Volume 390 Issue 6658, 27 November 1997


  • Opinion |

    The plan to merge Japan's Science and Technology Agency with the education ministry is fraught with pitfalls but offers some opportunities.

  • Opinion |

    It is time for France's National Assembly to flex atrophied nuclear muscles.


  • News |


    Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has joined a growing band of prominent politicians calling for a doubling of government spending on biological and biomedical research.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |


    A 15-year programme to explore options for the disposal of nuclear waste has come under attack from politicians, who claim it is biased in favour of just one option: geological storage.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |


    The management of radioactive waste in the UK should be taken over by a new commission, independent of the nuclear industry, says a report by Britain's Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |


    Australia has announced what could be the world's weakest greenhouse gas target: 18 per cent above 1990 levels by 2010. Emissions currently stand at 28 per cent above 1990 levels.

    • Peter Pockley
  • News |


    Canada has proposed a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, confirming its transformation from one of the world's politically 'greenest' countries to one of the most environmentally cautious.

    • David Spurgeon
    •  & Ehsan Masood
  • News |


    A leading Indian environmental groups has criticized the prime minister for agreeing to make "significant reductions" to greenhouse gas emissions after the Kyoto conference.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |


    US president Bill Clinton has picked Stuart Eizenstat, a senior state department official, to lead the United States delegation to the climate talks in Kyoto.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |


    A team that has just been granted British patent rights on a gene whose mutations are linked to breast cancer has agreed to license the use of genetic data on the mutation in strictly agreed circumstances.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |


    The US National Science Foundation has hired an expert to help researchers get through the possibility of widespread computer failures on 1 January 2000 with minimal disruption.

    • Steve Nadis
  • News |


    Europe's space ministers have been told that the 'Mars Express' mission to the red planet will have to be abandoned unless they raise the science budget of the European Space Agency.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |


    AIDS sufferers will not benefit from combination therapies unless researchers can persuade patients to follow the complex drug regimens involved.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |


    Developing countries are being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic more rapidly than ever, according to the United Nations AIDS programme.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |


    Japan is to merge the Ministry for Education, Science, Sports and Culture (Monbusho) with the Science and Technology Agency to create a new Ministry of Education, Science and Technology

    • Asako Saegusa
  • News |


    The legal tussle about rights to the thermal enzyme Taq DNA polymerase has taken a new turn with a decision by the Australian Patent Office (APO) to withdraw patent rights issued to Swiss company Hoffmann-La Roche on the native form of the enzyme.

    • David Dickson

News in Brief




News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The relentless growth of tumours depends on a good blood supply, and thus on subverting host mechanisms for making blood vessels. Attack on that process provides a promising route for treating cancer, but one that may take some years to reach clinical fruition.

    • Robert S. Kerbel
  • News & Views |

    A polymerization is 'living' if monomers are attached one by one to each growing polymer chain until the supply is exhausted — that is, there is no termination or chain transfer. A new living polymerization of amino-acid-based polymers should yield materials with precisely controlled structures, and with unprecedented combinations of physical properties. The prospects for application in biomedical engineering, drug delivery and selective separations appear to be excellent.

    • David A. Tirrell
  • News & Views |

    It has taken many years for acceptance of the principle that animals can navigate using a magnetic sense. The main problem has been in identifying an appropriate receptor. The discovery of magnetite, a permanently magnetic material, in various organisms provided an answer, but tracing the sensory system in vertebrates has proved difficult. New work with trout now takes knowledge a step further: the authors have mapped magnetoreceptive nerves back to the brain and to putative receptor cells. The next step is to establish whether or not the reflections in these cells, seen with confocal laser microscopy, are indeed caused by crystals of magnetite.

    • Joseph L. Kirschvink
  • News & Views |

    There is plenty of evidence on land that, from time to time, the Earth is hit by large extraterrestrial bodies. Not surprisingly, such impacts in the oceans leave little such evidence. But 30 years ago a site in the Southern Ocean was identified as a place where a bolide, known as the Eltanin meteorite, hit some 2.16 million years ago. A new survey, including the drilling of three cores at different depths, provides fresh data on the impact and its consequences: the impact left no crater on the sea floor, but it still could have been up to 4 kilometres in diameter.

