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UBC Publications

The 432 Nov 18, 1987

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Array UBC Archives Serial
Those totally
by Kyle R. Kirkwood
It is hard to imagine a scientist skulking
through the bush to stick a thermometer
under the tongue of a Tyrannosaurus, or up
the rectum of a Diplodocus. Yet many scientists would literally give up an arm or a
leg for the chance to solve a debate even
more fundamental than extinction. Were
the dinosaurs warm-blooded or coldblooded?
Classically, dinosaurs were thought of
as reptiles, because of their skeletal anatomy. The traditional syllogism of dinosaurs
held that because modern reptiles are coldblooded, the dinosaurs must have been
cold-blooded too. A fresh look at the
dinosaurs show many very non-reptilian
habits and many mammalian and bird-like
Like birds and mammals, dinosaurs
stood with their legs held in the vertical position below their	
hips and
shoulder while
the legs of
modern reptiles
WED   N   E   S   DAY
do not
feathers, fur or an
insulating fatty
layer to maintain
their body heat.
Ectotherms also
lack the ability to cool their
bodies by panting or perspiration. Endotherms have
four times the activity level
of ectotherms and are thus able to be active
day or night, under a variety of environmental conditions.
A great expenditure in time and energy
is spent in maintaining the subsistence
levels in endotherms. A Cheetah requires
its own weight in food every ten days, to
maintain a normal metabolism, while the
Komodo Dragon, a carnivorous lizard,
consumes its own weight in food every
sixty days. A cheetah's ten day diet could
easily sustain six Komodo dragons for a
The gigantic proportion of many of the
dinosaurs is equaled only by their gigantic
appetites, respiratory and cardiovascular
systems. Dentition and jaw shape detail a
herbivorous diet for most dinosaurs. An
African elephant eats 120 kilograms of
greenery a day and spend up to fifteen
hours foraging. A twenty-five ton "endo-
Hot & Heavy Gets a Cold Shoulder
extend outward from the sides of their
bodies. Long limbs and muscle-scars,
preserved on fossil bone, testify that many
dinosaurs stood erect and could move with
surprising speed. Fossil footprints reaffirm
the speed of many of the dinosaurs, and
indicate social groupings such as herds.
No cause and effect relationship
between posture and physiology have been
established, but only the dinosaurs and
modern endotherms (warm-blooded animals) had erect posture and a swift gait
(manner of walking or running). It seems
likely that the long term energy expenditure
required for the ostrich and horse like gaits
of some dinosaurs, is far in excess of the
levels attainable by modern ectotherms.
Cold-blooded, or ectothermic animals
such as the modern reptiles and amphibians
are dependent on their external environment to elevate their body temperature
whereas birds and mammals are endotherms capable of thermoregulation. Temperature regulation is possible because
endotherms produce their own heat by
having a high basal metabolism, fueled by
the oxidation of glucose and fatty acids.
thermic" Brontosaur would consume over
800 kilograms of fodder a day. Quite a feat
for an animal with a head the size of a
horse, not withstanding the fact that most of
the flora that sustains modern tetrapods did
not exist. The dinosaur's world lacked an-
giosperms, flowering plants, grasses and
grains, vegetables and fruits. The herbage
of the Mesozoic era was just about as
nutritious as dirt.
Birds and mammals have a four chambered heart, two chambers work at high
pressure to pump blood to the brain and
vital organs, the others at a low steady
pressure to maintain flow to the lungs
without damaging the fine network of the
body's capillary system. Reptiles have a
two chambered heart that works at low
pressure, although some crocodiles have an
imperfect */ersion of the four chambered
heart. The greater the vertical distance from
heart to brain, the greater the required
pressures. The single low pressure pump of
most reptiles would be useless, to the tall
standing Tyrannosaurus. The long necked
Brachiosaur, like the modern giraffe, would
it seems have had a double pump, four
chambered heart.
The imperfect
double pump of the
crocodile, helps
support this
hypothesis, an evolutionary path
emerges the
dinosaurs may have
followed. It also
indicates equally as
well that ectotherms can develop
four chambered
hearts independent
of endothermy.
Proof of endothermy in dinosaurs
is pre-emptory, it
can only be said
that the dinosaur
heart and circulatory systems were
capable of endothermy.
Armand de
Ricqles, a french
anatomist and ^
paleontologist at the University of Paris has
noted that dinosaur bones are riddled with
tiny channels resembling the secondary
Haversian canals found in mammals and
birds. Capillaries are routed through the
Haversian canals, which supply nourishment to bone cells and calcium and phosphorus to the bone as well. Dissolution and
   reformation of
secondary Haversian canals has
often been taken
as an index of
metabolic activity of an organism's mineral
intake. A more active animal, an endoth-
erm, would show greater activity because it
has to eat more to maintain its metabolism—therefore the more it eats the higher
its mineral intake.
The great size of the dinosaurs mean a
huge biochemical budget, supplied by their
vast appetites, which subsequently would
be equated as a large mineral source. Large
modern reptiles, such as crocodiles and
turtles have Haversian canals, many small
mammals do not. Haversian canals it seems
may be related to the overall growth rate
and body size rather than endothermy.
Endotherms grow quickly, ectotherms
much more slowly, a crocodile may grow to
full size in seven years, and ostrich in one
year. Lots of Haversian canals are indicative of fast growing bone, the canals of
crocodiles are generally less developed,
additionally crocodiles have arrest lines,
evincive of slow growth. Jack Horner of the
Montana State University's Museum of the
Rockies, surveyed the rate of growth of
embryonic and juvenile duck-billed
dinosaurs, Hardrosaurs. A fairly clear
IN.STIEN v.^01..
Theoketiq. ^iJLr-
UBC, Vancouver      November 18, 1987
picture of a thirty-three centimeter hatch-
ling growing to four meters in one year
emerged. The Hardrosaurs showed signs of
Haversian canals and no arrest lines,
obviously very rapid growth. The problem
in assuming this as proof that this dinosaur
was warm-blooded, lies in the assumption
that only endotherms show rapid growth,
their have been no studies of living animals
to support such a contention.
A good strategy if your adult form is
inherently big, is to be born big and eggs
can only be so large. The lack of Brontosaur
eggs, the pitted infant bones like that of
infant mammals, and the large birth canal of
the female has lead Robert Bakker, an avid
supporter of dinosaur endothermy and a
paleontologist at the University of Colorado, to theorize that Brontosaurs gave live
Some snakes give live birth, and the mammalian monotremes lay eggs as do birds,
proof or disproof of endothermy is once
more eluded.
Oddly enough the newly born Brontosaurs are about one-fourth their adult size,
while the Hardrosaurs were born one—
twenty-seventh their mature form. The
large sized Brontosaur grows at a much
slower rate, more like and ectotherm, the
Hardrosaur sprouts up like an endotherm.
