Volume 387 Issue 6633, 5 June 1997

Opinion

  • Opinion |

    A new mood of optimism can be found in many parts of Russia's scientific community that has been absent for much of the past five years. But it must not be allowed to turn into complacency; many hurdles remain.

News

  • News |

    moscow

    The Russian Academy of Sciences has received government funds to support the election of younger members, defined as below the age of 55.

    • Carl Levitin
  • News |

    munich

    The German research ministry is expected to reverse its controversial decision to grant industry three months privileged access to human genome sequence data generated with public funds.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |

    paris

    The cloning of humans for reproductive purposes is “ethically unacceptable”, according to the nine-member group which advises the European Commission on the ethical implications of biotechnology.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |

    washington

    Western European countries appear poised to regain their position as the world's leading producers of scientific knowledge, which was relinquished to the United States after the Second World War.

  • News |

    london

    Plans for a research centre at Cambridge concentrating on the next generation of computers is reported to be in the final stages of development by Bill Gates, founder of the computer software giant Microsoft.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    munich

    Italy is to replace its much-criticized grant awarding system under which research grants are allocated by committees of ‘experts’ with a new system based primarily on peer review and national strategic priorities.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |

    paris

    The last days of France's outgoing conservative coalition government have been marked by a row over the siting of France's planned FF1 billion 2.15-GeV synchrotron.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |

    paris

    France and the United Kingdom will continue with separate planned national second- generation synchrotrons instead of jointly constructing a single machine.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |

    sydney

    Australia's creationism trial ended in defeat for Ian Plimer, a geologist, against Allen Roberts, a fundamentalist church elder who claimed to have found ‘scientific evidence’ for the remains of Noah's Ark in eastern Turkey.

    • Peter Pockley
  • News |

    new delhi

    The United States is threatening not to renew its science and technology agreement with India if the Indian government fails to amend its patent law to provide additional protection for intellectual property rights.

    • K. S. Jayaraman

News Analysis

  • News Analysis |

    US nuclear weapons laboratories are moving to a regime based on linking experiment and computer simulation. But can they win over their critics?

    • Colin Macilwain

News in Brief

Correspondence

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    A new study of neurological patients who can analyse regular past-tense forms of verbs but not irregular ones, or vice versa, suggests that the mental dictionary and the mental grammar may be kept in different parts of the brain.

    • Steven Pinker
  • News & Views |

    Exponential decay is a familiar property of any system whose decay rate depends on its remaining, un-decayed quantity (as in the decay of a large number of radioactive nuclei). But now Wilkinson et al. present evidence for decay that is slower than exponential - a clear prediction of quantum mechanics, but one that has not been observed before because the timescales are too short.

    • P. T. Greenland
  • News & Views |

    The duck-billed platypus is a monotreme - a mammal that lays eggs. For many years it has been seen as more primitive than both marsupial (pouched) and placental mammals, and has been placed on an evolutionary lineage which pre-dates the divergence of marsupials and placentals. Analyses of long sequences of mitochondrial DNA, however, show that monotremes lie squarely on the marsupial branch of the evolutionary tree.

    • David Penny
    •  & Masami Hasegawa
  • News & Views |

    New species arise when populations no longer interbreed successfully. The theory that natural selection might act directly to increase such reproductive isolation is known as reinforcement, and its validity has been debated for many years. But one group has now come up with the strongest evidence yet in favour of reinforcement, by studying divergent populations of the European flycatcher.

    • Roger K. Butlin
    •  & Tom Tregenza
  • News & Views |

    Stonehenge is the most famous henge monument: henges are circular structures, usually just earth banks and ditches, mostly built in Britain in the late neolithic period (3000 to 2000 BC). The Coupland henge in northern England has now been dated to around 4000 BC, making it the oldest known example. Its unique ‘droveway’, along with phosphates in the soil, imply that it may have been used to keep cattle.

    • Elizabeth Aveling
  • News & Views |

    The neurotransmitter g-aminobutyric acid has long been thought to have an inhibitory effect on neurotransmission. But a new study shows that, in cells of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), GABA can be excitatory. Moreover, cells of the SCN are responsible for the generation of circadian rhythms in mammals, and GABA seems to act as an excitatory neurotransmitter only during the day.

    • Christopher S. Colwell
  • News & Views |

    A stable, highly sensitive chemical sensor has been built that operates by switching ion channels in a lipid membrane. The ion channels are formed by two gramicidin molecules: one in the lower layer of the membrane, linked to a gold electrode; and one in the upper layer, tethered to an antibody. When a molecule of the chosen type binds to the antibody and to a second antibody tethered elsewhere, the two gramicidin molecules are pulled apart, the channel is broken, and the conductivity drops.

    • Anthony P. F. Turner
  • News & Views |

    When microorganisms are starved of nutrients, the rate of mutation of their genomes accelerates. But are these mutations directed towards those genes that might prove effective in rectifying the nutritional deficiency concerned, or are they random? New studies on a commonly used system (mutants of Escherichia coli that cannot use lactose) point to the second possibility.

    • Bryn A. Bridges
  • News & Views |

    Surprisingly, neutral particles (such as neutrons) with electric dipoles can be accelerated by uniform electromagnetic fields. The force responsible, a consequence of the so-called hidden momentum of the dipole, has never been seen, but with the right field arrangement its effect on a neutron beam should be detectable.

    • Jeeva S. Anandan
  • News & Views |

    Plants release many strange and complex substances - such as terpenes, alkaloids and phenols - in response to attack, and Daedalus sees this as a splendid new source of herbal fuel. He proposes to enclose a plantation of shrubs or trees in a huge plastic-film greenhouse and to stimulate them to produce terpenes, which can then be extracted from the air.

    • David Jones
  • News & Views |

    Biochemist who characterized plant viruses and promoted leaf protein as food.

    • Leslie Fowden
    •  & Stan Pierpoint

Scientific Correspondence

Book Review

Progress

Letter

Erratum

New on the Market

  • New on the Market |

    Converging on Frankfurt, Germany, scientists at Achema may find an assortment of analytical and data handling tools, such as a second-generation excitation source, a Java toolkit for data handling and data acquisition software.

    • Brendan Horton
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