In Academics

Religion and Science: The Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, Inc., will convene on July 29-August 4, 2001. The topic, Human Meaning in a Technological Culture, will explore and evaluate how these powerful [information and biotechnoloy] technologies redefine, for better and for worse, human identity and meaning, as well as ideas about reality and God. www.iras.org.

Call for Papers: The European Society for the Study of Science and Theology (ESSSAT) has issued a call for papers. Details about its conference, to be held during March 19-24, 2002, are now available. www.esssat.org.

The Future of Religion? The World Network of Religious Futurists will meet in Minneapolis, MN, July 29-31, 2001. Attendees are scholars and activists from around the world who study the future of their religious tradition in view of world civilization. www.wfs.org.

Interesting Books: Mariano Artigas, The Mind of the Universe: Understanding Science and Religion; Robert Herrmann (ed.), Expanding Humanity's Vision of God: New Thoughts on Science and Religion; Arnold Benz, The Future of the Universe: Chance, Chaos, God?; Ted Peters (ed.), Science and Theology: The New

Consonance; Ian Barbour, When Science Meets Religion; Reuven Firestone, Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims; Khalid Duran, Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews; Michael Shermer, How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science. www.amazon.com.

African History in for a Rewrite: Professor John Hunwick and Northwestern University have received a $1 million Ford Foundation grant to study sub-Saharan Africa's written traditions. In 1999, Hunwick discovered 3,000 Arabic manuscripts held by a Timbuktu family since 1592. He hopes to prove sub-Saharan Africans were not illiterate, and therefore uncivilized, before European colonialism. www.chicago-tribune.com.

In Society

Patent Fight Ended: Last year, 2.5 million Africans died from AIDS because they could not afford medicine. Large pharmaceutical companies, citing intellectual property rights, went to court to block South Africa's efforts to get a WTO wavier to import far cheaper generic drugs on the grounds of national emergency. The companies withdrew their case on April 19, 2001, claiming that harsh international criticism was not a factor. http://dailynews.netscape.com.

Human Trafficking: The recent deaths of 58 out of 60 illegal Chinese immigrants in Europe highlights the problem of human trafficking. The UN estimates that those involved make $8 billion to $12.3 billion annually in profits. www.cnn.com.

Patenting Gene Data: Biotechnology firms are seeking exclusive ownership of the pure scientific formulas that represent genes. Critics claim this would make any recording and storing of formulas illegal without the patent holder's permission, effectively ending some genetic research. At least 16 such patents are now pending at the Canadian Patent Office, and similar ones in America and elsewhere. Legal scholars and intellectual property experts fear that the free flow of genetic knowledge and innovation is at stake. www.nationalpost.com.

New Data Transmission Record: French and Japanese engineers have squeezed more than 10 trillion bits per second through single optical fibers. This record capacity equals about 150 million simultaneous phone conversations. www.techreview.com.

In Science

Return to Mars: NASA launched its Mars Odyssey orbiter on April 7, 2001. When it lands on Mars during October 2001, it will map the surface's chemical and mineral makeup, determine Mar's radiation level and how it might affect future astronauts, locate near-surface water, and map mineral deposits from past water activity. www.nasa/gov.

A Biological First: Biologists have mapped the entire genetic code of Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant belonging to the mustard family. Scientists expect applications in agriculture (the genetic manipulation of rice, wheat, and other crops) and medicine (many medicines come from plants). www.popsi.com.

RNA Chips: RNA switches clustered on a gold-coated silicon surface can identify different strains of E.coli found in bacterial cultures. Scientists hope to develop RNA chips that can reveal the molecular composition of complex mixtures better than current DNA biochips. Future uses are seen in detecting drugs, toxins, metabolites, proteins, and nucleic acids. www.techreview.com.

New Cancer Treatment: Molecularly targeted therapy drugs recognize and attack specific molecules unique to specific cancers. The model drug leading the way is Glivec (STI571), which fights CML, a cancer characterized by excessive white blood cell overproduction. Such drugs are designed by working backward from a known abnormal molecule specific to a certain type of cancer, and thus have a limited use. Glivec is getting a priority FDA review. http://abcnews.go.com.

Virtual Reality Update: Computer scientists affiliated with the National Tele-Immersion Initiative have produced a prototype virtual office. Digital cameras that monitor movements from various angles, head-mounted tracking gear, polarized glasses, and screens mounted at right angles to your desk allow you to see your colleague's office. All images are life-size and 3D. www.popsci.com. Q

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