    • Jan Smit
  • News & Views |

    How do genes interact to create and maintain a whole organism? A handle on this question comes from various experiments onEscherichia coli, some of which involve creating random pairs of mutations and comparing the results on the bacterium's 'fitness' with those of bacteria with only one of the mutations. In about half of the cases fitness was clearly different, meaning that many apparently unrelated genes affect each other's function. The implications are considerable, not least for those interested in evolutionary theories of sex — a popular version of which holds that sex allows the efficient elimination of deleterious mutations.

    • Sarah P. Otto
  • News & Views |

    A century ago, Walter Rosenhain proposed that metals have amorphous layers at their grain boundaries. This has since been shown experimentally to be false, but now the idea has been revived for a different material. A computer simulation has shown that between silicon crystal grains with a certain range of orientations, there should be a stable glassy layer.

    • Robert W. Cahn
  • News & Views |

    Muscles contain interdigitating filaments of actin and myosin, which are connected by cross-bridges (myosin heads) driven by ATP hydrolysis. What goes on in molecular terms during muscle contraction remains a matter of debate, however, and was the topic of a European meeting in September. Discussion centred on crystal structures of the cross-bridge and actin at atomic resolution, and the development of assays to follow events at the single-molecule level. Fresh ways of looking at muscle disease also came in for consideration.

    • Clive R. Bagshaw
  • News & Views |

    When did galaxies form? Some believe that they have evolved through a complex series of interactions over most of the age of the Universe; others that many galaxies were created in a well-defined event at a very early time. Now a survey of the colours of very distant galaxies has found that ellipticals are very scarce in the early Universe, supporting the idea that ellipticals, and galaxies in general, form by mergers of smaller precursor galaxies.

    • Guinevere Kauffmann


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The possible benefits of an 'oligomolecular diet', consisting of a few fats whose mixture melts only just below the human core body-temperature, are further pursued this week. This time the problem to be tackled is obesity — by solidifying the fat in certain parts of the body with a cold pack, fat could be lost selectively from other parts. There may be drawbacks to this plan, but overweight DREADCO volunteers are now putting it to the test.

    • David Jones

Art and Science

  • Art and Science |

    The English painter George Stubbs, best known for his pictures of horses, was recognized in his own lifetime for the anatomical exactitude of his work. His reputation led him into the debates about creation and extinction.

    • Martin Kemp

Scientific Correspondence


Book Review


  • Article |

    • Hans-Peter Klenk
    • , Rebecca A. Clayton
    • , Jean-Francois Tomb
    • , Owen White
    • , Karen E. Nelson
    • , Karen A. Ketchum
    • , Robert J. Dodson
    • , Michelle Gwinn
    • , Erin K. Hickey
    • , Jeremy D. Peterson
    • , Delwood L. Richardson
    • , Anthony R. Kerlavage
    • , David E. Graham
    • , Nikos C. Kyrpides
    • , Robert D. Fleischmann
    • , John Quackenbush
    • , Norman H. Lee
    • , Granger G. Sutton
    • , Steven Gill
    • , Ewen F. Kirkness
    • , Brian A. Dougherty
    • , Keith McKenney
    • , Mark D. Adams
    • , Brendan Loftus
    • , Scott Peterson
    • , Claudia I. Reich
    • , Leslie K. McNeil
    • , Jonathan H. Badger
    • , Anna Glodek
    • , Lixin Zhou
    • , Ross Overbeek
    • , Jeannine D. Gocayne
    • , Janice F. Weidman
    • , Lisa McDonald
    • , Teresa Utterback
    • , Matthew D. Cotton
    • , Tracy Spriggs
    • , Patricia Artiach
    • , Brian P. Kaine
    • , Sean M. Sykes
    • , Paul W. Sadow
    • , Kurt P. D'Andrea
    • , Cheryl Bowman
    • , Claire Fujii
    • , Stacey A. Garland
    • , Tanya M. Mason
    • , Gary J. Olsen
    • , Claire M. Fraser
    • , Hamilton O. Smith
    • , Carl R. Woese
    •  & J. Craig Venter



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