for work. He greets an assitant grabs a batch of charts, and heads for his first meeting, a conference with a team of graphic designers. Together they’ll tackle a tough question regarding a piece of Wolfram-designed software. The question: In what variety of colors should the software be displayed on a computer screen? Wait a minute. This is Stephen Wolfram, the boy genius and enfant ter

After Voyager 2, Jet Propulsion Lab Seeks Next Mission

After Voyager 2, Jet Propulsion Lab Seeks Next Mission

PASADENA, CALIF—Two months after its extraordinarily successful encounter with the planet Neptune, Voyager 2 is battling its failing senses and ebbing vitality in an attempt to wrestle yet more science from the cold and barren expanses of interstellar space. The spacecraft has been flung by Neptune’s gravity out of the plane containing the planets of our solar system and is moving ever farther away from planetary science. For scientists and engineers at the National Aeronautics and

NIH Ethics Guidelines Draw Hostile Response

NIH Ethics Guidelines Draw Hostile Response

WASHINGTON—In a document that is being roundly condemned by science administrators, lobbyists, and other observers, the National Institutes of Health has proposed vol- untary guidelines on financial conflicts of interest by university researchers. The criticism from experts in the field is expected to sharpen the explosive debate on how to preserve the integrity of federally funded research while at the same time translating that research into products that are designed to improve publi

Grass-Roots Approach To U.S.-Soviet Joint Science Will Sprout Slowly

Grass-Roots Approach To U.S.-Soviet Joint Science Will Sprout Slowly

WASHINGTON—Despite applause from both sides, Soviet and U.S. scientists may be slow to take advantage of two new agreements for joint research. The agreements call on scientists to set up their own collaborations and to find their own funding. Many Soviet scientists are not used to doing this, officials from the National Science Foundation learned during a recent tour of Soviet institutes. “They seem to have some reservations about how this kind of system would work and how it

Scientists Stand Up For UNESCO At Congressional Hearing

Scientists Stand Up For UNESCO At Congressional Hearing

WASHINGTON—Scientists are serving as the footsoldiers in the latest campaign to bring the United States back into UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. But theirs is an uphill battle, and their advocacy is forcing them into apparent alliances with some unfamiliar— and, to many people, unsavory—causes. Last month the scientific community argued its case before Congress, as the House foreign affairs subcommittee on international op

Panel To Decide Future Of DOE Records

Panel To Decide Future Of DOE Records

G. CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON WASHINGTON—The Department of Energy, reacting to congressional pressure and criticism of its epidemiology program, has asked a new advisory panel for help. The move is aimed at defusing an increasingly volatile dispute between environment and health activists and the energy department over the health records of 600,000 DOE nuclear weapons plant workers (The Scientist, Aug. 7, 1989, page 1). Meeting last month for the first time with his Secretarial Panel for t

The Plight Of Systematists: Are They An Endangered Species?

The Plight Of Systematists: Are They An Endangered Species?

Systematic biologists, a vital ingredient in the race to identify and protect rare species before they vanish, are themselves a declining academic breed in the United States. A recent survey conducted for the National Science Foundation found that systematics attracts less than half as many students as a decade ago. And an aging population of faculty, many nearing retirement, has left fewer and fewer systematics professors available to train these students. Systematics, the science of collect

National Labs Scramble To Absorb Cuts In DOE Physics Funding

National Labs Scramble To Absorb Cuts In DOE Physics Funding

WASHINGTON—Congress last month passed an $18.7 billion-dollar appropriations bill to fund all 1990 research programs sponsored by the Department of Energy. For officials at DOE’s research laboratories, the next move is to figure out how to cope with $31 million less than they had requested. The appropriations bill was intentionally vague, spelling out only $l0 million of the cut. Brookhaven’s Alternating Gradient Synchrotron will get $5 million less for operating costs than

Indictment Casts Doubt On Results In AID Malaria Project

Indictment Casts Doubt On Results In AID Malaria Project

WASHINGTON—The focus of the troubled 15-year U.S. Agency for International Development program to develop a malaria vaccine (The Scientist, July 10, 1989, page 1) has moved from the laboratory to the courtroom as government investigators charge that an attempt to halt a Third World plague may have been used by some scientists as a source of personal gain. One of the leading scientists in the research program has been indicted on felony charges, and at least two other technical invest

Wanted: More Scientists For Japan

Wanted: More Scientists For Japan

WASHINGTON—"There are resources that are going begging.” That’s how Charles Owens, section head in the National Science Foundation’s division of international programs, describes NSF’s efforts to send more United States scientists to Japan. For the past two years NSF, armed with $4.8 million and the moral support of the Japanese government, has offered language, fellowship, and research op- portunities in that country. The goal is to remove the barriers that make

Paleontologist Named Dean Of Science At Natural History Museum

Paleontologist Named Dean Of Science At Natural History Museum

In this post, Novacek will coordinate the research efforts of the scientific staff members, who are conducting investigations in more than 50 areas of biology, mineralogy, and anthropology. He will also advise the president on all matters dealing with the direction of research at the museum, and will act as the chief spokesman on the museum’s scientific programs, both internally and externally. Novacek, who joined the museum staff in 1982 as an assistant curator, will continue his rese

