Volume 389 Issue 6649, 25 September 1997


  • Opinion |

    Forest fires and urban pollution are wreaking havoc in South-East Asia. Technology and ecology can offer a little help, but more national and international awareness would also be useful.

  • Opinion |

    Concerns in the US Jewish community about the potential misuse of genetic results need to be addressed.


  • News |


    Environmentalists and organic farmers are planning to sue the US Environmental Protection Agency for allowing the planting of crops genetically engineered to produce an insecticidal toxin.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |


    Britain's Wellcome Trust, which describes itself as “the world's biggest medical research charity”, has chosen a prominent leukaemia researcher to lead it into the next century.

    • David Dickson
  • News |


    The Wellcome Trust is to contribute £10-million to the costs of a new second-generation synchrotron source, known as Diamond, at the Daresbury laboratories in Cheshire, England.

    • David Dickson
  • News |


    One of the leading US professional associations of biologists has adopted a voluntary five-year moratorium on the cloning of human beings.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |


    More than a hundred countries have agreed to phase out the use of the pesticide methyl bromide, which makes a significant contribution to depletion of the ozone layer.

    • David Spurgeon
  • News |


    The fiftieth anniversary of the death of the German physicist Max Planck on 4 October 1947 is to be marked with an extensive exhibition describing his life and work

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |


    A facility proposed for the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York state would give space biologists more opportunity to study the effects of cosmic radiation on living organisms — research that is critical if future astronauts are to travel to the Moon and Mars.

    • Tony Reichhardt
  • News |


    Four unions representing French researchers are calling on the government to drop its plans for a programme of computer simulations of nuclear weapons explosions.

    • Eric Glover
  • News |


    The Malaysian government has declared a state of emergency in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, as smoke pollution from forest fires that are burning out of control in neighbouring Indonesia enveloped many cities in South-East Asia.

    • David Swinbanks
  • News |


    The Pollutants Standard Index, devised by the US Environment Protection Agency, is based on the atmospheric concentrations of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.

    • David Swinbanks
  • News |

    san francisco

    US Jewish leaders are asking officials of the National Human Genome Research Institute to discuss the possible development of working guidelines for genetic research on Ashkenazi Jews.

    • Sally Lehrman
  • News |


    Israel's Ministry of Science has offered to fund DNA tests for 1,000 Israelis of Yemeni extraction to resolve a long-standing controversy about the fate of children who may have been adopted without their parents' knowledge or consent.

    • Haim Watzman
  • News |


    A Sydney court was told last week that public lectures by Bible church elder Allen Roberts on his claims that he had found evidence for the existence of Noah's Ark in Turkey were scientific, not religious, in character.

    • Peter Pockley
  • News |

    new delhi

    Staff from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai have criticized as ‘a rushed job’ an international review committee's conclusion that the institute needs to change to become globally competitive.

    • K. S. Jayaraman

News in Brief


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Theory has it that the Moon grew within a disk of material splashed out of the Earth by a body the size of Mars. According to new calculations, however, the impacting body was at least twice that size. There are probably very many terrestrial planets in our Galaxy, yet the implication of this and other simulations is that fewer of them than previously expected have Moon-sized satellites.

    • Jack J. Lissauer
  • News & Views |

    Many multisubunit proteins display allostery, whereby the binding of a ligand to one receptor site drives changes in the protein's shape, functional status and even the affinities of the remaining sites. Innovative measurements now give us an intimate view of the allosteric process in the cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channel.

    • Christopher Miller
  • News & Views |

    Hydroxylating enzymes, such as cytochrome P-450, are immensely important biologically — they mediate the selective insertion of oxygen into the C-H bonds of unreactive molecules such as steroids and prostaglandins, creating key intermediates in the synthesis of drugs and hormones. An artificial P-450 has been designed which shows a high level of positional selectivity in modifying its substrate steroid. Moreover, the reaction exhibits true catalytic turnover of the substrate. Both are attributes necessary for an effective artificial enzyme.

    • John T. Groves
  • News & Views |

    The hen harrier is a scarce bird of prey which is today mainly found on moorland in Scotland, much of which is grouse-shooting territory. A population survey of the hen harrier shows that, because it preys on grouse, it is subject to severe persecution on grouse moors. This highlights a conflict of interests in conservation policy. On the one hand, the hen harrier needs protection; on the other, management of moorland estates for shooting has helped save large areas of the British uplands from overgrazing, or disappearing under conifer plantations, and the economic reasons for hen-harrier harassment are understandable.

