Vol. 1, No. 4 ------------ < for cleo community> --------- November 23, 1992



Waging Seed War (part III) ........................Section 2/4

Magnetic Disk vs. Optical (part II)................Section 3/4

The Development of Quantum Theory (part III).......Section 4/4

Waging Seed Wars

Debate asks who owns the genetics of plants

by John Willoughby (Houston Chronicle Feb. 18,1991)


Their efforts bore fruit in 1985, when both the U.S. Board of Patent Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court declared plants patentable. That meant that the laboratory-created products of bio- engineering had become commodities that could be privately owned and sold for profit, while the raw materials of the process were still part of the heritage of humanity.

As with many other raw materials, the most valuable plant germ plasm is found most abundantly- -and in highest quality--in the Third World. This is due to the fact that almost all of the world's food crops, including such ubiquitous staples as wheat, corn, rice and potatoes, originated in the Third World.

"There is a very wide gene pool for every species of plant," Kloppenburg explains, "but that pool is broadest for each plant in its area of origin." These geographic areas of intense plant genetic diversity, called "Vavilov centers" after the Soviet botanist who first recognized them in the 1920s, are to seeds what South Africa is to diamonds or Saudi Arabia to oil.

The Vavilov center in Asia Minor, for example, which includes parts of what are now Iran, Iraq, and Syria, is the home of such staple food crops as wheat, barley, oats, and lentils. This situation means that the genes used by geneticists are for the most part the products of foreign fields--and of the labor of generations of farmers. This labor is given great value by specialists such as Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, architect of the "green revolution" that made India self-sufficient in cereal grain production and first recipient of the World Food Prize for his work in improving the world food supply.

"All historians accept that it is tribal families, and in particular women, who have played the major part in guarding, gathering, and selecting plant germ plasm over the centuries," Swaminathan says. As Third World tribal families cultivated a wide variety of land races, or primitive varieties, he said, they were also selecting and maintaining a vast array of genes with varying characteristics.

"This informal innovation system is the very foundation of modern agriculture," he says.

As plant breaders extended their patent rights during the early 1980s, the nations containing genetic centers of diversity began to object. As the complaint went, the industrialized word was exploiting developing nations. Developing nations began to talk of forming a kind of "genetic OPEC."

But a year ago, the Commission on Plant Resources cleared the way for compromise by acknowledging that plant breeders had proprietary rights over their new varieties--while simultaneously endorsing a concept known as "farmers' rights." This concept states simply that farmers deserve recognition and reward for their labor in maintaining genetic diversity. What is not clear is how farmer's rights will move from idea to reality. As a step in that direction, the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization has created the Fund for Plant Genetic Resources.

The fund is to be used to provide training and facilities for plant survey, identification, and breeding in the Third World. Disagreements remain as to who should administer the fund, who should pay into it and how payments should be apportioned. These issues are high on the agenda of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, and expectations are that progress will be made in coming months, building to a meeting in Rome in April.

--the end!


Section 3/4

Magnetic Disk vs. Optical


Any computer by today's standard, must have a storage device. A computer with out storage is the same as an automobile with out a gas tank. This article addresses and compares two area of storage devices; namely, magnetic disk and optical.

Optical Storage ( Part II)

CD = Compact Disc (audio player)

WORM = Write Once Read Many

CD-ROM = Compact Disc-Read Only Memory

MO = Megneto-Optical

MPC = Multimedia PC


How many of us are familiar with the term Optical Storage, WORM, CD-ROM, MO, MPC, or CD? Once in a while, these words pop up in magazines, newsletters, and books generating a wave of curiosity and excitement.

The audio CD technology was invented by Philips and Sony in the late 1970s. It has been a couple of years since audio CD have invaded the electronics market. They are moderately cheap offering clearer sound better than the traditional magnetic tape and others. In addition to that, an audio CD player can be purchased for less than 80 dollars. Although this is true, audio CD have their own drawbacks; that is, their playing time at most is about 74 minutes. Furthermore, they are not erasable. In other words,one cannot erase what is on the CD and record new stuff.

