Volume 398 Issue 6725, 25 March 1999

Opinions

  • Opinion |

    A proposal to convert some of Japan's best basic research institutes into autonomous agencies is fine in principle but could be disastrous without far more thought about the nature of their activities.

News

  • News |

    london While deep disposal remains its preferred way to deal with radioactive waste, the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology acknowledges that many technical questions need to be answered.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    tokyo Japanese scientists are worried about a government plan to turn 14 basic research institutes attached to the science ministry into 'agencies' with greater administrative independence.

    • Asako Saegusa
  • News |

    london Women physicists in the United States face obstacles to their career progression because many are married to physicists, or other scientists.

    • Natasha Loder
  • News |

    san diego The University of California at San Francisco has begun developing a new life-sciences research campus at a cost of up to $1.5 billion.

    • Rex Dalton
  • News |

    munich German science suffered less damage during the Nazi era than has been commonly assumed, according to a controversial new book.

    • Quirin Schiermeier
  • News |

    geneva CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, is stepping up its technology-transfer activities in response to pressure from its 19 member states.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |

    munich The time is right to campaign for a relaxation of Germany's tight laws on human embryo research, according to the DFG, Germany's basic research funding agency.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |

    washington Security is being tightened at US nuclear weapons laboratories following the sacking of a Los Alamos engineer for an alleged security breach at the New Mexico laboratory.

    • Wil Lepkowski
  • News |

    london Britain's largest science trade unions have called on scientists and employers to pay closer attention to continuing professional development.

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    cape town Sibusiso Bengu, South Africa's outgoing Minister of Education, has attacked the management of the universities set up for non-white ethnic groups during the apartheid era.

    • Michael Cherry
  • News |

    london Britain's life scientists want to retain a formal role in the government's Foresight exercise following the abolition of the Foresight life-sciences panel.

    • Ehsan Masood

News in Brief

Correspondence

Commentary

  • Commentary |

    Does society need protecting from scientific advances? Most emphatically not, so long as scientists themselves and their employers are committed to full disclosure of what they know.

    • Lewis Wolpert

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    An exceptionally complete skeleton, dating back roughly 140-150 million years, offers our closest look yet at the last common ancestor of modern mammals.

    • Timothy Rowe
  • News & Views |

    There has long been a desire for ultrashort X-ray diffraction to study structures that change in real time. Large synchotron sources can generate X-ray pulses lasting less than a picosecond. Now, advances in high-power lasers have brought sub-picosecond X-ray diffraction to the laboratory bench — to probe the physics of ultrasonic waves in a semiconductor crystal.

    • Justin Wark
  • News & Views |

    Insects have a highly developed sense of smell — some can detect pheromones several miles away. But relatively little is known about how they do this. Now, two groups have identified a number of candidate odorant-receptor genes in the fruitfly. These genes encode membrane receptor proteins that probably mediate recognition of odorants in the fly.

    • Yitzhak Pilpel
    •  & Doron Lancet
  • News & Views |

    Is the Universe a homogenous and orderly place, as the 'cosmological principle' asserts? Not if studies of galaxy clusters are to be believed. Evidence that distant galaxy clusters are flowing with an unexpectedly high velocity relative to the background radiation, challenges long-held notions about the large-scale structure of the Universe.

    • Peter Coles
  • News & Views |

    In terms of patterns of temperature and precipitation, European winters can be markedly different from year to year. These patterns seem to stem from the prevailing state of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which depends on the relative intensity of atmospheric pressure centres over Iceland and the Azores. Innovative modelling work provides a step towards predicting the state of the NAO, and its consequences, based on sea-surface temperatures.

    • Yochanan Kushnir
  • News & Views |

    When signals are transmitted from eye to brain there is inevitably a delay as they are processed by the brain. To circumvent this delay, the visual system can anticipate the path of moving stimuli. This anticipation was always assumed to be controlled by high-level areas of the motion cortex, but the surprising new finding is that it's actually accomplished, to a large extent, by the retina.

    • Karl Gegenfurtner
  • News & Views |

    Seismic waves created by large earthquakes can tell us a lot about the inner structure of the Earth. Studies of 'normal mode' oscillations — standing wave patterns — are providing a more complete picture of the Earth's mantle, and may help distinguish between competing theories of mantle convection.

    • R. Widmer-Schnidrig
  • News & Views |

    Marine phytoplankton provide a good dinner for grazing zooplankton, and this was always thought to be how the phytoplankton die. But they may, in fact, simply die and lyse without even being touched by a grazer. A new study documents huge levels of phytoplankton lysis in surface waters of the northwestern Mediterranean Sea — equivalent to up to 50% of phytoplankton growth.

    • David L. Kirchman
  • News & Views |

    Is it possible to reach a regime of ultimate turbulence in thermal convection? Previous experiments with mercury and helium have suggested a transition towards this regime. But an extended experiment with mercury failed to find any evidence for this 'ultimate' state. This issue influences our understanding of large-scale systems such as the atmosphere — a complex case of natural convection.

    • Joël Sommeria
  • News & Views |

    Fungi and mushrooms live in damp environments but need to escape from such watery backgrounds and grow up into the air in order to sporulate. It turns out that the fungus does this with the help of masses of small proteins known as hydrophobins: these cause the surface tension of the aqueous medium to drop so that the fungal hypha can readily push its way out into the air.

    • Nicholas J. Talbot
  • News & Views |

    Daedalus dreams of an active porous catalyst, such as a piezoelectric zeolite, in which molecular reactions take place in expanding and contracting cavities. Driving this activity up to megahertz frequencies should increase the chemical output of such devices, with potential for creating new molecules.

    • David Jones

Scientific Correspondence

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