The number of prey animals required
to support a vigorous predator community
can be expressed as the predator-prey ratio.
The carnivorous dinosaurs had big mouths,
large teeth and were able to consume large
quantities of high-protein flesh to sustain an
endothermic metabolism, as Bakker's
predator-prey ratio would seem to support.
Continued on page 4
AA^-iJ.  1111/ Page 2
The 432
November 18,1987
UBC Physics
Joins Race For
Superconductors. They could
change your life, says UBC
physicist Jess Brewer, who "can't
help but marvel a little bit" at the
latest phenomenon to cause high-
energy excitement in the physics
world. Superconductors transmit
power without loss of energy. The
trick is to make them at a reasonable cost.
"The world will never be the
sam," says Brewer. "Superconductors will allow us to develop
hydro-electric resources in the
country and move power down to
the cities with virtually zero loss of
energy. This is going to have
important industrial impacts."
And superconductors will impact
on many other areas such as
transportation, where magnetic
trains might be feasible; in medical
diagnosis, in the field of nuclear
magnetic resonance body-
imaging, and in super computers.
Although superconductors
were first discovered back in 1911,
Brewer says "there has been more
progress in the last six months
than in the last 50 years. Everybody wants to know more."
To date the problem has been
that known superconducting compounds have had to be cooled
with costly helium. So the search
over the past 75 years has been to
find compounds that would
become superconductors at less
extreme temperatures, particularly
above 77 Kelvin (-196 Celsius) the
point at which nitrogen gas, a
common and less expensive gas,
"Armies of physicists have
devoted their lives to the search
for a high temperature superconductor to no avail - now suddenly
it is sitting in our laps. Never in
the history of material science has
so dramatic a breakthrough
occurred so suddenly with such
complete awareness of its full
technological implications already
in place," Brewer said.
Last year, IBM in Zurich produced super-conducting compounds at 35 Kelvin. In recent experiments, U.S. physicists reported
producing a superconductor at 93
Kelvin (-180 Celsius).
As scientists around the globe
race to produce superconductors
and congregation of 1,000 physicists met in New YOrk to compare
notes, physicist Walter Hardy and
undergraduate student Reinhold
Krahn produced a superconductor
at UBC.
Brewer reports that someone
casually remarked "wouldn't it be
nice to have some of this material
at Open House. ONe thinks of
these things as highly sophisticated and very expensive, but
Walter simple looked at it and
said, 'it doesn't sound too hard to
UBC's first superconductor
was made at 35 Kelvin at Open
House, March 6, 7 and 8. Experiments have continued, and on
March 16 the physics department
made a superconductor at 92 Kelvin.
It's been a co-operative effort.
Since it is resistance that converts
electric energy into heat, it is important to measure electrical resistance, a job tackled by physicist
Jim Carolan and students Pinder
Dosanjh and Rob Low. Fortunately, UBC has a ceramics expert
in Asoke Chaklader, a professor of
metallurgical engineering who
with assistant Glenn Roemer is
now producing the material in
collaboration with the physicists.
It is hoped to develop improved
materials with appropriate
metallurgical properties for
practical application.
"We are riding on what other
researchers have done," says
Hardy, "At first we were working
on rumors, then on an actual recipe."
At TRIUMF, one of the few
facilities in the world where
equipment exists to probe inside
these materials, Brewer and other
researchers tested the UBC
superconductor and one from Bell
Laboratories in New Jersey.
"It's something the whole
world can't ignore. It is like the
invention of the transistor. It is
very hard to guess at the monumental effect it will have," says
Giant Jellyroll
Preserved at
Every now and again nature
produces a cruiosity, an exager-
ated feature far removed from the
norm. One local geological feature
is so unusual that the BC government recently stepped in to make
a life-sized impression of it. The
four by seven metre cast has just
been installed in UBC's M.Y.
Williams Geological Museum.
The Lytton jellyroll is not, as
its name suggests, a tasty local
dessert. It's a sedimentary
formation of sand and clay tha
tgeologists call a turbidite, and is
open to view in a Ministry of
Highways grave pit two kilometres south of Lytton. Structures
such as the jellyroll are usually
measured in centimetres, rarely in
metres. The Lytton jellyroll is one
of the largest, spreading four by
five metres.
"SUch structure give scientists
a considerable amount of information about the physical processes
of sedimentation," said Joe Nagel,
Curator of UBC's Geological Museum. "THe Lytton jellyroll is special because of it's size."
Scientists speculate the
jellyroll was formed in an icebound lake during the last
glaciation of the are, 12,000 years
ago. An underwater lanslide
disturbed the sedimentary
deposits on the lake bottom
causing them to slump away.
Instead of breaking up'and
dispersing, the layers rolled up
like a jellyroll. Subsequent
deposits covered and protected
the anomaly.
Mr. Nagel was a key figure in
negotiations with the Be government several years ago to mark
and protect the jellyroll site.
Working with 'the Lytton Heritage
Society, and the Lytton Chamber
of Commerce, he prompted the
Heritage Conservation Branch to
step in to preserve this unique
feature of BC's natural heritage
before it was lost to erosion.
The Heritage Conservation
Branch called in PML Exhibit
SErvices, a Calgary company
which has developed a specialized
process for this kind of project.
Technicians first sprayed the
jellyroll with a mixture of laytex
rubber to hold the loose grains of
sand in place. They then covered
it with more than 1,000 patches of
burlap dipped in rubber to take
the impression, and backed the
mould with fibergalss to sitffen it.
The process takes a negative
"copy" of the jellyroll; a positive
reconstruction was then made
from the mould.
It was a timely move, three
days after work was completed,
part of the Lytton jellyroll
slumped away.
In addition to the jellyroll rep-
ica at UBC's Geological Sciences
Museum, a second casting will go
on display at the Lytton Heritage
Park Museum.
Create New Bio-
Six UBC scientists are moving
from their ground floor university
lab to an ocean front research facility to open a multi-million
dollar biopharmaceutical industry.
Dr. Pieter Cullis, the biochemist who heads the venture, said
the team is working to develop
anticancer pharmaceuticals that
will eliminate cancerous tumors
without causing toxic side effects
to areas of the body which are not
The new business, called the
Canadian Liposome Company
(CLC), is a subsidiary of the
Liposome Company Inc. of New
Jersey. The parent company is financing the venture at a guaranteed minimum of $1 million a year
for three years to get the business
off the ground. After that, a new
contract will be negotiated. CLC
opened its doors in the Lonsdale
Quay area of North Vancouver on
September 1.
"I believe in a few years,
liposomes will form the basis of
an important pharmaceutical industry," said Cullis.
