National Academies Press: OpenBook

Science at the Frontier (1992)

Chapter: Front Matter

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1992. Science at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1859.
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SCIENCE AT THE FRONTIER

Volume I

by

ADDISON GREENWOOD

with Marcia F. Bartusiak, Barbara A. Burke, and Edward Edelson
for the

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1992

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1992. Science at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1859.
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NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
2101 Constitution Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Press is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

Support for this project was provided by the National Research Council's Basic Science Fund and the National Science Foundation.

International Standard Book Number 0-309-04592-4

International Standard Serial Number 1065-3082

Cover: View of Earth as photographed from the Apollo 17 spacecraft (courtesy of NASA). Magnetic resonance image of a patient's head indicating the shape and location of a tumor (reprinted, by permission, from H.E. Cline et al., 1990. Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography 14(6):1037-1045). A young star in the Orion Nebula as shown in a photograph made with the Wide-Field/Planetary camera on the Hubble Space Telescope (courtesy of NASA). Magnified fragment of the Mandelbrot set (courtesy of J.H. Hubbard, Cornell University).

Copyright 1992 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1992. Science at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1859.
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Foreword

Stephen Jay Gould once remarked that "great scientists have an instinct for the fruitful and the doable." In science, as in most human activities, taste matters—selecting topics that truly advance a field by virtue of new theories, new techniques, or the ineluctable power of new ideas, that break new ground rather than walking over old trails.

This volume testifies by example to the power of "the fruitful and the doable." Whether suggesting the deep insights offered by the mathematics of dynamical systems, discussing the distribution of galaxies, analyzing the intricate and fleeting events that enable photosynthesis and hence life, or outlining computational approaches to sorting out the elaborate complexities of air pollution, each of the chapters in this volume affirms the richness, opportunities, and frontiers of contemporary science.

And each affirms the talent and breadth of the generation now on the verge of assuming the leadership of American science. The work presented in this volume is in almost every instance that of young scientists, 45 years old and under, each already highly distinguished in her or his field. These scientists presented their work at an annual symposium, the Frontiers of Science, organized by the National Academy of Sciences. This remarkable—and to those able to attend it, exhilarating—event brings together the very best young scientists. It is not only the speakers who are carefully selected by their peers, but also the audience. The scientists invited to be in the audience already have accomplished much and have been recognized for their achieve-

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1992. Science at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1859.
×

ments, by the conferring of such highly distinguished awards as the Waterman, and Packard or Sloan fellowships. Further, several of those who have participated in the Frontiers symposia have gone on to win Nobel prizes, MacArthur "genius" awards, or the Fields Medal, perhaps the premier award in core mathematics, or have been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

The Frontiers of Science symposia were first suggested by Roy Schwitters, now director of the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. Their purpose is to enable leading young scientists to present and discuss their work with their peers in other fields, at a level intelligible across fields. The rule is that, for example, a molecular biologist should understand a talk given by a geologist, and vice versa. The first Frontiers symposium, held in 1989, was made possible through the generous support of the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation, as well as by provision of National Academy of Sciences' institutional funds. Since then, the National Science Foundation and the Academy have continued to provide support for the Frontiers symposia. About 100 scientists have attended each of the three symposia held so far—to listen, and to share ideas, techniques, and their excitement over several days and nights.

It is these people who are the immediate audience for this volume, Science at the Frontier. At the same time, many of us involved in the Frontiers symposia have come to believe that the work presented in these discussions—indeed representing the frontiers of contemporary science—should be made available to a wider, not necessarily scientific audience that nevertheless may share with the Frontiers participants a passion for currency in the exploration of nature in all its forms. Translating that goal into a book accessible to a wide audience was not easy and required not only the work of talented science writers but also the help, and patience, of the participants whose work is reported in this volume, to assure that their work was fairly and accurately presented.

We are now at work on similar volumes for the 1991 and 1992 Frontiers symposia. Individually and as a set, these volumes will provide to the larger public a view of the dynamics and achievements of the American science that they so generously support and that has so richly benefited and will continue to benefit us all.

Frank Press, President

National Academy of Sciences

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1992. Science at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1859.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1992. Science at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1859.
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SCIENCE AT THE FRONTIER

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Science at the Frontier takes you on a journey through the minds of some of the nation's leading young scientists as they explore the most exciting areas of discovery today.

Based on the second Frontiers of Science symposium sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, this book describes recent accomplishments and new directions in ten basic fields, represented by outstanding scientists convening to discuss their research. It captures the excitement and personal quality of these exchanges, sometimes pointing to surprising connections spanning the boundaries of traditional disciplines, while providing a context for the reader that explains the basic scientific framework for the fields under discussion.

The volume explores

  • New modifications to scientific theory as geologists probe deep inside the earth and astrophysicists reach to the limits of the observable universe for answers to some of nature's most fundamental and vexing questions.
  • The influence of research in smog formation on the public debate about how to effectively control air pollution.
  • The increasing use of computer modeling in science, from describing the evolution of cellular automata to revealing the workings of the human brain via neural networks.
  • The rise of dynamical systems (the study of chaotic behavior in nature) to a full-fledged science.
  • The search to understand the regulation of gene activity and the many biological problems--such as the onset of cancer--to which it applies.
  • Recent progress in the quest to transform what we know about photosynthesis into functional, efficient systems to tap the sun's energy.
  • Current developments in magnetic resonance imaging and its promise for new breakthroughs in medical diagnosis.

Throughout this work the reader is witness to scientific discovery and debate centered on such common concerns as the dramatic and transforming effect of computers on scientists' thinking and research; the development of more cross-disciplinary perspectives; and the very nature of the scientific enterprise itself--what it is to be part of it, and its significance for society.

Science at the Frontier is must reading for informed lay readers, scientists interested in fields other than their own, and science students considering a future specialization.

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