Science: Theoretically...

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The Independent Culture
GALILEO GALILEI is on the Net. Or at least, his manuscripts - in which he wrote ideas, drawings and calculations - are. Available as high-resolution images of the 300-odd folios, they date from the 1580s, when Galileo was a professor at the University of Pisa (the city where he did his experiments on dropping objects from leaning towers). The texts are available at http://www.imss.fi.it/ and http://www.mpiwg-berlin.mpg. de/. Similar efforts to put Albert Einstein's works online had to be abandoned, due to copyright disputes.

IS IT a bird? It is. Ornithologists have discovered a new species, one of a group of tropical forest birds living in the high Andes, where it is threatened with extinction by forest clearance. Scientists hope that by announcing its existence, they can avert that fate. The American team that found the bird did so after hearing its unfamiliar song.

AFTER SCIENTIFIC fraud, now scientific espionage is a reality. A Californian biotechnology company has been fined $200,000 after being found guilty of stealing research from a former junior researcher at the University of California at San Diego. Agouron Pharmaceuticals was ruled to have stolen the technology for growing crystals of rat DNA polymerase , potentially valuable because it is reckoned to repair DNA. Now the wronged researcher, Huguette Pelletier, wants Cell magazine to retract a March 1994 article published by researchers from Agouron. "I still want the paper retracted," she said, claiming the verdict was made by scientifically unknowledgeable people who "made the wrong decision". Court evidence suggested that a mole at the UCSD lab passed techniques on to the company. Cell magazine said it would not retract the paper.

THE "ONCOMOUSE", genetically engineered to be susceptible to cancer, cannot be patented in Canada, a judge has ruled. Though the US has granted such a patent (the European Patent Office has dithered on it) the judge said Harvard University - which filed the claim - had "not invented the mouse", only the process. Harvard is expected to appeal.

PERHAPS UNSURPRISINGLY, India has boosted its budget for atomic research by 30 per cent. Officials insist that this is solely to help generate more nuclear electricity, and that the decision was taken before last month's underground tests. But the bombs were being built before the tests - and the increase is the first major rise in the budget in 30 years. A quite remarkable coincidence.

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