Liposomes are tiny drug-carrying sacs composed of the same
fatty acids or lipids that make up
cell membranes. Lipid membranes can be made to form
spheres which entrap drugs
inside, for delivery later to a
diseased site. Developers say one
day they may be targeted almost
as guided missiles, carrying
massive doses of drugs to their
targets without being absorbed by
other parts of the body.
Dullis' team has developed
the use of liposomes to deliver the
highly toxic drug, doxorubicin,
the world's largest selling
anticancer drug. Administered
freely into the blood stream at
doses high enough to kill cancer,
doxorubicin can cause cardiomyopathy which leads to congestive
heart failure. When UBC researchers used liposomes to administer
the drug to animals with tumors,
they found their survival time increased with minimal heart
CLC's task is to make the
liposome-doxorubicin combination and other liposome-drug
combinations suitable for commercial distribution. Cullis believes
his company's research and the
parent company's clout will make
it work.
"It's been our tactic to get associated with somebody who
really does have business expertise
and the pharmaceutical contacts
we need," he said. "The Liposome
Company is based in an area
where you find Squibb, Johnson
and Johnson — just about every
major pharmaceutical company
you can think of — so they can set
up research and development
partnerships with those companies. From a business point of
view, it's almost essential."
The new business was
spawned from contract research
by the university for the Liposome
Company during the last three
years. CLC will continue to use
UBC resources through contract
grants to the university and Cullis
will maintain a tenured professorship.
He estimates it could take five
years before his company is ready
to market its research.
New Marine
Program to
Scientists will soon be
working together in a new
laboratory to find the best ways to
manage B.C.'s 12,000 kilometers of
A $150,000 grant from the
Donner Canadian Foundation will
enable researchers from the University of British Columbia, Simon
Fraser University and the Federal
Department of Oceans and Fisheries to set up a Marine Ecosystem
Program (MEP). It's the first integrated marine research program of
its kind in B.C.
"The growth of fisheries, industries and recreational use on
the West Coast calls for a better
understanding of the long-term
effect of man's activities on the
marine environment," says MEP
spokesperson and UBC Oceanography professsor Timothy Parsons.
"MEP will provide the opportunity for specialists in a variety of
disciplines to undertake joint projects with direct applications."
Program results will influence
water management policies and
affect the way in which fishermen,
fish farmers, bathers, boaters,
scuba divers, marina operators
and others utilize coastal waters.
The Department of Fisheries
and Oceans is donating space and
services at the West Vancouver
seawater laboratory. The project
has received additional funding of
$70,000 from the UBC Research
Development Office, Simon Fraser
University Research Development
and the Natural Sciences and
Engineering Research Council of
Parsons predicts the program
will be in full operation by the
spring of 1988.
Scientist Seek
to Stimulate
Some nerves in the human
body regenerate and others don't.
UBC zoology professor Dr. John
Steeves would like to know why.
When his research produces some
answers, they may go a long way
towards helping people who are
disabled from spinal cord injuries.
"If a person has an accident
which servers a peripheral nerve
in their arm, a surgeon can rejoin it
and it will regenerate," says Dr.
Steeves. "But if a person suffers
an injury in which the nerves in
the spinal cord or brain are
damaged, they do not regrow. We
are trying to understand what the
criteria are for regeneration."
Before birth, embryonic birds
and mammals (including humans)
have an ability to regrow any
nerves in the body. After birth,
this ability is lost. Dr. Steeves
works with chicken embryos in an
attempt to find out what it is that
stimulates the regeneration in the
egg and why it is lost in the adult
"As scientists our focus is
shifting," says Dr. Steeves. "Until
recently, spinal cord research
focused on rehabilitation and
mobility for disabled people,
rather than a cure. There was
nothing we could do for people
with spinal cord injury except to
help them regain maximum
mobility. Now we have more resources and techniques available
to us to try and find some answers."
He emphasizes there is no
"quick-fix" cure. "This kind of
problem cannot be solved in a few
months, or even a few years," says
Dr. Steeves. He has spent more
than ten years on basic research
trying to identify which neurons
travelling from the brain to the
spinal cord turn on locomotion —
these neurons are now the focus of
his current work into generation.
"Our project extends indefinitely," Dr. Steeves says.
Courtesy of UBC Community
Nov. 18/87, Number 6. Published by The Science Undergraduate society; SCARFE 9 - 228-4235.  The 432 is published bi-monthly.
Editor Layout Artist Journalists Artists Photographers
Vince Jiu Leslie Chan
Advertising Manager Typist
Jean Guay Eric Carlos
Christian Klave
Kyle Kirkwood
Gillian McNamara
Peter MacDougalJ
Nicole Brand
Ken Otter
Barry Shanko
Gwen Burton
Eric Walker November 18,1987
The 432
Page 3
Geneticist Says Family Medical
History Key to Your Health
UBC Community Relations
A family medical history can be a priceless gift, according to Dr.
Judith Hall, a professor of medical genetics at UBC and director of the
Clinical Genetics Unit at Grace Hospital.
"We try to help people understand how important it is for them
to know the medical history of their family. They know they are of
German or French ancestry, that granddad was a ship's captain, but
frequently they do not know what their grandparents or even their
parents died of. Yet, practically speaking, they are likely to die from
the same thing," says Dr. Hall.
She says knowing early enough that you are predisposed to a
disease can help to decrease complications. And decreasing complications can reduce health costs. Studies show this approach can make a
major impact on the individual.
"It seems to me that grandparents have a moral responsibility to
inform the family about disorders which have occurred in the family
and which family members may be at risk to develop. If people know
their family medical history, they may be able to modify their lifestyle
at am early age which will be very much to their own benefit."
She said a family doctor often can tell a patient what to do to
keep healthy and avoid a disease to which they are predisposed.
She said thousands of diseases and disorders, like heart disease,
strokes and some cancers, run in families. It is important to ask
questions not only of family members but of the physicians who cared
for them.
"Why did your father have a stroke? Talk to your father's doctor.
Were there high lipids or fat in the blood? High cholesterol runs in
families but there is a lot you can do if you have that predisposition.
It may take 20 years to accumulate the fat in the lining of blood
vessels which lead to strokes, but if you are forewarned you can
modify your diet. If high blood pressure was the factor leading to a
stroke in your family, you can have your blood pressure monitored
regularly, go on a low salt diet, receive medication and other treatment if required."
Dr. Hall stresses the importance of an autopsy.
'The more carefully we question the cause of death, the more
aware we can become of our own and our children's risks.
"We are moving into an era where people talk about things
which used to be family secrets and not discussed. Today, families
need to talk about whether they want their organs to be used for
transplantation. If they want to donate organs they might as well
have an autopsy which may help the whole family know if there are
familial conditions which can be prevented or treated."
The medical genetics clinic provides counselling to families who
are predisposed to congenital anomolies and other familial disorders.
