Volume 389 Issue 6647, 11 September 1997

Opinions

  • Opinion |

    The Swiss have embarked on a national debate about the use of transgenic animals, threatening devastation of biological science and industry in their country. Are they a barometer of wider public antipathy?

  • Opinion |

    Japan's scientifically weaker neighbours are outperforming it in the pursuit of quality.

News

  • News |

    munich

    Germany's most notable case of scientific fraud took a new turn with the announcement that one of the two accused scientists intends to sue investigators in the case for DM10 million (US$5.6 million) for damaging his career.

    • Quirin Schiermeier
  • News |

    san francisco

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is to shut down a nuclear weapons research facility for six months following a spate of accidents.

    • Sally Lehrman
  • News |

    santa fe, new mexico

    The Santa Fe Institute, set up by scientists from the neighbouring Los Alamos laboratory to escape from funding restrictions, and internal divisions, is having to wrestle with some of the problems its founders wished to leave behind.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |

    tokyo

    Japan has set up a high-level committee in a bid to reach agreement on targets for reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions. The committee will be chaired by the prime minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto.

    • Robert Triendl
  • News |

    san francisco

    Incyte Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and SmithKline Beecham are to create a joint venture company called diaDexus to discover and commercialize molecular diagnostic products in a deal which brings together some of the newest technology in the area.

    • Sally Lehrman
  • News |

    washington

    NASA remains optimistic that its troubled computer system for handling data from a planned constellation of Earth-observation satellites will be up and running for the scheduled launch of the first major satellite, AM1, next June.

    • Tony Reichhardt
  • News |

    london

    The UK ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food has strenuously denied suggestions that it is seeking to retain influence over an independent food standards agency.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    new delhi

    The conviction of a suspected rapist in an Indian court has sparked controversy over the quality of DNA fingerprinting evidence used in the case.

    • K. S. Jayaraman
  • News |

    sydney

    The Australian government has approved the construction of a A$300 million research reactor. It will replace the country's only nuclear reactor, which was built in 1958 at Lucas Heights near Sydney.

    • Peter Pockley
  • News |

    washington

    One of two consortia bidding to manage the troubled Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, New York, withdrew its bid this week.

    • Colin Macilwain

News in Brief

Briefing

  • Briefing |

    The emerging economies of the Pacific Rim of Asia are applying research assessment to boost the quantity and quality of their research, while Japan is just awakening to the need for such processes. But cultural obstacles have led to diverse approaches across the region.

Correspondence

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The theory of the fractional quantum Hall effect implies the existence of quasiparticles, collective electron states that have fractional charge. New experiments provide a direct measurement of the charge of these strange states, from the noisiness of the current they carry.

    • Charles L. Kane
    •  & Matthew P. A. Fisher
  • News & Views |

    The seventh complete sequence of a bacterial genome is now reported, and is a cause for much excitement as more is known about this bacterium —Escherichia coli— than any other organism in the world. Yet, amazingly, we do not know the function of more than 40% of the genes, and working out exactly what these 'orphan' genes do will be the next big challenge.

    • E. Richard Moxon
    •  & Christopher F. Higgins
  • News & Views |

    Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and is used in large quantities on ships. Sea water can de-alloy brass, removing all the zinc, if the fraction of zinc is high — but traces of arsenic and boron, in equal quantities, can stabilize the metal. They probably do it by combining as As-B pairs to occupy double vacancies in the zinc, stopping these vacancies from diffusing through the infinite zinc cluster that is present in the alloy.

    • Robert W. Cahn
  • News & Views |

    The p53 protein is mutated in over 50% of human cancers, and has gained the title 'guardian of the genome' due to its crucial functions in regulating cell growth and death. A hitherto unknown protein, termed p73, has now been discovered and characterized, and it seems to share structural and functional similarity with p53. But more tests need to be done before p73 can be confirmed as a tumour-suppressor gene.

    • Bruce Clurman
    •  & Mark Groudine
  • News & Views |

    Traces of water vapour have now been detected in the stratospheres of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. It can't be coming from the deeper atmosphere — water freezes out too effectively at the cold tropopause, the lower boundary of the stratosphere. It is probably delivered continuously to these planets by interstellar dust, or from their ring systems.

    • Donald M. Hunten
  • News & Views |

    Wheat, maize and the other grains constitute some 85% of global food production. But these plants are annuals, and they are usually grown in monoculture. The consequences are that harvesting them leaves the earth vulnerable to erosion; extra fertilizers are required for their growth; and they are especially prone to attack by pests and diseases. Could a more natural agricultural system, based on several perennial species, be both productive and avoid some of these problems? The prospects for such systems were discussed at a meeting last month.

    • Stuart L. Pimm
  • News & Views |

    Why can't two electrons share the same quantum state? The Pauli exclusion principle states that they, and other spin-1/2 particles, cannot. This is an apparently fundamental precept of quantum mechanics, and something with an important everyday consequence — it stops matter from collapsing. But why is it true? A new formulation explains the exclusion principle in terms of the topology of the space that identical particles move in.

    • Jason Twamley
  • News & Views |

    Pseudouridine (y) is a modified form of uridine — the base that occurs only in RNA. But how is it formed? Four new papers now show that formation of y relies on a group of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), which hydridize with the target RNA sequence, but leave an unpaired window that allows the y synthase to gain access. Surprisingly, this is the same method that is used for ribose methylation of RNA.

    • B. Edward H. Maden
  • News & Views |

    In firefly courtship, males signal to females by flashing in a species-specific manner; the female responds and the male then makes his way to her. Females of the genusPhoturishave adapted this system to nutritional ends by faking the response of fireflies of a different genus: when the male arrives he is eaten. But the female Photurisgets more than a meal. The hapless males contain compounds which firefly predators find unpalatable, and so in turn confer protection upon the lady diner.

    • Allison Mitchell
  • News & Views |

    Imagine little spheres of microporous carbon aerogel, with fluorinated outer layers and an extra coating of reflective metallized foam on top. These are DREADCO's `cryogenic bull's eyes', which can be loaded with liquefied gas simply by dipping them in it. The ensuing slow release of gas could be used in anaesthesia or to tame methane and hydrogen for automotive ends.

    • David Jones

Scientific Correspondence

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