Volume 390 Issue 6657, 20 November 1997


  • Opinion |

    An agreement between the United States and developing countries, brokered by Japan, could ensure a successful outcome for the forthcoming conference of the United Nations climate convention at Kyoto.


  • News |


    Carbon emissions in the United States will soar to more than one-third higher than their 1990 levels by 2010 if current trends continue.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |


    Wilbur Trafton, the official in charge of the US space station and space shuttle programmes, announced his resignation last week after less than two years in the post.

    • Tony Reichhardt
  • News |


    Approval for the European Union s fifth five-year Framework programme of research (FP5), due to begin towards the end of next year, is likely to be delayed.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |


    Leading climate scientists in China have concluded that the country's long-term economic and environmental interests would be best served by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |


    Universities in Bavaria, Germany's largest state, will become the first to have explicit mechanisms for ensuring research excellence, competition for grants and budget autonomy.

    • Quirin Schiermeier
  • News |


    Senior officials at the US National Institutes of Health last week decided to end a special category of grants restricted to new investigators.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |


    Recipients of funds from the National Institutes of Health have been forced to spend large amounts of time writing applications for other grants to supplement their meagre laboratory costs.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |


    South Korea plans almost to double its support for biotechnology next year under a promised investment of US$18 billion from government and industry over a 14-year period.

    • David Swinbanks
  • News |


    Japan's troubled prototype advanced thermal nuclear reactor, Fugen, will continue operating for a further five years out of consideration for its 300 employees and because of its contribution to the local economy.

    • Asako Saegusa

News in Brief




  • Commentary |

    A scientific consensus that humans are influencing the climatewill be behind any agreements on greenhouse-gas reductions nextmonth. But how can climate research have an optimal influenceon climate policy in the future?

    • Klaus Hasselmann

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    There is a broad consensus that emissions of greenhouse gases, principally CO2, must be reduced to minimize any adverse effects of climate change. But fierce argument attends the question ‘How quickly?’.

    • Kilaparti Ramakrishna
  • News & Views |

    The roundwormCaenorhabditis elegans is a unique and useful model for studying animal development. The formation of the roundworm's 558 cells from a few embryonic parent cells is a process that does not vary from embryo to embryo. A new report shows that the gene lit-1helps to maintain this remarkable invariance by maintaining the correct anterior and posterior fates of embryonic cells.

    • Bruce Bowerman
  • News & Views |

    The electrical resistance of certain materials changes enormously in a magnetic field. It has been hard to explain the magnitude of this 'colossal magnetoresistance'; but now in one group of materials — the cubic manganese perovskites — a partial explanation may have been found. In the conducting state, there is a sea of electrons, much as there is in a metal; in the high-resistance state, the current-carrying electrons are localized at atomic sites. Current can still flow, but the movement of electrons causes a physical distortion, and it appears to be this distortion that makes the resistance so high.

    • Neil Mathur
  • News & Views |

    distribution of plants, to which can now be added the eating and defecation habits of howler monkeys and tapirs, both of which are inhabitants of tropical forests in South America. These animals consume the fruits of certain plant species, then deposit the seeds elsewhere, beneath monkey dormitories or at tapir latrines, after they have passed through the gut. This general phenomenon is well known: the twists are that this activity can transport seeds beyond the immediate vicinity of high seed mortality from other predators, and can help to account for the clumping of certain plants in tropical forests.

    • Peter D. Moore
  • News & Views |

    The Great Circle of Stanton Drew is the second largest stone circle in Britain, after Avebury. Now archaeologists have discovered traces of a remarkably elaborate wooden henge underneath it — nine huge circles that mark where post-holes were once dug. This was done without excavation, but by scanning the ground with a highly sensitive magnetometer.

    • Elizabeth Aveling
  • News & Views |

    Diffusion is a widespread phenomenon, responsible for brownian motion and for mixing particles in a fluid. Now an experiment has shown that it can cause startlingly large fluctuations in the process of mixing two fluids. The fluctuations will be larger still in a low-gravity environment, so experiments in free fall may find some manifestations of diffusive motion to be profoundly changed.

    • David A. Weitz
  • News & Views |

    The solar wind has two distinct components, slow and fast. Where on the surface of the Sun to they originate?. In January, the Sun occulted our line of sight to the Galileo satellite on its tour of Jupiter's moons, and so provided a remarkable bonus for Solar physicists. The scintillation of radio signals from Galileo, as they passed through the Sun's atmosphere, shows that the slow wind comes from equatorial 'streamers' in the corona, and the fast wind comes from the whole solar surface — not just the polar regions, as had been thought.

    • Karen Southwell
  • News & Views |

    Many viruses carry their genetic information in the form of RNA, and with the exception of the retroviruses replicate entirely through RNA intermediates. One such virus is lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, which has now been caught red-handed in the act of illicit synthesis of DNA — seemingly through the agency of the reverse transcriptase enzyme used by retroviruses to produce DNA from an RNA template. The authors have taken great pains to rule out the possibility that this result is a false-positive artefact of the polymerase chain reaction, leaving a tantalizing puzzle that remains to be solved.

    • Robin A. Weiss
    •  & Paul Kellam
  • News & Views |

    Mutations are believed to introduce genetic novelty and so are considered a crucial process in evolution. Nearly 50 years ago it was postulated that if mutations were caused by the copying of mistakes during cell division, then males should have higher mutation rates than females because of the greater number of cell divisions involved in the formation of sperm compared with the formation of eggs. This hypothesis has now been confirmed by calculation of the mutation rate in a pair of genes on the sex chromosomes (Z and W) of birds. Male birds with two Z chromosomes were found to have a higher mutation rate than female birds with a Z and a W chromosome.

    • Kate Lessells
  • News & Views |

    The publication of the complete genome sequence of the Gram positive bacterium,Bacillus subtilis, is sure to make a big contribution to understanding other bacteria in this group. Gram positive bacteria include some of the nastiest pathogens known to man, such as those that cause botulism, pneumonia and tuberculosis. The B. subtilisgenome has yielded many surprises including a greater than expected number of genes that encode regulators of transcription. Furthermore, genes were found for as many as 77 different types of transporter proteins, which have the job of importing nutrients into the bacteria and expelling toxic agents such as antibiotics.

    • James A. Hoch
    •  & Richard Losick
  • News & Views |

    Human body fat melts at about 17°C, so that the body can store it in liquid form. Daedalus proposes adjusting this temperature to provide personal central heating. DREADCO's ‘oligomolecular’ fatty diet will contain just one or two specific fats, the mixture tailored to melt just below core body temperature. The dieter's body fat will soon acquire this melting point. In the cold the fat will gradually solidify, and its latent heat of freezing will keep the user warm for up to several hours.

    • David Jones

Art and Science

  • Art and Science |

    Swiss sculptor Max Bill, working in the middle of this century, created forms aiming to visualize intuitively the mathematics of his day, with their structure determined by a sense of the way space could be ‘energized’.

    • Martin Kemp

Scientific Correspondence

Book Review


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