Dr. Hall specializes in dwarfism as well as working with the parents
of children born with spina bifida (open spine) and babies with
arthrogryposis-stiff joints.
The following
professors have been nomi-
nated for the Teachin
ig Excellence Award.
Class visits, to these
Drofessors, will be held
from Nov. 16-27, by our committee members.
Dr. G. Bates
Dr. A. Merer
Dr. W. Milsom
Dr. L. Roberts
Dr. D. Godus
Pcth (pharmacology
Dr. J. Pearson
Phyl (physiology)
Dr. E. Meagher
Dr. J. McMillan
Dr. P. Matthews
Dr. W. Ramey
Dr. M. Gerry
Dr. H. Brock
Dr. R. Anstee
Dr. B. Ahlborn
Dr. R. Perkins
Academics Coordinator
Linda Lo.
* Departmental
Display in SUB
* Departmental
Display in SUB
* Blood donor
Clinic in SUB
* Chem Magic
* Paper Airplane contest
12:30 Hebb
* Departmental
Tricycle Race
down Main
Rims Ratings
1. Star War Trilogy
2. Rocky Horror
3. Blade Runner
r i m
4. Star Trek IV
5. Platoon
* Films
•Car Rally
* Broomball
(sign up a
week before)
* Dance/Beer
* Scavenger
* Boat Cruise/
Crystal Ball.
N 1
Only 10 Weeks
by Rose Lai -Science Week Coordinator
Are you aware that Science Week is
ONLY 10 WEEKS away. Ten weeks sounds
distant but I must remind you that after our
Christmas break, Science Week is; just
around the corner.
It is from January 24 to the 30th. Remember
on Thursday night, January 28. Registration
will be a week before the game night.
-THE GROUSE MOUNTAIN SKI CHALLENGE will be a pre-Science Week event,
and it will take place on January 21st, the
Thursday before Science Week. Please
register NO Wat the SUS office in Scarfe 9 or
at the intramurals office(SUB lower floor).
Registration ends on January 15 or the first
125 people to sign up, which ever happens
first! There will be an awards dinner and
dance after the race.
-If it is possible, we will do the CHEMISTRY
MAGIC SHOW twice. This will give everyone a chance to see it.
-Each department will send a team of 3 students, 2 T.As and 1 professor to the TRICYCLE RACE on Friday noon, January 29.
There is going to be an award for the best-
looking tricycle.
-We will have a BOAT CRUISE on Saturday
night, January 30.
I am in the process of looking for a boat
cruise company that will accommodate 150
people or more on board with a price range
between $15.00-$20.00 for each individual.
Other factors such as a bar, a live band,
food, etc., will be considered. If you have
any information, please come and see me in
Scarfe 9 or leave a message in my box. Your
help will be greatly appreciated.
Remember, Science Week is THE time to
show the rest of the campus who we are. Page 4
The 432
November 18,1987
continued from page 1
The lower energy requirements of the
ectotherms would, it is assumed, mean that
ectothermic predators would make up a
larger portion of the total population, and
subsequently have a higher predator-prey
ratio. In Africa such predator-prey ratios of
modern animals range from 1-3%.
Bakker's calculation of the predator-
prey ratio for late-Cretaceous Montana and
Alberta dinosaurs was identical to that of
modern Africa. For every three kilograms
of Tryannosaur muscle, there was roughly
100 kilograms of herbivore. In the pre-
Mesozoic world of the Thecodonts, the
dinosaurs' immediate ancestors, the ratio is
Pierre Beland and Dale.Russel of the
National Museum of Natural Sciences in Ottawa, found error with Bakker's numbers;
the recalculated total was four times
greater, a ratio as high as 12%, which as
Bakker pointed out still fell within the limit
of the "endothermic" range.
Beland and russel argued successfully
to many that the fossil record was not statistically reliable as proof for or against endothermy. THe relative abundance of fossils
could more likely to be preserved. Disease,
reproductive rates and natural disaster
would affect the fossil census, skewwing it
either up or down. While the pre-Mesozoic
numbers would support Bakker's contention, they fall prey to the same problems. A
question so far not raised or answered by
paleontologist concerns the possibility of a
warm-blooded predator hunting ectothermic prey - how would this affect the
predator-prey ratio?
Nicholas Hotton, of the Smithsonian
Institution surveyed known dinosaurs and
reported that 80% of living mammals are
smaller than the smallest dinosaur. The
smallest adult dinosaur presently known,
Compsognathus, weighs in at three kilograms. More than half of the dinosaurs
weighed over two tons.
If any one physiological strategy was
selected by the dinosaurs it was size. A
large body will act as a thermal reservoir
when it gets cold and an insulator when the
outside temperature rises. Thermoregulation, something endotherms do all the time
by having hair or feathers to maintain heat,
or sweating and panting to lose heat that
has been created by their basal metabolism.
But thermoregulation is also something
homeotherms do, by any other processes,
such as being so big that the body stores
heat like a reservoir - inertial homeothermy.
Homeothermy is an endotherms way of
being warm-blooded.
The giant sauropods, such as the Bra-
chiosaurs and Diplodocus would have
acted as warm-blooded because of their
size. Hotton, Beland and Russell have
collected data which indicated ectotherms
arid endotherms become more alike with
increasing size. A similar metabolic rate
would mean a low predator-prey ratio.
Because the inertial homeotherms would
spend less time eating than endotherms, of
the same mass, and spend less energy just
foraging the overall effect would be to
decrease their energy need. A simple
analogy would be to describe ectotherms as
a bicycle, slow and very fuel efficient.
Ectothermic homeotherms are less fuel
efficient sedans, but with a lot more carrying power, finally an endotherm would
simply be a gas guzzling Porsche or Ferrari,
fast and zippy.
One-hundred-twenty-five million years
ago and as early as 65 million years ago the
world was very different. Paleobotany and
palanology (the study of spores and
pollens) indicate a mild, world wide climate
somewhat warmer and dryer than today
with less overall climatic variation. Giantism and hence inertial homeothermy
would prove very successful under such
Dinosaur bones are found as far north
as the Yukon, even then part of the Arctic,
and far to the south in Argentina which
suffered much colder winters than today.
Bakker argues that the dinosaurs must have
been warm-blooded, and that not even
homeothermic dinosaurs could have
wintered there. Yet the wild distribution of
these same fossils hint that the dinosaurs
may have migrated north and south as do
modern birds. Bakker retorts that ectotherms are not capable of the prolonged
exertion of migrating. Hotton suggests that
the exertion of migration would generate a
constant source of body warmth. Additionally migration dinosaurs would be exposed
to similar temperatures year round and
prevent over-grazing. The rock record
offers no proof for either supposition, but
inference has been made from the herd like
collection of fossil footprints and the wide
distribution of many genera.
