ScienceScope

Science  11 Sep 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5383, pp. 1581
  1. Spacecraft Motions Puzzle Astronomers

    Could the trajectories of three space probes force scientists to revise the laws of physics? Experts are debating that provocative question, raised in a paper to appear in Physical Review Letters later this year.

    From measurements made with radio signals, John Anderson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and colleagues have concluded that three spacecraft—the Jupiter explorers Pioneer 10 and 11 and the sun probe Ulysses—are apparently encountering an extra gravitational tug as they leave the solar system. The subtle pull—about 10 billion times less than the acceleration of an apple falling on Earth—can't be explained by current theories. “There's a small probability that we've found something important,” says Anderson.

    But theorist Irwin Shapiro of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, believes further scrutiny of the radio data will reveal nothing unusual. “The devil is often in the details,” he says.

  2. Outsiders Vet Korean Labs

    South Korean science officials have enlisted outside help in a campaign to reform the country's inefficient national laboratories.

    The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has hired a U.S. consulting firm, McKinsey Inc., to tell it something it already knows: that cronyism, a lack of standards, and petty corruption are reducing the size of an expected payoff from the country's R&D investment (Science, 10 July, p. 163). The ministry even has a plan to fix things by consolidating labs and subjecting research projects to more rigorous review.

    What MOST doesn't have is the clout to convince politicians to go along. So officials are hoping that McKinsey will write a highly critical report that will bolster their case. The firm plans to inspect 11 institutes, including Korea's flagship Institute of Science and Technology, during a 10-week study that ends next month.

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