It was rather quite late that the potential of this technology was realized by computer industries. Optical storage devices can store an enormous amount of data with a high degree of reliability. A magnetic disk requires a header (that reads and write data) which is vulnerable to crash that would result in a corruption of data; and needs to be shielded and protected from an external magnet or light. Optical storage devices don't exhibit these characteristics because data are not stored in the form of magnetic orientation, but in the form of physical mark. And reading or writing is done by laser beam!

--to be continued

Section 4/4

The Development of Quantum Theory


Ernest Rutherford

Rutherford was born on August 13, 1871, in the South Island of New Zealand. He was a descendent of a Scottish family who emigrated there. His mother was a school teacher and piano player. His father was a farmer who later became a successful flax mill owner.

Rutherford attended a primary school in New Zealand, and when his family moved to Pelorus Sound, he continued his study in secondary high school; then he entered Nelson College. On a college admission examination, he scored 580 points out of 600, and he was first in English, French, Latin, history, mathematics, physics, and chemistry. He received two scholarships and on the second scholarship went to Canterbury College, where there were only seven professors and 150 students. His bachelor of science thesis was on "the magnetization of iron by high-frequency discharges [1].''

At age 23, Rutherford participated in a contest for scholarship that was sponsored by the 1851 London Exhibition and came in second. The winner of the contest declined to take the scholarship which enabled Rutherford to continue his study in England. In September 1895, he was accepted as a research student by J. J. Thomson at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University. At the time, one of the changes taken by the Cavendish Laboratory was opening its door to international students. Rutherford was the first student to work under such a policy.

Research with radioactivity: Rutherford continued his study on magnetism. However, the discovery of {x-rays} by Rontgen led Rutherford, in collaboration with J. J. Thomson, to measure the ionization produced by {x-rays}. He later used his experience for the measurement of the ionization produced by uranium. In 1898, Rutherford found two kinds of radiation which he called alpha and beta, emitted from uranium. The distinction between the two was determined by their absorbability in matter. At the same time, the Curies and Becquerel were studying the behavior of radiation emitted from radioactive substances. In a few years, it was concluded that the {beta} rays were cathode rays. Equally important, in France, P. V. Villan found a more penetrating radiationwhich is called {\it gamma} rays that is similar to {x-rays}. On the other hand, the properties of the {alpha} rays were not known although the Curies and Rutherford suspected that they were particles, atoms electrically charged and projected at high speed.

In 1898, Rutherford applied for the position that had become vacant at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. He was offered the position with a salary of 500 pounds a year. Before he left for Canada, Rutherford went to New Zealand and got married. At McGill University, there were newly built physics and chemistry laboratories supported and financed by a millionaire Sir William Macdonald [1]. Overall, the situation was favorable to Rutherford's work. He immediately continued his study on radioactive substances. He and R. B. Owens had observed that air current influenced the ionization produced by radioactive substances. Rutherford suspected and later was led to believe that a radioactive substance not only gives off the three types of radiation, but it also gives off radioactive gases. Next, he studied the nature of the {alpha} rays from different points of view. Finally, he reached the conclusion that the special charge for {alpha} rays was similar to that of ionized helium. Between 1903 and 1904, Rutherford became convinced that alpha particles were helium ions.

The transmutation of radioactive substances into each other was not clear until Rutherford and Frederick Soddy (1877-1956) explained the phenomenon. A radioactive atom has a definite probability of decaying in a unit time. Furthermore, Rutherford demonstrated that this probability is the characteristic of the radioactive substances.

Rutherford traveled and lectured in many universities. He was offered a position at Yale University, but he turned it down. He returned to England and took the Chair of Physics at Manchester replacing Sir Arthur Schuster (1851-1934), a spectroscopist. In 1909, he received the Nobel Prize in chemistry. When J. J. Thomson retired from Cavendish Laboratory at the end the First World War, the best candidate for the position was Rutherford who became the director of the laboratory. At Cambridge University, his main responsibilities were directing and guiding the laboratory. At the end of his life, Rutherford saw changes in physics. The methods of experimenting were getting more complicated and the abstract nature of the theories were increasing as a new generation physicists took part. In 1937, at a meeting held to commemorate Galvani, the death of Rutherford (caused by hernia) was announced by Bohr. Rutherford was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to the tomb of Newton.

--to be continued

Abass Belay Alamnehe /