Volume 389 Issue 6651, 9 October 1997

Opinion

  • Opinion |

    The success or failure of global climate negotiations rests on the shoulders of Bill Clinton, who can enhance his stature by holding his nerve in the face of industry's scare-mongering.

News

  • News |

    london

    The 1997 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded this week to Stanley Prusiner of the University of California, San Francisco, for his contributions towards the identification of the infectious agent that causes diseases such as BSE in cows, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

    • Harriet Coles
  • News |

    tokyo

    Japan has announced that it will support a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

  • News |

    london

    Preliminary images sent back by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor show a desert-like terrain pock-marked with craters.

  • News |

    london

    The British government's chief scientist says that Britain's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2010 will be “difficult” but feasible.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    washington

    US President Bill Clinton reiterated his support this week for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the proposal he appears set to unveil for December's Kyoto climate conference in Japan will disappoint environmentalists and European nations by seeking to cut emissions back only to their 1990 levels by 2010, at the earliest, and not below these levels, as others are pushing for.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |

    washington

    Two-thirds of US voters regard global warming as a serious threat and support an international commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions, even if this leads to higher energy prices, according to a public opinion poll for the World Wildlife Fund.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |

    adelaide

    The 109-year-old Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) announced last week that it does not have enough money to continue operating.

    • Peter Pockley
  • News |

    paris

    France's minister for education, research and technology has confirmed a large increase in research jobs, and promised to reorganize France's research agencies.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |

    munich

    Federal funds for Germany's two main scientific organizations, the Max-Planck-Society and Germany's university grant council, will increase by about 3.5 per cent next year.

    • Quirin Schiermeier
  • News |

    washington

    The director of the US National Cancer Institute has admitted that the institute should not have delayed releasing the preliminary findings of a study of Americans' exposure to radioactive iodine from above-ground nuclear tests in the 1950s.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |

    dublin

    Police in the Republic of Ireland have launched a criminal investigation into the destruction by environmental activists of the country's first genetically modified crop.

    • Anthony Garvey
  • News |

    new delhi

    The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology is looking for a new head for its New Delhi component following the resignation after ten years of Krishna Kumar Tewari.

    • K. S. Jayaraman
  • News |

    tokyo

    The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has endorsed a move by the region's life scientists to form a network to promote biotechnology and biomedical research.

    • David Swinbanks

News in Brief

Correspondence

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    When shaken, sand and other granular materials can form into a variety of patterns — squares, stripes and hexagons, for instance — depending on a variety of factors. The dynamics of this behaviour are poorly understood, but a new and quite simple model has been formulated that reproduces the patterns. Moreover it predicts that a particular arrangement, composed of isosceles triangles and not yet seen in experiments, should exist under certain circumstances.

    • Paul Umbanhowar
  • News & Views |

    Three types of receptor — NMDA, AMPA and kainate — bind the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain. But the function of the kainate receptors has remained a mystery. Now, several groups have shown that activation of these receptors has an inhibitory effect on the release of another neurotransmitter, GABA, leading to a depression of excitatory synaptic transmission.

    • Mark Mayer
  • News & Views |

    Emissions of sulphur from volcanoes can cause climate cooling. They can be injected high into the stratosphere, where the sulphur reacts to produce sulphuric acid aerosols which backscatter and absorb solar radiation, and thus affect climate change. The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines, was one such sulphur-rich event. A theory of the nature of this eruption invokes magma mixing as the cause of the large emissions of gaseous sulphur, and could help in identifying similar cases in the geological record.

    • Michael R. Carroll
  • News & Views |

    The 6,000 or so languages in the world are very unevenly distributed. In the whole of Europe, for instance, there are only about 63; New Guinea, by contrast, a tenth of the area of Europe, has about 1,000. To explain differences such as these, a couple of workers have gone back in time to relate the variety in `linguistic geography' to the massive expansions, with the advent of agriculture, of just a few populations from about 10,000 years ago.

    • Jared M. Diamond
  • News & Views |

    Insect embryos are constructed in modules, or compartments; in the wing of Drosophila, for instance, there are two — anterior (A) and posterior (P). How cells know which compartment they belong to is thought to be controlled by the activity of the engrailed gene, which determines cell affinities in the two compartments. Surprising new findings suggest, however, that the largest contributor to the affinity difference between the two types of cells is the indirect action of a protein called Hedgehog, signalling from P to A cells across the border between them.

    • Peter A. Lawrence
  • News & Views |

    Subject slime moulds on a surface to starvation and they move chemotactically towards the concentric waves of cyclic AMP that are emitted from the so-called ‘aggregation centre’. Until now, the spiral waves that develop from broken circular waves have been a mystery, but one group believes that it has found the key to these — desynchronization of slime moulds on the developmental path.

    • Alison Mitchell
  • News & Views |

    Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) have been in the news this year, as it has become clear that these long-enigmatic and immensely violent astronomical events are occurring at cosmological distances — not, as might have been the case, in our Galaxy. A meeting to discuss these and more recent findings proved to be a historic event. As astronomers come to concentrate on the `how' rather than the `where' of this phenomenon, we should see the beginning of a new era in high-energy astrophysics — GRBs as another probe of cosmological distances in the early Universe.

    • Bohdan Paczyski
    •  & Chryssa Kouveliotou
  • News & Views |

    Many biological processes involve signalling through the transforming growth factor-b (TGF-β) superfamily of proteins. In some pathways, TGF-b signals are mediated through the SMAD family of signal transducers. Smads 1, 2, 3 and 5 are activated when members of the TGF-b family bind their receptors, leading to association with Smad4 and a transcriptional response. Three groups now independently show that two new SMADs (Smads 6 and 7) and a Drosophila homologue inhibit this signalling process.

    • Malcolm Whitman
  • News & Views |

    Telomeres are found at the end of linear chromosomes. They consist of DNA repeats that are synthesized by an enzyme called telomerase. Telomerase is not expressed in normal somatic cells, and inappropriate expression has been linked to the formation of tumours. To study the function of telomerase, knockout mice have been generated. Interestingly, these mice are both viable and fertile. But later generations of the knockout mice start to develop cancer, dealing a possible blow to anti-telomerase cancer therapies.

    • David Wynford-Thomas
    •  & David Kipling
  • News & Views |

    Once a solid-fuel rocket has been lit, it's like an enormous firework — it can be neither stopped nor controlled. Typically, the solid fuel is a mixture of aluminium powder and ammonium perchlorate and, to make a more controllable fuel, DREADCO chemists are replacing these ingredients with fine aluminium wire and a water-based gel, respectively.

    • David Jones

Scientific Correspondence

Book Reviews

Reviews

Letters

New on the Market

  • New on the Market |

    Offering up a variety of devices and reagents for biomedical sciences, this edition includes a single-cell superfusion system, a bioluminescence assay for monitoring cell-cell interactions, and a cell sizer and counter. compiled by Brendan Horton from information provided by the manufacturers.c b B H f i p b t

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