Volume 389 Issue 6650, 2 October 1997

Opinions

  • Opinion |

    The publication of apparently conclusive evidence linking BSE in cattle to CJD in humans strengthens the case for a full review of how the BSE issue was handled. Britain would not be the only beneficiary.

  • Opinion |

    The Czech government should not miss an opportunity to give its scientists a needed shot in the arm.

News

  • News |

    moscow

    Members of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament have expressed concern about proposed reductions in science spending contained in the government's draft budget for 1998.

    • Carl Levitin
  • News |

    washington

    The US National Institutes of Health is being accused of dragging its feet over support for human trials of a vaccine containing live HIV.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |

    london

    Klaus Topfer, Germany's minister for housing, is being tipped as a leading candidate to succeed Elizabeth Dowdeswell as head of the United Nations Environment Programme.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    adelaide

    Australia's Coalition government led by John Howard of the Liberal Party has plunged into crisis following the forced resignation of Peter McGauran, Minister for Science and Technology.

    • Peter Pockley
  • News |

    paris

    The saga of research on the ‘memory of water’ has reopened with a splash, with libel suits being filed against three scientists — including two Nobel prizewinners, by Jacques Benveniste — the French researcher who claimed in 1988 to have shown that extreme dilutions of antibody solutions could retain their biological activity.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |

    washington

    The US National Institutes of Health is to keep its license to use nuclear materials, despite the efforts of a pregnant NIH scientist who was contaminated with radioactive phosphorus in 1995.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |

    london

    Nirex has made clear that it does not want responsibility for choosing a new nuclear waste disposal site — even if the government decides that it should retain its independence.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    washington

    A US government report says that the United States could reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 with no net cost to the nation's economy if it increased the use of energy-efficient technology.

    • Tony Reichhardt
  • News |

    prague

    Czech scientists are waiting to learn what sacrifices they will be required to make to help pay for the central European floods which covered a third of the Czech Republic in July.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |

    prague

    One DM (56 US cents) is the token cost price to the Czech Academy of Science for an iodide laser sold by the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics near Munich. But the academy needs to find an additional DM1.8 million for a special building and to pay running costs.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |

    boston

    The organizer of the annual spoof 'Ig' Nobel Prize ceremony have — to be held next week at Harvard University — is being sued by the editor of a rival spoof science journal in an attempt to gain control of the term 'Ig Nobel Prize'.

    • Steve Nadis

News in Brief

Correspondence

Commentary

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Two sets of studies, using different approaches, provide convincing evidence that the new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is caused by the agent that is responsible for BSE in cattle. Like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease itself, vCJD is a human neurological disorder that leads to brain damage and death; but it is clinically and pathologically distinct, not least in afflicting younger people. The new studies cannot however tell us anything about a crucial issue — the future number of cases of this variant disease.

    • Jeffrey Almond
    •  & John Pattison
  • News & Views |

    Most explanations for the distribution of seamounts and islands invoke hotspots — places where plumes of material from deep within the Earth reach the surface. Combined with the motion of tectonic plates, the result is chains of seamounts and islands. There is difficulty reconciling this view with new data from the South Pacific. But hotspot theory could in this instance be salvageable if one considers a more complicated picture, one whereby hotspots are taken to be more than point sources of heat.

    • Norman Sleep
  • News & Views |

    So closely has a structure known as the epipubis been associated with marsupial mammals that it has become known as the 'marsupial bone'. The discovery of epipubic bones in fossil specimens that are clearly not marsupial, but are rather of early placental mammals, makes that view untenable. It remains unclear, however, what function this bone had and still has in living marsupials.

    • Robert Presley
  • News & Views |

    The conformational change of an enzyme can lead to a complex cascade of biochemical reactions in a cell. The escape of electrons from an energy well can determine most of the electrical properties of a semiconductor. What these seemingly disparate events have in common is that they involve large, rare fluctuations. Constructing theories to explain such fluctuations is a considerable task, and a new experimental study provides a way of assessing their applicability to the real world.

    • Mark Millonas
  • News & Views |

    Some birds can skew the ratio of male to female offspring that they produce, and the most extreme example of this has just been reported for the Eclectus parrot (Eclectus roratus). One female produced 20 sons in succession, followed by a run of 13 daughters. But it's still a mystery how — and why — these ratios are produced.

    • Jeremy J. D. Greenwood
  • News & Views |

    Many periodic physiological events — ranging from photosynthesis in plants to breeding cycles in animals — are controlled by an endogenous molecular pacemaker. In the fruitfly, this system is known to be controlled by, among others, the product of theperiod gene (per). The per gene has now been cloned in mice and humans. Not only does it show striking homology to fruitfly per but, in humans, expression of Perprotein oscillates in the centre of the brain in which the molecular clock is thought to be found.

    • Paolo Sassone-Corsi
  • News & Views |

    Last month the long-awaited first images emerged from a new instrument, aboard a satellite, which is designed to monitor ocean colour in particular. The instrument is SeaWiFs (the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor). It will for instance provide data on ocean chlorophyll concentrations, as well as information about land vegetation, and provides much improved spatial and temporal coverage compared with a previous instrument.

    • Karen Southwell
  • News & Views |

    Australopithecus(orParanthropus) boisei is a member of an extinct, early human branch, which separated from the lineage that led to today's humans some 3-2.5 million years ago. The discovery of the most complete skull from this species is now reported, and the features of the skull indicate that we may have to rethink where, and how, the boundaries between different species are drawn.

    • Eric Delson
  • News & Views |

    Communication with pets is two-way: pets must be able to react to human expressions and behaviour, and vice versa. But we are severely limited in this latter respect, not least (unlike cats, dogs and horses, for instance) in the immobility of our ears. So Daedalus is experimenting with a special cap equipped with large, electromagnetically adjustable ears, which should allow its wearer to become much closer emotionally to any animal that uses ear signals.

    • David Jones

Scientific Correspondence

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