Volume 389 Issue 6653, 23 October 1997

Opinions

  • Opinion |

    Although it may well be the only country in Europe to increase research spending next year, Spain still faces the loss of outstanding researchers. Both the government and universities need to make difficult choices.

  • Opinion |

    Despite cultural differences, countries face common challenges in confronting new biomedical advances.

News

  • News |

    washington

    Prominent US fusion scientists want the United States to become a partner in the world's largest research facility for plasma physics, the European Union's Joint European Torus (JET) in the United Kingdom.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |

    whashington

    Cassini, the most ambitious and expensive planetary expedition ever mounted, began its long trip to Saturn from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 15 October.

    • Tony Reichhardt
  • News |

    london

    This year's Nobel prize for physics has been awarded to three researchers from France and the United States for their development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.

    • Philip Ball
  • News |

    london

    The 1997 Nobel prize for Chemistry has been awarded to three biologists for their work on proteins that interconvert chemical energy.

    • Christopher Surridge
  • News |

    washington

    The launch of a low-budget US spacecraft to map the chemical composition and gravitational field of the Moon and search for evidence of ice has been delayed for the second time.

    • Tony Reichhardt
  • News |

    barcelona & madrid

    After a nummber of lean years, Spanish science is set to expand following a proposed budget containing significant funding increases to both basic and applied research.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |

    barcelona & madrid

    Spannish university rectors are to help address two problems facing Spanish universities: the control of university curricula and the employment structure of academic staff.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |

    washington

    Details of a $60-million study on how 200 genes affecting susceptibility to chemicals are distributed in the US population were unveiled last week.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |

    washington

    The proposed international Human Genome Diversity Project is not yet sufficiently feasible or well-defined to merit support from US government agencies, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |

    paris

    The biggest challenge facing those who have to grapple with bioethical issues is to find more sophisticated ways of involving the public in decision-making. This was one message to emerge from a one-day conference, “Too hot to handle?”, organized in Paris last week by the British Council and Nature.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |

    washington

    A group of Nobel laureates are lending their names to a new journal aimed at critically evaluating the claims of alternative medicine.

    • Meredith Wadman

News in Brief

Correspondence

Commentary

  • Commentary |

    A recent earthquake near a former Soviet nuclear test site has tested mechanisms for monitoring the test-ban treaty. Technical systems passed with flying colours, but relevant US agencies could have done better.

    • Paul G. Richards
    •  & Won-Young Kim

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Capsaicin is the molecule that makes chilli peppers seem hot, and the receptor for this compound has now been identified. The receptor is also activated by increased temperature, indicating that it transduces painful thermal stimuliin vivo.

    • David E. Clapham
  • News & Views |

    Measuring trace components in complex solutions such as blood usually requires the sophisticated facilities of an analytical laboratory, but a new technique could lead to simple devices that do the same thing. A chemically functionalized gel can act as a sensitive sponge, swelling when a particular chemical comes along. If the gel is made to fill the space between tiny plastic spheres in a colloidal crystal, that swelling changes the spacing of the crystal and therefore its diffraction properties. The result is a beautiful shimmering sensor that can be read optically.

    • David G. Grier
  • News & Views |

    Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome is a genetic disease that results in abnormal overgrowth of certain organs, thickening of long bones and other symptoms. New work shows that some of these symptoms arise because affected babies express two copies of the IGF2 gene. This complements studies showing that some of the other symptoms are caused by loss of function of the p57Kip2 protein. So we may soon have a complete picture of the interacting biological pathways that cause the syndrome.

    • Nicholas Hastie
  • News & Views |

    Ozone loss in the Arctic is on a smaller scale than in the Antarctic, where the seasonal `ozone hole' is such a huge environmental concern. But in recent winters that has been changing _ worst of all was the winter of 1995/96, when Arctic ozone fell from about 450 Dobson units to about 300. This change appears to be due to longer stratospheric winters, which allow nitric acid (whose breakdown usually gets in the way of ozone loss) to fall out of the stratosphere on ice particles.

    • Richard Stolarski
  • News & Views |

    Many scientists are copious producers of coffee stains; few study them. But some insight has now been gained into the physics of evaporating liquid droplets from a study that explains why coffee stains are ring-like, with most of the material deposited at their perimeter.

    • Philip Ball
  • News & Views |

    When neurons innervate their target cells, it's well known that they transmit signalling molecules known as neurotrophins to these cells, in a process known as anterograde transport. For the first time, one group has now shown that retrograde transport can also occur — that is, the same neurotrophins are carried from the target cell to the neuron. These interactions are probably crucial for sculpting the developing brain into its final, functional form.

    • John V. Heymach Jr
    •  & Barbara A. Barres
  • News & Views |

    The connections between neurons (synapses) can adapt to changing circumstances of nervous transmissions, a phenomenon known as activity-dependent plasticity. Moreover, such plasticity is itself regulated, but little is known about the mechanisms or behavioural consequences of this metaplasticity. New work on the mollusc Aplysia, involving study of the neural circuits that respond to stimulation of the siphon and tail, unveils connections and feedback systems that provide a handle on the regulation of metaplasticity.

    • John H. Byrne
  • News & Views |

    The results of the German Continental Deep Drilling Program are not widely known, even inside the geological community, but this was a remarkable attempt to learn more about the Earth's crystalline continental crust. The project ran from 1987 to 1994, during which time a 4-km pilot hole was drilled and cored, followed by a 9.1-km main hole which passed through the top third of the crust. Downhole logging and continuing experimentation has resulted in a vast amount of data, reports of which have not circulated widely. Now, however, much of the work is summarized in a special issue of Journal of Geophysical Research — it will provide a great deal for geologists and geophysicists to ruminate on.

    • Bruce Yardley
  • News & Views |

    The lightest possible filling for a balloon would be a vacuum. But how could such a balloon be made to withstand atmospheric pressure? Daedalus's answer is a graded-cell polymeric foam which is used to coat a mould: the largest cell, the remains of the mould's original interior space, will contain vacuum. Light yet durable, when released such balloons will rise to a certain height, say 20 km up, and be ideal platforms as relays for cellular telephony.

    • David Jones

News and Views Feature

  • News and Views Feature |

    At the beginning of this month, Stanley Prusiner of the University of California, San Francisco, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the infectious agent that causes spongiform encephalopathies _ the prion. His ‘protein-only’ theory now has many advocates, and the advances that have been made, the questions that remain and the ways in which these could be addressed are discussed in this feature.

    • Adriano Aguzzi
    •  & Charles Weissmann

Art and Science

  • Art and Science |

    Leonardo da Vinci is almost as well remembered for his scientific investigations as for his paintings and sculpture. His work as an artist was informed by his insight into science, as his system of ‘natural laws’ demonstrates.

    • Martin Kemp

Scientific Correspondence

Book Reviews

Articles

Letters

New on the Market

  • New on the Market |

    With some 25,000 participants descending on New Orleans, attendees of the Society for Neuroscience meeting must be wondering how to cover such an event. Here are some ideas on new products that may be on exposition. compiled by Brendan Horton from information provided by the manufacturers.

Erratum

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