Friday, May 24, 2002
1. PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM: STEPHEN JAY
GOULD DIES AT 60.
In the never ending battle against those who turn to religious
myths rather than science to explain why things are the way they are,
science has lost one of its most eloquent and beloved champions. Years
of intense pain from the cancer that finally claimed his life never dimmed
his sense of humor or his fierce determination to tell the story of evolution
with such clarity and logic that people could not help but understand.
Evolution, Gould argued, is not a steady progression toward some goal,
but abrupt spurts of adaptation to an environment reshuffled by cosmic
accidents. This is not the age of man, he argued, nor was there an age
of the dinosaur; it is, as it has always been, the age of bacteria.
2. MISCONDUCT? BELL LABS APPOINTS A
PANEL TO INVESTIGATE.
Rumors of serious misconduct charges leveled at the world's
most successful laboratory (eleven Bell Labs researchers have shared in
six Nobel prizes) suddenly burst forth on the pages of the New York Times.
Lucent Technologies had responded to the accusations by appointing an
independent panel of high-level scientists to investigate. We can recall
no similar action by a major research lab. It reflects the importance
Lucent attaches to the almost mythic reputation of Bell Labs, as well
as the significance of the work, which included a single molecule electronic
3. SECRECY: "THE EINSTEIN FILE" BY FRED
Most physicists carry around in their heads a collection
of Einstein anecdotes, such as his response to a reporter who asked: "Will
they ever invent an anti-gravity machine?" "They already have," Einstein
solemnly replied, "its called an elevator." But, "The Einstein File: J.
Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist" paints
a picture of an Einstein of whom most scientists have been only vaguely
aware: Einstein the astute politician and passionate civil rights champion.
Fortunately, Fred Jerome waged his own two-year war in the courts to make
the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) do what it was meant to do. The
government was compelled to release a less-censored copy of Einstein's
1500 page FBI file. In the McCarthy era, Einstein saw reflections of the
fascism he fled Germany to avoid. In today's developing climate of secrecy,
scientists may see reflections of the Einstein file.
What's New was shortened this week. Bob Park is recovering
from surgery related to his encounter with a tree. We expect to have him
back in the office next week. (Christy Ann Fernandez contributed to this
weeks What's New.)