Las Vegas is perhaps not the first city that comes to mind when one thinks of a meeting place for scientists. Yet that is where the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is holding its annual convention this week. Upon reflection, however, it seemed more appropriate than I had first thought for scientists to gather in a city that epitomizes chance and the good fortune it sometimes brings.

The vision I held of gaming tables, roulette wheels and one-armed bandits put me in mind of that rich autobiography of Nobel laureate Salvador E. Luria, A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube (Harper & Row, 1984). In it Luria tells of attending a faculty dance at Indiana University in 1943. At the country club where the dance was held he observed a colleague playing at a slot machine. “Not a gambler myself, I was teasing him about his inevitable...

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