Archaeopteryx, a small bird-like
winged dinosaur had feathers, ectotherms
have no need for insulating feathers or fur,
but endotherms do. Their size means that
many smaller dinosaurs could not have
been effective inertial homeotherms. A
good inertial homeotherm needs to be over
100 kilograms, as were most dinosaurs; the
effectiveness of inertial homeothermy is
severely tested with creatures smaller than
50 kilograms.
Deinonychus "terrible claw" was discovered in 1964 in south central Montana;
John Ostrom, a paleontologist from Yale,
found the foot of bipedal dinosaur with a
single inner toe that ended in a scythe-like
claw. The claw was obviously a weapon '
used to rip open prey, but its very use
required Deinonychus to leap on one foot to
slash out with the other. Such intricate ma-
noeuvrers and extraordinary agility, poise
and balance, are not at all reminiscent of
modern sprawling, sluggish reptiles.
Deinonychus had to have had a very
unreptilian bioenergetic system, to be the
predaceous hunter its physiology indicates
it evolved into.
There is much inference and speculation involved in the debate over endothermy in dinosaurs, and a lack of cause-and-
effect relationships to support much of that
speculation. Overall the public as well as
paleontologists have looked at the dinosaurs as a single entity, either warmblooded or cold-blooded. The taxonomic
variation between the dinosaurs is probably
as great if not greater than that of the
mammals who include such relics as the
egg-laying platypuses.
The giants of the dinosaur kingdom because of their large adult and birth size, the
mild climate, and lack of an endothermic
sustaining food resource, would best be
served as ectothermic homeotherms by evolution. The nature of dinosaur selection for
large size, helps to support this hypothesis,
' Way StouVWftO .
U&*:/  /■
vm Pictures by William Stout
'I assume you're being facetious,
Andrews ... I distinctly yelled
'second!' before you did."
wm Page6
The 432
November 18,1987
Dr Scudder - Zoology
by Gillian McNamara
When we walked into Dr. Scudder's
office, one of the
first things we
noticed was a
small sign reading
This is obviously a ;Sp!—
philosophy he
lives by. Every
square inch of
desk, shelf, and
floor space in his
large office is covered with paper.
There are stacks
and stacks of it.
Files, documents,
drawings, research, newsletters, et cetera
adorn every nook
and cranny. As Dr. Scudder stood up
to greet us it was hard to believe such
an ordinary looking person could
possible be responsible for all this paperwork. What drives someone to
become this involved in his career?
Naturally, one of the first questions
we asked Dr. Scudder, after exclaiming
over all the paper, was "What made
you decide to go into Zoology? Why
did you do it?"
"Well, I grew up in the country, so
I started natural history observations
very early on, and started work with
insects when I was eleven. I wanted to
be an entomologist when I was eleven,
and never changed my mind."
A simple beginning for an
extensive career... Dr. Scudder went on
to obtain a Zoology degree at Wales
university, and finished off with his
PhD. at Oxford in Entomology. He
eventually became a world expert on
the seed bugs (Hemiptera) and, of
course, head of Zoology at U.B.C.
Dr. Scudder describes Zoology as
all studies involving animals, including
such areas as organisms, processes,
ecology, morphology, et cetera. He
- Dr. P.W. Hochachka has just received
the B.C. science gold medal for his
research in adapta- ■
tions to living without oxygen.
- Dr. C. J. Drebs has
received a government grant for a
controlled experiment in the Yukon
to investigate the 7
year cycles in snow-
shoe hares. This is a
costly project as it
involves surrounding acres of land
with nets so such
factors as predation
and food supply
can be controlled.
- Dr. J.E. Phillips,
who works on
physiological processes in insects, has
just discovered a new hormone and is
trying to sequence this.
Dr. Scudder's own research is the
systematics and taxonomy of the seed
bugs (Hemiptera), including their
ecology, physiology, and morphology.
"Why seed bugs?" we asked.
"I just like them. They're the first
group I became interested in —at age
eleven—and I guess it's also because I
had someone to help me learn their
names and a little about them."
In his lab, Dr. Scudder and his
graduate students investigate such
topics as the adaptations to saline
ponds in aquatic Hemiptera, and the
relationship between the bright red and
black Hemiptera and the poisonous
milkweed plants on which they live.
He himself studies the Hemiptera of
the entire earth, travelling to Africa and
Asia often to do research. Only 2
people in the world study the entire
earth's Hemiptera population, so Dr.
Scudder's depth of knowledge is very
unique, and he is known throughout
the world as the expert in this field. He
has most currently been studying the
Hemiptera of New Zealand, and
"A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind."
was appointed to the position as Head
by a committee, and when asked why,
he modestly says, "I don't know,
maybe no one else wanted it - ha, ha."
Department administration takes
up about 70% of his time, but he still
carries a full teaching and research
load, and has published 9 papers so far
this year. He is also the academic
curator of the Spencer Entomological
Museum, a world-recognized collection
of insects from B.C. and the Yukon,
which is kept upstairs in the BioSci.
building. His other activities include
- just finishing his term as president
of Entomological Society of
- chairing the Pacific Science Assn.
standing committee in Entomology
- will be president of Zoological
Society of Canada in 1-2 years
- has run the Biological Survey of
Canada for the past few years, but
is now stopping
- president of Western Universities
Marine Biological Society, which
runs Bamfield Marine Station
These added responsibilities take
up about 5-6 days/month of Dr.
Scudder's time, and then, of course,
there's the paperwork....
Dr. Scudder describes research in
Zoology at U.B.C. as very strong in
ecology and comparative physiology.
A new program in Biotechnology has
now been added to research in Zoology, Botany, and Microbiology, with
four labs devoted to this. Also, there is
a new thrust in Zoological research
towards aquaculture and fisheries.
Dr. Scudder mentions some recent
developments and achievements in Zoology research at U.B.C:
recently was concentrating on the
populations of Indonesia and Korea as
Dr. Scudder considers this world
classification as his "hobby", and his
eventual goal is to produce an
enormous monograph (book) on the
Hemiptera of the world. He began his
project in 1957.
Working towards his dream, Dr.
Scudder spent 25 years mastering all
the literature written by other seed bug
researchers. He has worked in every
major entomological museum in the
world, photographing specimens and
learning about them. He says he is
very lucky to have started early so he
had the time to do all this - now it is no
problem to keep abreast of new discoveries.
We were allowed to see some
photos of drawings done for Dr.
Scudder in the course of his research.
They are very detailed light microscope
drawings done in pen and ink, perfect
to the last detail.
"I have over 500 of these, all done
for me by artists," he told us with
pride. The drawings are all original,
and of immense value to him - so
immense he keeps the originals in a
safety deposit box under lock and
Dr. Scudder hopes to finish his
book sometime in his seventies, taking
a bit more time to work on it in the
future. When it is finished (at least, as
much as possible with all the new
discoveries), he will have over 800
different taxa described and classified.