Briefs

Government Briefs

Government Briefs

The new NIH regulations that determine how universities should respond to allegations of scientific misconduct (The Scientist, Sept. 4, 1989, page 1) have derailed proposed legislation in Congress. For several months Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) who has explored the issue in numerous hearings involving MIT biologist David Baltimore, has been on the verge of introducing legislation that would force institutions and federal agencies to be more responsive to the issue. But an aide on the House Ener

National Lab Briefs

National Lab Briefs

There’s No Place Like Home When the Los Alamos National Lab started searching for an eminent scientist to lead its Human Genome Center last fall, biology group leader George Bell told The Scientist (Sept. 5, 1988, page 2): “We’re looking for someone of [Charles] Cantor’s stature.” It was a reference to the well-known Columbia University geneticist whom Lawrence Berkeley Lab had just hired to run its own program. Last month Los Alamos named Robert Moyzis, an in-hou

PRIVATE LAB BRIEFS

PRIVATE LAB BRIEFS

SCID Mice Go Commercial The Philadelphia-based Fox Chase Cancer Center has entered the mutant mouse business with a series of licensing agreements that will allow commercial distribution of a key strain used to study diseases of the immune system. The SCID (severe combined immune deficiency) strain, which arose naturally from a chance mating of two normal mice in the Fox Chase labs in 1981, was the first to accept human immune system cells, making national headlines for two California research

Industry Briefs

Industry Briefs

A report on genetically engineered plants predicts that they will begin reaching the marketplace within five years, but when they do, high research and testing costs will allow only the largest companies to compete in the field. Gerald Campbell, a St. Louis biochemist and one of the authors of the report, says the big companies likely to benefit from the technology are Calgene, Du Pont, and Monsanto. Under a contract with Campbell Soup, Calgene is now engaged in field trials of a genetically en

University Briefs

University Briefs

Back To El Salvador Archaeology during a civil war is dangerous, but as the bloody conflict in El Salvador drags on, a team has resumed work on a prehistonc site 20 miles north of the capital, San Salvador. The team led by Payson Sheets, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, spent the summer working on what he calls an “archaeological goldmine,” the best preserved domestic village in SQuth America. “I’ve never seen a site like that,” he says. &

Funding Briefs

Funding Briefs

NIOSH Narrows Focus, Increases Award The federal National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has sweetened the pot in its search for applied scientists interested in conducting research on job-related risk factors. The agency has increased the annual stipend for its Special Emphasis Research Career Awards to $50,000, up from $30,000, and has lowered its requirements for research experience. The nonrehewable awards, begun in 1984, must now support training in applied or clinical—

Opinion

Weapons Research Extracts A Toll On Academic Science

Weapons Research Extracts A Toll On Academic Science

Do you relish the idea of having an Army or Navy officer looking over your shoulder and deciding whether your research is worthwhile or not? This is not an idle imagining, given the already considerable and ever-expanding influence the military sector is exerting on university campuses. It is a fact that with dollars comes clout, and as the second largest source of federal research support, the military, whose top priority is the development of arms technologies, is increasingly defining the

Larger Machines Are Breeding Larger Research Teams

Larger Machines Are Breeding Larger Research Teams

In America’s competitive scientific arena, different areas contend for limited funds, as their benefits to society—cures for disease, national defense, cultural value—are weighed. The pure and the applied, the theoretical and the experimental, also vie for dollars and recognition. Two other categories, big science and little science, fracture the lines in yet another direction. What are they? Do their differences matter? Should we as scientists, or the United States as a n

Commentary

The U.S. Is Not Making A Big Enough Investment In Its Own Scientific Future

The U.S. Is Not Making A Big Enough Investment In Its Own Scientific Future

Since the inception in California of the science-technology domain now known as “biotechnology,” the United States has been its leader internationally. Indeed, the U.S. is a major force—if not the major force—in most bioscience activity around the globe. A 1987 National Science Foundation study of 3,500 journals published worldwide found that the U.S. was the source of 20,000 of some 51,000 articles in molecular biology, pharmacology, immunology, cardiovascular research

Letter

Duesburg Appeals

Duesburg Appeals

The article titled 230 Publication Of AIDS Article Spurs Debate Over Peer Review” (The Scientist, April 3, 1989, page 1), described the scrutiny that my thesis—that HIV is not the cause of AIDS— was subjected to prior to its publication in PNAS (86:755-64, 1989). This report was accurate, fair, and open. However, I was disappointed to read that retrovirologists Howard Temin and Harold Ginsberg stated to The Scientist that my article “still contained errors,” despite

No Journal Glut

No Journal Glut

It is difficult to judge whether readers were meant to take seriously Jeffrey B. Moran’s article “The Journal Glut: Scientific Publications Out Of Control” (The Scientist, July 10, 1989, page 11). On the assumption that he was not being facetious in at least the first half of his article, I offer the following reaction. The “proliferation of scholarly journals” is unfortunately a knee-jerk cliche used by those who fail to give serious thought to the problem. Jou

