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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. A Positron Named Priscilla: Scientific Discovery at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2110.
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A POSITRON NAMED Priscilla

SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY AT THE FRONTIER

Marcia Bartusiak,

Barbara Burke,

Andrew Chaikin,

Addison Greenwood,

T. A. Heppenheimer,

Michelle Hoffman

David Holzman,

Elizabeth J. Maggio, and

Anne Simon Moffat

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C. 1994

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. A Positron Named Priscilla: Scientific Discovery at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2110.
×

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. Bruce M. Alberts 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. Bruce M. Alberts 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.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

A Positron named Priscilla / by Marcia Bartusiak … [et al.].

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-309-04893-1

1. Discoveries in science. 2. Creative ability in science. 3. Research. I. Bartusiak, Marcia, 1950-.

Q180.55.D57P67 1994

500—dc20 93-49495

CIP

Copyright 1994 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. A Positron Named Priscilla: Scientific Discovery at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2110.
×

Foreword

A Positron Named Priscilla is about exciting new vistas in science. Not only does it chronicle scientific progress, it affords a snapshot of the true frontiers of science across a range of fast-paced research fields.

The topics presented in these pages matter. Gene replication, earthquake prediction, the medical battle against AIDS, nanotechnology—everyone is affected by advances in these fields. Other breakthroughs—our ability to glimpse the craggy face of Venus or manipulate individual atoms on a surface — also appeal to our sense of wonder.

A Positron Named Priscilla is about a fascination with science. It both poses and answers the questions: "How did we get to this point?" and "Where must we go from here?" A fitting place to embark on the story of scientific endeavor at the leading edge.

Each year, beginning in 1989, the National Academy of Sciences has hosted an extraordinary symposium called the Frontiers of Science. The meeting is about communication among and between scientists. For three days, some of the nation's and the world's top young researchers—Packard and Sloan fellows, Waterman and MacArthur award winners, Fields medalists, younger members of the National Academy of Sciences—meet at the Academy's Beckman Center in Irvine, California, to report on their current work to peers outside their discipline. For many here, that can be an unfamiliar task. All at once, these scientists cannot assume their audience will understand their specialized terminology or appreciate the rationale for their experimental approaches.

As one might expect, they remain undaunted. Over the course of the

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. A Positron Named Priscilla: Scientific Discovery at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2110.
×

symposium, these extraordinary scientists explain what they do and why they do it. They surprise themselves by discovering how an idea can bridge disciplines. They compare notes on the challenges they face in the laboratory, or behind the telescope, or in the field. Finally they revel in their enterprise. These are, after all, adventurers and explorers.

A Positron Named Priscilla allows a larger audience to join in this adventure. Like the Frontiers of Science symposium itself, the creation of this book has been an effort at communication. Top science writers have worked diligently to fill in the background and lend cohesiveness to the stories of research at the leading edge. Now everyone interested in the course of science can better appreciate the direction of scientific discovery while also learning something about the human dimension of science—that mixture of skill, dedication, and serendipity that sometimes leads to breakthroughs. In this volume, scientists no longer speak only among themselves, but to everyone. It is a discussion well worth having.

Bruce Alberts, President

National Academy of Sciences

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. A Positron Named Priscilla: Scientific Discovery at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2110.
×

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the following individuals for their generous assistance in the preparation of this volume:

Duncan Agnew, Tom Alber, Walter Alvarez, Laszlo Babai, Donald Bethune, Gregory Beylkin, Robert Cava, Sylvia Ceyer, Shirley Chiang, Steven Chu, Ralph Cicerone, Rick Dahlquist, Ingrid Daubechies, Mark Davis, David Donoho, Adrien Douady, Dennis Dougherty, Donald Eigler, Kevin Einsweiler, William Ellsworth, David Fahey, Marie Farge, Michael Frazier, Michael Freedman, Douglas Gough, Robert Grimm, Jerome Groopman, Alex Grossmann, Ashley Haase, Scott Hammer, Dennis Healy, Jr., Thomas Heaton, Michael Hopkins, John Hubbard, Eric Hunter, Piet Hut, John Huth, Harold Jaffee, Thomas James, Vaughan Jones, Maria Klawe, Eric Lander, Thorne Lay, F. Thomson Leighton, Nathan Lewis, Ken Libbrecht, Stéphane Mallat, Seth Marder, Marcia McNutt, Yves Meyer, Mario Molina, Alessandro Montanari, Richard Muller, Noriyuki Namiki, Erin O'Shea, Roger Phillips, William Press, David Rudman, Gerald Schaber, Jim Siegrist, Kerry Sieh, Jan Smit, Suzanne Smrekar, Sean Solomon, Michael Steigerwald, Bruce Stillman, Joann Stock, Robert Strichartz, Kevin Struhl, Robert Tarjan, Robert Tjian, William Thurston, Donald Turcotte, Randy Updike, Kerry Vahala, Robert Whetten, Victor Wickerhauser, John Wilkerson, and Richard Young

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. A Positron Named Priscilla: Scientific Discovery at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2110.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. A Positron Named Priscilla: Scientific Discovery at the Frontier. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2110.
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A Positron Named Priscilla is a book of wonder, offering a fascinating, readable overview of cutting-edge investigations by many of today's leading young scientists. Written for anyone who loves science, this volume reports on some of the most exciting recent discoveries and advances in fields from astronomy to molecular biology.

This new book is from one of the world's most prestigious scientific institutions, the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy provides an annual forum for the brightest young investigators to exchange ideas across disciplines--an exchange that was the spark for A Positron Named Priscilla.

Each chapter is authored by a popular science writer who offers helpful historical perspectives, clear and well-illustrated explanations of current scientific thinking, and previews of future developments. The scope of topics and breadth of discussion ensure interest at all levels. Topics include

  • Planetary science and the compelling glimpse through the clouded atmosphere of Venus afforded by the spacecraft Magellan.
  • Astrophysics and the emergence of helioseismology, a new field that allows researchers to probe the interior workings of the sun.
  • Biology and what we have learned about DNA in the 40 years since its discovery; our current understanding of protein molecules, the "building blocks" of living systems; and the high-tech search for answers to the AIDS epidemic.
  • Physics and our new-found ability to move and manipulate individual atoms on a surface. The book also tells the remarkable story of "buckyballs," or buckminsterfullerenes, a form of carbon discovered only a few years ago, that have the potential to be used in a variety of important applications, from superconductivity to nanotechnology.
  • Mathematics and the rise of "wavelet" theory, and how mathematicians are applying it in sometimes startling ways, from assisting the FBI with fingerprint storage to coaxing the secrets from a battered recording of Brahms playing the piano.
  • Geosciences and the search for "clocks in the earth" to make life-saving earthquake predictions.

A Positron Named Priscilla is a "must" read for anyone who wants to keep up with a broad range of scientific endeavor.

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