It's a mammoth-sized project, but for
someone will this kind of drive and
determination - you can bet he'll finish!!!"
The Nutrasweet
by Peter MacDougall
Aspartame; also known as Nutrasweet.
If you look carefully at the list of
ingredients of a can of diet pop, it will
give you some idea of what aspartame
It reads, "lipids 0 g/ml; carbohydrates 0 g/ml," at least for diet 7up,
"proteins 0.05 g/ml; apsartame 50 mg/
ml; may contain phenylalanine." Since
50 milligrams per ml is the same as 0.05
grams per ml and phenylalanine is an
amino acid, you could expect that
aspartame is a protein.
In fact aspartame is a substituted
di-peptide, containing aspartic acid,
phenylalanine, and a C-terminus
carboxy methyl ester.
The result is a structure that in a 4%
solution is 200 times sweeter than a 4%
solution of sucrose. Because aspartame
is so much more sweeter, and because
it is a di-peptide, aspartame can give
foods the same amount of sweetness as
sugar could without giving the food the
same amount of calories.
Since aspartame is a di-peptide,
made of amino acids which occur
naturally in our diets, there is less
concern about aspartame causing
cancer than saccharin. It also does not
have the bad aftertaste. However,
aspartame is not without its side-
As a di-peptide, where carbohydrates cause your mouth to water,
aspartame activates stomach activity,
causing the release of gastric hormones,
acid, and peptidases, like any other
protein or peptide.
The digestive by-products of
aspartame, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, have specific roles in the body's
metabolism. Aspartic acid is converted
to oxalo-acetic acid which is used in the
tricaboxylic acid cycle in all mitochondria. Phenylalanine makes its way to
the brain where it is used as precursor
for various neurotransmitters; epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine are
two examples.
Aspartame has been suspected of
causing brain seizures mainly because
large amounts of phenylalanine can
possibly lead to an imbalance of
neurotransmitters in the brain, causing
brain dysfunction. Neurotransmitter
imbalance has been linked to schizophrenia, and manic depression. However, it would take a great deal of phenylalanine to cause an imbalance.
If there is an excess of any amino
acid in the body, the amino acid is
degraded rather than stored. When
phenylalanine is degraded, one of the
intermediates produced is phenyl
pyruvic acid which can cause damage
to the myelin sheaths of developing
brain cells if it is present in great
quantities. PKU is the genetic disease
where phenyl pyruvic acid accumulates
due to an enzyme defect, leading to
brain damage in children. The treatment for PKU consists of limiting the
child's intake of phenylalanine. This is
why it is recommended that pregnant
women should generally avoid diet
foods containing aspartame and stick to
a diet which has a better balance of the
required vitamins and amino acids.
The developing fetus is more susceptible to high levels of excess phenylalanine and its by-products than an
The main problem with aspartame
is not that it is toxic but rather that by
consuming large amounts of diet foods
sweetened with aspartame, we increase
our intake of phenylalanine above what
we need. People with a reduced ability
to metabolize phenylalanine are at risk
if they consume large amounts of
aspartame. However it is rare that
anyone consumes enough aspartame to
cause themselves damage.
How much aspartame does it take
to do yourself in? Well, far beyond the
amount anyone could readily stomach.
From what is known about aspartame,
it is safe for normal consumption.
However, if you have your doubts,
switch back to sugar and use less of it.
Science Students
Grouse Mountain
Ski Challenge
Thursday Jan 21'
AWARDS DINNER and DANCE, after the
Cost $35.00
at SCARFE #9 (downstairs) or
NOTE: REGISTRATION ENDS Jan 15/88 or 125 people which ever
happens first!!
Science Students who participate in any intramurals event (this one included) for
SCIENCE, are eligible for a $20 rebate after the event. (Yes that means after the
Rebate it cost you $15 for the races, ski pass, Dinner and Dance.) November 18,1987
The 432
Page 7
A Day in the Life of an EX. U.B.C. Science
by Karl Friedrich Hieronymus von
I walk away from my Physics
lecture somewhat sobered. At least my
Chem instructor is a person who takes
his profession serious. With some
trepidation I remember that an assignment was due today. Panic-stricken I
check my notebook. Whew! I had
finished it. Joining the growing line of
students waiting to hand in their
assignments, I idly glance down at my
watch and notice there is less than one
minute left before the bell rings. Is this
line travelling fast enough? My turn
comes, I hand my assignment in and
turn away. The bell rings.
The instructors harsh grating voice
cuts through the turmoil "All students
who have not yet handed in their
assignments; your assignments are late
and you lose 15% of your grade."
Justice reigns, and since justice is just,
the students gratefully accept it.
Reaching my desk I look at the
instructor. Aha, he's wearing brown
today. Since his exhaustive wardrobe
consists of a blue and a yellow shirt
and a pair of brown and a pair of blue
pants, we have organized a pool to see
who could best predict what he would
wear. Well, I guessed right today. By
now everybody has taken their seat.
The classroom is now packed to
capacity with wide-awake students
eagerly waiting for this genius to
expound his knowledge. His impeccable teaching method imparts maximum time with minimum knowledge.
He is a Master in this art!
His long thin hands attached to
equally long thin but hairy arrns madly
scribble information and calculations
onto the board. With utter finesse he
punches in the correct numbers into his
calculator and writes the correct to at
least four significant figures answer on
the board. His explanations go on and
on and so do his calculations, but they
all seem to prove one, actually very
simple, principle. I wonder when he
will actually teach us something.
Never, probably, knowing him.
He seems to have made his point
and decides to hand back an earlier
assignment. When I receive my
assignment I quickly scan over my
marks. Wow, I got all the answers right
but not all my sig. figs.. I look back at
my mark. Horrified I see that he has
taken off at least 60% of the marks for
every question for every sig. fig. error.
I am left with a bare Pass even though I
had all the answers correct.
I look at the rest of the class who
have made many of the same mistakes I
did. They all accept this gratefully,
thankful to him for taking such pains to
be so painstaking. Now if he would   ■
only have the same approach in
educating us. There is a lot of Chemistry he could cover in an hour. If he
could teach us something we didn't
know before, his choice of occupation,
teacher, would be justified. With
growing disillusionment with my
classes, I silently reflect on this as I
pack up my paraphernalia and leave.
The class isn't over yet? So! His
dispersal of knowledge certainly is.
Let's hope my Physics lab can improve
by Peter MacDougall
The first thing security did was
purge him.
He had done his best to make it as
easy as possible; he had eaten a high
fibre,, low nutrient value meal some
hours before. It was better than pumping a full or empty stomach but, still, it
was awful. That, and his cold. In fact
he never felt worse and they had barely
He was coming out of the Union's
tightest security institution and they
could not allow any leaks of information.
