Volume 387 Issue 6636, 26 June 1997


  • Opinion |

    Authorship of a scientific paper is a privilege that is all too easily abused. Attempts to solve the problem with general rules encounter insurmountable obstacles, but individual accountability is unavoidable.


  • News |


    The director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been criticized by a Congressional subcommittee over lapses that allowed an NIH-funded researcher to conduct human embryo research in contravention of US law.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |


    Prospects for a clarification of rules covering the patenting of animals and plants in Europe have brightened following approval of a revised draft directive drawn up by the European commission in Brussels.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |


    A 23 million (US$38 million) grant from proceeds of Britain's National Lottery has been awarded to build a National Space Science Centre in Leicester

  • News |


    Long awaited legislation to provide a legal framework for organ transplants has been passed by Japan's parliament, but only after a bizarre compromise on the legal definition of death.

    • David Swinbanks
  • News |


    When delegations from 200 countries met this week to survey progress in the five years since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, they faced a situation of growing global disarray, with inaction on key issues and divisions between and among rich and poor nations.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |

    new delhi

    Prompted by concern about the potential misuse of genetics research, Indian scientists are seeking the creation of a national bioethics panel to advise on the ethics of research and on the management and use of genetic information.

    • K. S. Jayaraman
  • News |

    cape town

    Biologists at two South African museums fear that government plans to downgrade their institutions from national to provincial status could threaten the survival of their collections

    • Michael Cherry

News Analysis

News in Brief



  • Commentary |

    Biotechnology and the European Public Concerted Action This article has been written by an international team of researchers working as part of a Concerted Action of the European Commissions (B104-CT95-0043) administered on behalf of Directorate General XII by Andreas Klepsch. For details see box overleaf. Address for correspondence: G. Gaskell, Department of Social Psychology, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK (e-mail: gaskell@se.ac.uk). Throughout Europe, there is widespread lack of trust in the ability of governments and other public authorities to deal effectively with people's concern about biotechnology applications.

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Genetic vulnerability during development may be responsible for environmental effects on intelligence. Taken with a study showing that the heritability of IQ does not change with age, could these results mean that nature and nurture are no longer in opposition?

    • Steve Blinkhorn
  • News & Views |

    Astronomers can now peer far back in time, to redshifts of up toz= 4, and look at galaxies at different stages over 80-90 per cent of the total age of the Universe. A result is that the outline of a consensus about how galaxies form and evolve, as quantified by changes in star-formation rates, is emerging. A hierarchical picture best fits the evidence, one in which small, amorphous proto-galaxies form first, eventually settling into disk galaxies such as spirals, which can then also merge to form ellipticals.

    • Roberto Abraham
  • News & Views |

    Neurons receive sensory information through branched projections called dendrites which were thought, for many years, to be just passive cables. But a new study shows that dendrites contain potassium channels. Moreover, the authors believe that these channels are involved in dendritic excitability and that they may mediate the sophisticated computations that are required for learning.

    • Rafael Yuste
  • News & Views |

    It seems strange, but ice cores can be drilled in the tropics from glaciers on the top of mountains. Such cores can yield invaluable data about past climate, yet information in trapped gas bubbles will be lost if the ice warms above a certain temperature. Hence the problem of keeping the ice cold on its journey down the mountain; and hence the imaginative project, now underway, to drill a core on the glacier on a Bolivian mountain and use a hot-air balloon to fly sections of it down to freezer facilities on the plain below.

    • Philip Newton
  • News & Views |

    Solitons are solitary waves and were first observed over 150 years ago. Now it seems they may, in technological terms, be the wave of the future. The latest work involves self-trapping of incoherent (that is, ‘ordinary’) light in photorefractive materials, which results in beams that can be tuned to form ‘soft’ waveguides; moreover, the physics is such that beams can be sent within beams. Some technical hurdles have yet to be overcome, but the future of optical soliton communication or all-optical information processing looks bright.

    • Allan Boardman
  • News & Views |

    The chemotaxis pathway of bacteria is a signalling system that, by controlling flagellae, allows the bacterium to respond to chemical stimuli such as food or poison. Are the protein components and kinetics of biochemical pathways such as this fine-tuned to achieve the desired response? From new computer simulations, it seems not. Rather the system exhibits ‘robustness’, meaning that even gross perturbations of many parameters do not prevent its operation. The concept opens up several research horizons, and might usefully be employed in studying the tolerance of outbred populations to genetic polymorphisms.

    • Leland Hartwell
  • News & Views |

    A connection between climate and marine algae comes from the algal production of a sulphur-containing compound, dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP). Reaction products of DMSP make their way into the atmosphere where their oxidation products influence climate. That is one context in which two new papers should be seen. One describes the biochemical pathway of DMSP synthesis in phytoplankton; the other provides insight into the release of DMSP from phytoplankton by grazing marine herbivores, and the action of one of the resulting products as a defence mechanism. There is, then, also an ecological angle of interest in the new work.

    • Gillian Malin
  • News & Views |

    How does a fission yeast know where its ends are, so that the two poles can grow directly away from one another? New work indicates that a protein called tea1 acts as a marker, to direct the cellular growth machinery to the poles. Moreover, tea1 is localized to, and maintained at, the poles by the microtubular cytoskeleton.

    • Alison Mitchell
  • News & Views |

    The origin of γ-ray bursts, events which release massive amounts of energy, has been an enduring puzzle in astronomy. As discussed at a meeting last month and papers in this week'sNature, however, evidence from X-ray, optical and radio afterglows continues to stream in and harden two conclusions that most, perhaps all, of these bursts come from the merger of two neutron stars, or a neutron star and a black hole; and that the bursts are occurring at cosmological distances near the edge of the observable Universe.

    • Joshua S. Bloom
    •  & Malvin Ruderman
  • News & Views |

    The power of television, whereby the few broadcast to the masses, is immense. The technical problem to be overcome in changing that state of affairs is that a video signal takes up a vast bandwidth. DREADCO mathematicians plan to devise a TV-picture-generating fractal which would allow the Internet to become the dominant TV provider. So just as anyone can now set up a Web site, anyone will be able to launch a TV programme.

    • David Jones

Scientific Correspondence

Book Review




New on the Market

  • New on the Market |

    Ways of deciphering and analysing genetic code are the focus in this issue — including clone-design software, a personal server for database searching, a system for site-directed mutagenesis and microsatellite analysis gels.

    • Brendan Horton
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