Science  18 Sep 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5384, pp. 1777

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  1. Vintage Sub Awaits Fate

    Scientists are trying to decide whether to retool a new gift to science—a Cold War submersible—or strip it for parts. Either way, they say, U.S. oceanographers could profit.

    Last month, the U.S. Navy delivered Sea Cliff to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts. The submersible has cruised to 6000 meters below the surface—the deepest of any U.S. sub—while on military search-and-recovery operations. Now, engineers are evaluating how much it would cost to outfit the vintage-1968 craft for civilian research.

    Sea Cliff.

    Spare parts?


    If making the switch proves too expensive, researchers may transfer the Sea Cliff's sturdy lights, arms, and other gear to WHOI's underwater flagship, the Alvin. But the retrofit can't impair Alvin's reliability, says Dick Pittenger: “In trying to make Alvin better, we don't want to lose what we've got.”

  2. Canada's Universities Shy Away From Faster Internet

    Who should be using Canada's next-generation Internet? That question is being debated in the wake of a review claiming that too few academics are taking advantage of the high-speed data pipeline.

    In a report obtained by Science, external reviewers found that only 28 of Canada's 80 universities are linked to the CA*net II electronic backbone, which became operational in 1996 and can transmit data at speeds reaching 100 megabytes per second. The panel concluded that high hookup costs—which schools must bear by themselves—are keeping many universities off-line.

    Bill St. Arnaud of the Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research, Industry & Education (CANARIE), a CA*net II architect, says the network was never intended to lure academic users. Rather, he says, it is designed to foster Internet commerce. Scant university use, however, could prove problematic when CANARIE makes its pitch later this year for $80 million in government funds to complete the third phase of its networking projects. One government official's ironic take on the issue: “We built it and no one's using it—there's a real incentive to support phase 3.”

  3. Russian Front Opens in Ozone Fight

    The campaign to heal Earth's protective ozone layer is shifting to a new battleground. Last week, United Nations officials marked the 11th anniversary of the 1987 Montreal Protocol—the global pact that calls for phasing out key ozone- destroying chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants—by pledging to help cash-strapped Russia make good on Soviet-era promises.

    Scientists predict that Earth's eroded ozone layer, which screens out the nastiest ultraviolet radiation, can be restored by 2150 if nations adhere to the Montreal pact. But some signatories, including Russia, have missed deadlines for ending the manufacture of CFCs and other ozone eroders. Now, in an effort to put tardy nations back on track, the United Nations and the World Bank will pay to put CFC producers out of business. In Russia, for instance, the bank plans to spend $25 million to buy out Russian CFC facilities and close them down by 2000.

  4. Researchers Seek Consensus at Mercury Summit

    A simmering debate among public officials about the health risks from eating mercury-tainted fish will soon get a public airing. In November, the White House will gather experts to review key studies in the hope of ironing out lingering disagreements.

    Officials are at odds over how to interpret two ongoing studies of how mercury in fish affects the neurological development—memory and motor skills, for example—of children in the Faroe and Seychelles islands. Last December, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended a safe level of no more than 0.1 micrograms of mercury per kilogram of fish, a level supported by the Faroe Islands study. But other agencies have set less stringent levels and say they're backed by the Seychelles results.


    Investigators from both studies will be at the mercury summit, hosted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina. The plan is to “sift through the evidence … and see if we can build a scientific consensus,” says White House official Fran Sharples.

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