The technicians pumped his
stomach: emply. They gave him a
purgative (and the worst case of
diarrhea he had ever had): empty. He
went through two hours of physical
and chemical analysis: nothing, no
marks or codes on him anywhere. He
was X-rayed: nothing in him but a hip
pin—which they removed. They tried
ultrasound: nothing left in him but
flesh and bone. The infrared heat scan
showed only that his thyroids and
lymph nodes eiround his neck were
hot—but then this man obviously had a
"Anything to declare?" They asked
him in a sterile room after the first three
He coughed, his muscles tensing in
spasms under his blue skin. He felt
awful. He was cold; his head was
stuffed; his eyes were like a fish's; his
Computer Science Social
Bzzr, Hotdogs,
Computer Games
Friday, Nov. 20th
Comp. Sci. Bldg, Rm.203
Everyone Welcome.
Featuring 50% off formal
dining, movies, concerts,
theatre, sports, special
events, travel and more!
tf Only
throat was so sensitive. But they
already knew that. "No," he said.
So they proceeded again.
They stuck a tube in every opening
of his body to have a look by optic
fibre. They tried Magnetic Resonance
Imaging, Positron Emmission Tomography, a C.A.T. scan, and even
flash fried the outer layer of his skin to
white ash with ultraviolet light so as to
remove any physical markings he
might have.
Still they asked, "Anything to
"No." His nose was runny and red.
He looked a pitiful sight but he knew
from the beginning that he would have
to go through all of this.
They gave him an acetaminophen
tablet while he waited naked in; the
cool, white room. The scientists were
conferring, checking and counter-
checking. They could not agree and so
they did it all again.
"Patience is a lab animal," the man
thought as whatever had not come up
or out before was purged again..
Empty. Nothing.
Finally the security scientists were
at an end. He had nothing; he was
clean. No chemicals, no marks., no
hidden capsules, false fillings, bone
inscriptions, abnormalities ... or any
way of carrying a message out of the
security seal. He was a blank slate.
Packaged in new, featureless
overalls so that he left with nothing but
himself and the donated fabric, he was
"Better get that cold taken care of,"
the last sentry shouted with an accent.
"I will," the man said, and coughed
again spraying bacteria and phlegm in
a wide arc. The bacteria hung in the
air, invisible, their extra-nuclear DNA
jiggling with the encoded secrets of the
Out of sight of the guard, the
courier would have laughed hard and
long but his lungs hurt too much. He
coughed again with a wicked smile on
his tortured face. Only a cold. Heh!
The addition.
We are looking for ads!
If you want to make a few extra
bucks promoting Science, come and
see me. I have everything set up,
and you can work as little or as hard
as you want.
The pay is good and you'll gain invaluable experience!
Jean Guay in Scarfe 9.
To Write without Writing
We need writers!
Actually not writers so much as plain
joes who have interesting ideas that
they might want to share. You don't
even have to submit ideas in complete sentences—we have people
(and computers) who will do that!
So bring us your ideas and we'll
make miracles!
Dark Universe
The newspaper will consider
any submissions by Science
Individuals? plain or extravagant students, brilliant or
boring professors and even
pseudo-TAs. (Even your
mother qualifies if she likes
The Science Centre
Tel: 738-EMC2
Special orders on Science Equipment, Glassware etc. Pedersen's crowning achievement
The 1987 Nobel prizes have rewarded the hottest current areas in chemistry and physics. Prizes go to the
chemists who developed molecular recognition, and the physicists who discovered
 high-temperature superconductivity	
Lionel Milgrom 	
THIS YEAR'S Nobel prize for
chemistry goes to two Americans,
Charles Pedersen and Donald Cram,
and a Frenchman, Jean-Marie Lehn. The
award acknowledges their contributions to
the study of molecular recognition-
known as "host-guest" chemistry. Molecular recognition has opened up a huge field.
of research, not just in chemistry but also in
biology, medicine and materials science
(New Scientist, 1 May 1986, p 44).
Chemists now understand, for example,
how one large molecule, such as a protein,
Pedersen: the prize at 83
can recognise and react selectively with
another. Molecular recognition has allowed
biologists to understand how antigens
know their antibodies. And, using the same
principles, chemists are designing new
chemical sensors to detect specific metals
and lethal chemicals in the environment.
In medicine molecular recognition is
leading to new systems of delivering drugs.
And chemists can make small molecules
that perform the same highly selective reactions as enzymes. The future could be more
exciting still.
The concept of molecular recognition
goes back to a chance discovery by
Pedersen, 24 years ago. Pedersen. who is
now 83 and retired, was born in Korea, of
Norwegian parents. He became an American citizen in 1953. While working as a
research chemist, for Du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware, he made a discovery that
was pure serendipity. In one of his reactions
he used some contaminated starting
material. As a result, he obtained a small
amount of a by-product along with the
main compound he was making.
Being a careful chemist, he did not throw
the by-product down the sink, but decided
to examine it. He found that it had an
unusual structure—a ring of 12 carbons
and six oxygens, with two carbon atoms
between every oxygen. Chemists now call
such a molecule a cyclic polyether. When
Pedersen came to study its chemistry,
however, there was a surprise waiting.
Caustic soda will not dissolve in organic
solvents, such as ether or benzene.
However, when Pedersen added his new
by-product to the organic solvent with the
polyether present, the caustic soda gradually disappeared into solution. So what was
Pedersen's new compound doing?
Caustic soda is a solid consisting of positively charged sodium ions and negatively
charged hydroxide ions whose electrostatic
forces of attraction holds the solid caustic
soda; together. But when we add water, it
binds weakly to both ions, forming a
"shell" of six water molecules around each
ion. This reduces the electrostatic attraction between oppositely charged ions, loosening the structure so that the ions disperse
in the water. In other words, the caustic
soda dissolves. Organic solvents, such as
ether and benzene, do not bind to ions in
caustic soda, so they cannot dissolve it.
Pedersen's cyclic polyether does dissolve
in organic solvents, and furthermore, it has
six oxygen atoms which bind a sodium ion
in the same weak fashion as six water molecules. The polyether then takes up a characteristic coronet shape. For this reason,
Pedersen called his by-product a "crown
ether". The chemical name is 18-crown-6
or 18C6, because it has 18 atoms in its ring,
six of which are oxygens. Du Pont sat on
Pedersen's results for four years while the
company took out patents. In 1967, Du
Pont allowed Pedersen to publish the
One of the first tasks for crown ethers was
to coax metal ions, such as sodium and
potassium, into organic solvents from
aqueous solutions. Certain chemical reactions depend on these metal ions to work.
Some of these reactions occur only in an
organic solvent, and transferring the metal
ions from aqueous solution, or phase, and
into the organic phase can be a problem.
Crown ethers solved that problem by helping the metal ions to change phase.
