Volume 389 Issue 6654, 30 October 1997

Opinions

  • Opinion |

    After years of failed reforms, the time is ripe for the French government to loosen rigidities within academic institutions and the CNRS. Top of the list are the terms of employment of young researchers.

News

  • News |

    washington

    President Bill Clinton has sought to bridge the chasm between two audiences for his climate change policy -- the international community and the US Senate -- by doing what he does best, and offering a vague compromise designed to appease both groups.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |

    london

    The British government has brokered a deal between Australia and developing countries in which Australia has agreed to drop its opposition to a greenhouse gas reduction protocol in return for a commitment to "significant reductions" from developing countries at a later date.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    london

    The UN's advisory panel of climate scientists is to be expanded, and its procedures restructured according to Bob Watson, incoming chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    paris

    France's national research agency is to increase research funding for its 1,300 laboratories. The rise will be paid for by cuts in spending on large science facilities and strategic research programmes.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |

    paris

    France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), may be about to transfer the entire National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics to the atomic energy commission.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |

    london

    The UK government has agreed to strengthen the law on the use of animals in research. But there is little new money to fund alternatives to animals.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    munich

    Astronomers are assessing the damage caused by a fire that raged through the site of the High-Energy Gamma Ray Array (HEGRA) at La Palma in the Canary Islands, only months before it was due to start operating at full capacity.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |

    tokyo

    Japanese government proposals to transform the country's two leading universities -- Tokyo University and Kyoto University -- into independent agencies have met strong resistance from the universities themselves and from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture.

    • Asako Saegusa
  • News |

    washington

    The US National Institutes of Health has begun a pilot study of a new system of peer review that aims to cut down the time from the receipt of applications to when scientists see money -- or learn the reasons why they are not getting any.

    • Meredith Wadman

News Analysis

  • News Analysis |

    Despite an increase in the number of planetary missions, views are mixed about whether NASA's policy of ‘better, faster, cheaper’ is working.

    • Tony Reichhardt

News in Brief

Correspondence

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The loss of photosynthetically generated carbon from the ocean's surface waters is a central mechanism in the global carbon cycle. Analyses of the results from three independent techniques give us the best estimate yet of the scale of this ‘export’ process.

    • Scott C. Doney
  • News & Views |

    With the recent surge of interest in ageing, the report by Keller and Genoud showing that the type of social structure in ant and termite colonies determines longevity should be welcome news. In ant colonies with one egg-laying queen, the queen has a long lifespan; whereas in those colonies with many queens (which move frequently and so encounter more predators), the queens have shorter lifespans. Although intriguing, it is doubtful that this finding will translate into longer lifespans for humans, because many factors are probably involved in determining longevity.

    • Ross H. Crozier
  • News & Views |

    Imagine the applications that invisible electronic circuits, including active components such as diodes and transistors, might have. To make them, we need invisible conductors of two types _ some in which the charge carriers are electrons (n-type), and others in which they are holes (p-type). Invisible n-type conductors have been relatively easy to make, but only now is there an invisible thin-film p-type conductor with a conductivity approaching that needed for real applications.

    • Gordon Thomas
  • News & Views |

    Calcium is a crucial player in the contraction of both smooth and striated muscle. Smooth muscles regulate the size of the lumen of many different vessels including the arteries, airways, and gut, and so their abnormal contraction can cause diseases such as asthma or high blood pressure. A new drug called Y-27632, which specifically inhibits the Rho-associated kinases, renders smooth muscles less sensitive to calcium. Furthermore, this drug is able to reduce high blood pressure in animals. However, its benefits in treating patients with high blood pressure have yet to be elucidated.

    • A. P. Somlyo
  • News & Views |

    At a meeting earlier this month, scientists, coaches and athletes discussed the possible limits to human performance in track and field events. Themes that emerged were the scientists' involvement in helping to devise individualized training regimes, and in maximizing the assistance offered by shoes and the running or jumping surface. Another area of scientific concern is testing for banned drugs. But the constant refrain from the coaches and athletes themselves was of the importance of mental attitude in record-breaking -- their view is that acknowledgement of barriers to record-breaking is an acknowledgement of defeat.

    • Tim Lincoln
  • News & Views |

    How do pearls grow? Both pearls and mother of pearl are made of nacre, one of several substances that molluscs build their shells from. It consists of layers of aragonite crystal, sandwiched between fibrous organic layers that provide it with elasticity. But the whole organic matrix is constructed first, so why doesn't it get in the way of crystal growth? The answer is simple -- a scattering of small pores, which both allow material to be supplied for crystal growth and help align the crystals.

    • L. Addadi
    •  & S. Weiner
  • News & Views |

    Fish always orientate their bodies upstream, a behavioural response called rheotaxis. But just how they know which way the current is flowing has been a matter of some debate. New research shows that a series of sensory organs distributed over the head and neck of fishes (the lateral line system) may be the long sought sensor that detects the direction of current flow. This finding is particularly intriguing as research in the 1960s apparently ruled out involvement of the lateral line system in rheotaxis.

    • R. Glenn Northcutt
  • News & Views |

    Although much information exists about the Neanderthals of Europe who lived 130,000 years ago, their ancestors are still shrouded in mystery. A recent paper reports on the discovery of human fossils in the caves ofhe Sierra de Atapuerca in Spain. The fossils, which are 200,000-300,000 years old, bear some of the specialized anatomical hallmarks of the later Neanderthals, to whom the Atapuerca people may be related.

    • G. Philip Rightmire
  • News & Views |

    Interstellar gas rotates around the centre of the Galaxy more quickly than it ought to. Astronomers believe that this is caused by the gravity of dark matter; but Daedalus thinks it may be viscous drag, with the rapidly spinning central regions speeding up the outer parts, just like the water going down a plughole (the plughole in this case being the central black hole). He proposes that astronomers look for the gurgling noise that must be produced.

    • David Jones

Art and Science

  • Art and Science |

    A fascination with the principles behind structures led the Russian artist Naum Gabo to produce sculpture that looks as if it owes as much to engineering as to nature.

    • Martin Kemp

Scientific Correspondence

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