Supercomputer Centers

Supercomputer Centers

G. Christopher Anderson’s generally excellent article on upgrades of the NSF supercomputer centers (The Scientist, Aug. 7, 1989, page 1) contains some errors regarding the history of NSF centers in general, and of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) in particular, that I would like, for the record, to correct. Anderson says we “chose the DOE-standard CTSS operating system. . . in 1985. Unfortunately, most of the other centers chose UNICOS.” Both the SDSC and the Univer

Activist Scientists

Activist Scientists

The article by Michael McRae (“Ethnobiologist Forced From Brazil After Harassment By Authorities,” The Scientist, Sept. 18, 1989, page 1) on the efforts of Darrell Posey to preserve the Amazon environment and its distinctive native cultures is a timely illustration of the concern of professional scientists for those values. This is not to say, of course, that the actions taken by Posey are necessarily in the interest of all the parties to the controversies in which he has been invo

Research

Chemistry

Chemistry

CHEMISTRY BY RON MAGOLDA Medical Products Department E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co. Wilmington, Del. G-binding proteins have been implicated in a variety of biological processes. A structural analysis of this interesting class of proteins has been presented. P.Woolley, B.F.C. Clark, “Homologies in the structures of G-binding proteins: an analysis based on elongation factor EF-Tu,” BioTechnology, 7, 9 13-20, September 1989. (Aarhus University, Arhus, Denmark). The biosynthesis of

Computational Science

Computational Science

COMPUTATIONAL SCIENCE BY BRUCE G. BUCHANAN Department of Computer Science University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pa. " The Boyer-Moore string searching algorithm is a best choice for many problems in which a pattern of length m is to be matched in a text of length n, for small alphabets or long pattems. A recent paper exploits the-space-time trade-off to improve the algorithm’s speed by 50% for long patterns. Some experimental results -are presented that also indicate the effecfiveness of

Israel: A Goliath In Middle East Science

Israel: A Goliath In Middle East Science

Israel clearly dominates the entire region. It produced about 62% (some 19,000 of 30,700) of all Middle Eastern science articles indexed on SciSearch since 1987. The next biggest producer has been Egypt, with a 15% share, followed by Saudi Arabia with 10%, Kuwait with 4%, Iraq with 3%, and Jordan with a 2% share. All other countries contrib uted 1% or less of all Middle Eastern papers. In this group, Kuwait is perhaps the big surprise. The tiny nation has published about 1,200 papers in SciS

Plant and Animal Sciences

Plant and Animal Sciences

PLANT AND ANIMAL SCIENCES BY PETER D. MOORE Department of Biology King’s College London, U.K Considerable debate surrounds the decline and collapse of the Central American Maya culture. The analysis of carbon and nitrogen isotopes in bones from Maya burials has now permitted some reconstruction of diet. The importance of maize has been confirmed, though it does seem to have become a less important dietary element at the time of the Maya collapse. C.D. White, H.P. Schwarcz, “Ancie

Profession

Summer Program Trains Schoolteachers To Teach Elementary Science

Summer Program Trains Schoolteachers To Teach Elementary Science

Three years ago Paul Saltman, professor of biology at the University of California, San. Diego, concluded that something drastic had to be done to pull the United States up from its low international ranking in science literacy. “I thought this was just outrageous and obscene,” he says. “So I had to put my body and brain and my mouth on the line.” Convinced that children become turned off to the study of science as early as the grade-school level, Saltman focused his

CalTech Undergrads Get Into The SURF

CalTech Undergrads Get Into The SURF

In the past 11 years, the number of California Institute of Technology undergraduates who spend their summers SURFing has increased more than 1 0-fold. The rapid rise is attributable not to the legendary lure of California’s beaches, but to growth in funding support for CalTech’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF). The program, inaugurated in 1979, offers undergraduates the opportunity to research a project that they themselves have developed. Each student pursues his

Technology

Chromosome Analysis Goes High Tech

Chromosome Analysis Goes High Tech

Since the 1 920s, when researchers began to study chromosomes, the analysis of human chromosomes has presented a particularly tough technological challenge, simply because there are so many of them. When displayed under a light microscope. the strands of human genetic material tend to bunch together maddeningly, overlapping and intertwining like so much spaghetti. For these reasons, it wasn’t until 1956 that the correct number of 46 human chromosomes (23 pairs) was clearly demonstrated.

New Products

Multifunction Electrophoresis System Eliminates Excess Equipment

Multifunction Electrophoresis System Eliminates Excess Equipment

Researchers who analyze and isolate specific proteins and nucleic acids often find that gel electrophoresis is the method of choice for these experiments. Proteins or nucleic acid mixtures are separated into individual species based on differences in molecular weight as they migrate through an acrylamide or agarose gel in the presence of an electric field. In addition to serving as an analytical tool, individual proteins and nucleic acids, once separated, can then be isolated in pure form by