Chemists can tailor crown ethers to suit
various sizes of metal ions. Select your
crown ether and you can separate metal
mixtures, useful in reclaiming expensive
metals. Or hitch a crown ether up to an
electrical circuit, with an electrode, and you
have a sensor for detecting specific metal
The way metal ions bind to crown ethers
has helped biochemists understand the
action of antibiotics, such as valinomycin,
and how cells transport water-loving
sodium and potassium  ions across their
water-hating cell membranes . One idea is
that stacks of crown-ether-like molecules
open up channels in a cell membrane,
through which metal ions can pass.
Crown ethers do not just receive metals
into their central holes. They can accommodate whole molecules if the hole is of the
right size and geometry. This is where
Cram enters the story.
Cram, now 68, is professor of chemistry
at the University of California at Los
Angeles. At the time, Pedersen was discovering  crown  ethers,   he  was  also   a
Cram, with his wife and molecules
consultant for Du Pont.
The story goes that Cram was so taken by
Pedersen's discoveries he spent a sleepless
48 hours playing with "Lego kit" models of
crown ethers, and stalking his laboratory
dressed only in pyjamas and dressing gown.
Cram realised that one could make
modified crown ethers that recognise the
difference between mirror-images of molecules that, in all other respects, are indistinguishable: in other words, chiral molecules.
This is precisely what enzymes do. It is
currently one of the hottest areas in organic
chemistry. Mimic the selectivity of
enzymes and the production of important
fine chemicals, such as chiral pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals, becomes
routine and highly lucrative.
Overnight, Cram completely redirected
the efforts of his research group to making
modified crown ethers. By 1973, the first
papers were flowing out of his laboratory.
His first success was to make crown ethers
that could distinguish chiral amino acids
(the building blocks of protein). ►
►• It was Cram who later gave molecular
recognition the name "host-guest" chemistry. It encapsulates Cram's ideas about
molecular recognition—molecules, such as
crown ethers, are "hosts" and the metal
ions and molecules they accommodate are
the "guests".
Cram later designed and synthesised new
types of host molecules which were like
hollow spheres and hemispheres. Not
surprisingly, he called them "spherands"
and "hemispherands". They recognise and
bind guests much more strongly and selectively than crown ethers.
Ironically, it was the Du Pont connection
that led to Lehn's first important contribution to the study of molecular recognition.
In 1967, he realised the importance of
Pedersen's work. But Lehn also knew about
a separate piece of research going on in a
different branch of Du Pont. "He was very
quick to perceive the possibility of marriage
of two ideas from the same company",
Lehn: France's premier chemist
notes Fraser Stoddart. a chemist who
specialises in molecular recognition at the
University of Sheffield.
Lehn took Pedersen's two-dimensional
crown ethers into the third dimension. By
replacing two oxygen atoms in the original
crown ether with nitrogen atoms. Lehn
could add on a second polyether ring to
give a bicyclic "cryptand" These bind
metal cations more selectively than crown
Lehn could construct nost molecules
that specifically recognise biologically
active substances. such as the
neutrotransmitter, acetylcholine.
Some biochemists disparage the efforts
of chemists to copy nature. "You have to
be pretty arrogant to design an enzyme,"
says Stoddart. "What we're learning in
molecular recognition will take chemistry
beyond the molecule, into biology, materials science and to new electronic devices
based on simple organic molecules.
Pedersen, Cram and Lehn have pointed the
wav." n
New Scientist 22 October 1987
Fast lane to a Nobel prize
The fastest prizewinners on record
THE AWARD of this year's Nobel
Prize for Physics is one of the most
amazing in living memory. The surprise is
not that Georg Bednorz and Alex Muller
snatched this award for their work on
superconductivity. Ever since the work of
these two scientists became widely
known, it was only a matter of time before
they collected a Nobel prize. The surprise
is the speed.
The Royal Swedish Academy of
Sciences usually measures time* in
decades rather than years when deciding
to hand out its prestigious prizes. The
academy cannot afford to make mistakes.
may assume, the intuition characteristic
of the true audacity to concentrate on new
paths in their research).
Alex Muller has certainly been interested, almost to the point of obsession,
with superconductors for some years.
Muller works at IBM's research centre in
Zurich. In 1979 he spent a year working
in New York State at IBM's research
centre at Yorktown Heights. Richard
Greene, who now works on superconductors at Yorktown Heights, recalls
that even then Muller was thinking that
he would have to ditch the materials that
had so far set the temperature record for
It usually takes years for a scientific development to arrive and to receive universal
confirmation and acceptance. The time
scale with this year's prizewinning work
was months. According to the academy's
citation: "Last year, 1986, Bednorz and
Muller reported finding superconductivity in an oxide material at a
temperature 12 °C higher than previously
The background notes, accompanying
the citation, talk of the two scientists
reporting measurements in April 1986 of
what has since come to be called "high-
temperature superconductivity". In fact,
the first paper in which the two
confidently reported their findings did
. not appear until September 1986, and it is
a safe bet that most of the people who
decided to honour this work with the
Nobel prize had not heard of it until
earlier this year, when hysteria hit science
and no laboratory worth the name could
resist joining the bandwagon.
This was not, though, some fluke. Over
the years, many scientists have tried to
produce new superconductors, sometimes resorting to techniques that amount
to little more than cookery—adding various chemicals together in an attempt
to break the record for the critical
temperature, which had stuck at 23 K
since 1973. Muller and Bednorz did
something far more substantial.
The citation describes the two
scientists* work as "a result of systematic
work, deep insight and experience of
structural problems; in the physics and
chemistry of the solid state" (plus, one
superconductivity—mixtures of different
metals known as intermetallic compounds. An alloy of niobium and germanium held the record of 23-3 K. He
decided to study metallic oxides.
In their first successful attempt to make
a superconductor, Bednorz and Muller
pushed the critical temperature to 35 K.
Alongside materials that have come later,
this increase of 12 K looks minor. Already
this year, there have been confirmed
measurements of transition temperatures
around 90 K, plus more dubious claims of
materials that are superconductors at
around room temperature. But had not
Bednorz and Muller put the scientific
community on the right track, the record
temperature could still be stuck at 23 K.
This is the second year running that the
prize has gone to researchers at IBM's
Zurich research laboratory. Last year,
Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer won a
share of the prize for physics for their
work on the scanning tunnelling microscope (New Scientist. 23 October 1987, p
This years's physics prize marks a
continuation of the trend whereby prizes
come from large laboratories, many of
them run by companies that see it as an
essential pan of their R&D to be active at
the frontiers of science. Even in the
United States, large corporations,
concerned about the relative demise of
academic institutions, have built up large
research laboratories where scientists
have access to facilities that are far more
modern and expensive than those available in academia.        Michael Kenward


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