    • Robert M. May
  • News & Views |

    When a fluid flows over a solid surface, its velocity usually goes to zero at the interface with the solid. But in some situations that can't happen — it would prevent a fluid from flowing along a glass into one's mouth, for example — so there must be some slip at the interface. A more general way for slip to occur has now been discovered, probably indicating that a given interface can only sustain so much stress.

    • Mark Robbins
  • News & Views |

    Because carbon dioxide is nontoxic, nonflammable, abundant and cheap, it ought to be every scientist's and engineer's favourite solvent for extractions, separations and reactions. Unfortunately, even at dense liquid or supercritical conditions, its ability to dissolve polymeric, ionic or highly polar species is limited. But fluorinated dendrimers — highly branched molecules — can extract strongly hydrophilic compounds from water into liquid CO2, greatly expanding its applicability.

    • Joan F. Brennecke
  • News & Views |

    The effects of alcohol and general anaesthetics are obvious to everybody, but where in the brain — and how — do these agents act? By making hybrid GABAA- and glycine-receptor channels, one group has now identified two amino-acid residues that seem to be crucial for this process. Amino-acid substitutions at these positions remove the effects of anaesthetics, but it's not yet possible to tell whether these amino acids represent a direct binding site, or whether they are involved more indirectly.

    • N. P. Franks
    •  & W. R. Lieb
  • News & Views |

    Most of the planets in the Solar System, Earth included, have magnetic fields that originate from self-sustaining dynamos. The inner workings of such dynamos are not at all clear, however, not least because it is not possible to carry out meaningful experiments to address the issue. A way forward is to use numerical simulations of the main parameters involved, and two new examples of such work provide a happy combination of characteristics that allow them to be tested against one another.

    • Peter Olson
  • News & Views |

    Electron microscopy rapidly destroys organic structures such as starch granules. Because of this, the structure of starch is still controversial. But a new X-ray diffraction experiment has used an exceptionally narrow bean to scan across single granules of starch, showing that they are ellipsoids made of alternating crystalline and amorphous layers. One eventual application of these studies may be the use of starch as a biodegradable plastic.

    • Paul Calvert
  • News & Views |

    The surface of an ionic crystal — at least in a vacuum — is made up of defects. Daedalus believes that by rotating two ionic rollers in contact, the surfaces will be continually brought together and then torn apart. Their surface defects will be continuously healed and recreated, resulting in the generation of copious amounts of light. On the basis of this, DREADCO physicists plan to create a ‘Rolamp’, which will be far more efficient than existing lamps.

    • David Jones
  • News & Views |

    Pioneer in structural biology and collaborative biological research in Europe.

    • K. C. Holmes

Scientific Correspondence

Book Reviews



New on the Market

  • New on the Market |

    This compilation covers a variety of chemistry packages for process monitoring, molecular visualization and kinetic simulation, as well as mapping and data processing software for geological and environment study.

    • Brendan Horton

Careers and Recruitment



  • Corrigendum |

    • Jean-F. Tomb
    • , Owen White
    • , Anthony R. Kerlavage
    • , Rebecca A. Clayton
    • , Granger G. Sutton
    • , Robert D. Fleischmann
    • , Karen A. Ketchum
    • , Hans Peter Klenk
    • , Steven Gill
    • , Brian A. Dougherty
    • , Karen Nelson
    • , John Quackenbush
    • , Lixin Zhou
    • , Ewen F. Kirkness
    • , Scott Peterson
    • , Brendan Loftus
    • , Delwood Richardson
    • , Robert Dodson
    • , Hanif G. Khalak
    • , Anna Glodek
    • , Keith McKenney
    • , Lisa M. Fitzegerald
    • , Norman Lee
    • , Mark D. Adams
    • , Erin K. Hickey
    • , Douglas E. Berg
    • , Jeanine D. Gocayne
    • , Teresa R. Utterback
    • , Jeremy D. Peterson
    • , Jenny M. Kelley
    • , Matthew D. Cotton
    • , Janice M. Weidman
    • , Claire Fujii
    • , Cheryl Bowman
    • , Larry Watthey
    • , Erik Wallin
    • , William S. Hayes
    • , Mark Borodovsky
    • , Peter D. Karp
    • , Hamilton O. Smith
    • , Claire M. Fraser
    •  & J. Craig Venter
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