Secrecy in industry
First listen and then answer the following question.
Why is secrecy particularly important in the chemical industries?
Two factors weigh heavily against the effectiveness of scientific research in industry. One is the general atmosphere of secrecy in which it is carried out, the other the lack of freedom of the individual research worker. In so far as any inquiry is a secret one, it naturally limits all those engaged in carrying it out from effective contact with their fellow scientists either in other countries or in universities, or even, often enough, in other departments of the same firm. The degree of secrecy naturally varies considerably. Some of the bigger firms are engaged in researches which are of such general and fundamental nature that it is a positive advantage to them not to keep them secret. Yet a great many processes depending on such research are sought for with complete secrecy until the stage at which patents can be taken out. Even more processes are never patented at all but kept as secret processes. This applies particularly to chemical industries, where chance discoveries play a much larger part than they do in physical and mechanical industries. Sometimes the secrecy goes to such an extent that the whole nature of the research cannot be mentioned. Many firms, for instance, have great difficulty in obtaining technical or scientific books from libraries because they are unwilling to have names entered as having taken out such and such a book, for fear the agents of other firms should be able to trace the kind of research they are likely to be undertaking.
J.D. BERNAL The Social Function of Science
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The modern city
What is the author's main argument about the modern city?
In the organization of industrial life the influence of the factory upon the physiological and mental state of the workers has been completely neglected. Modern industry is based on the conception of the maximum production at lowest cost, in order that an individual or a group of individuals may earn as much money as possible. It has expanded without any idea of the true nature of the human beings who run the machines, and without giving any consideration to the effects produced on the individuals and on their descendants by the artificial mode of existence imposed by the factory. The great cities have been built with no regard for us. The shape and dimensions of the skyscrapers depend entirely on the necessity of obtaining the maximum income per square foot of ground, and of offering to the tenants offices and apartments that please them. This caused the construction of gigantic buildings where too large masses of human beings are crowded together. Civilized men like such a way of living. While they enjoy the comfort and banal luxury of their dwelling, they do not realize that they are deprived of the necessities of life. The modern city consists of monstrous edifices and of dark, narrow streets full of petrol fumes and toxic gases, torn by the noise of the taxicabs, lorries and buses, and thronged ceaselessly by great crowds. Obviously, it has not been planned for the good of its inhabitants.
ALEXIS CARREL Man, the Unknown
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A man-made disease
What factor helped to spread the disease of myxomatosis?
In the early days of the settlement of Australia, enterprising settlers unwisely introduced the European rabbit. This rabbit had no natural enemies in the Antipodes, so that it multiplied with that promiscuous abandon characteristic of rabbits. It overran a whole continent. It caused devastation by burrowing and by devouring the herbage which might have maintained millions of sheep and cattle. Scientists discovered that this particular variety of rabbit (and apparently no other animal) was susceptible to a fatal virus disease, myxomatosis. By infecting animals and letting them loose in the burrows, local epidemics of this disease could be created. Later it was found that there was a type of mosquito which acted as the carrier of this disease and passed it on to the rabbits. So while the rest of the world was trying to get rid of mosquitoes, Australia was encouraging this one. It effectively spread the disease all over the continent and drastically reduced the rabbit population. It later became apparent that rabbits were developing a degree of resistance to this disease, so that the rabbit population was unlikely to be completely exterminated. There were hopes, however, that the problem of the rabbit would become manageable.
Ironically, Europe, which had bequeathed the rabbit as a pest to Australia, acquired this man-made disease as a pestilence. A French physician decided to get rid of the wild rabbits on his own estate and introduced myxomatosis. It did not, however, remain within the confines of his estate. It spread through France, Where wild rabbits are not generally regarded as a pest but as sport and a useful food supply, and it spread to Britain where wild rabbits are regarded as a pest but where domesticated rabbits, equally susceptible to the disease, are the basis of a profitable fur industry. The question became one of whether Man could control the disease he had invented.
RITCHIE CALDER Science Makes Sense
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What would you say is the main characteristic of porpoises?
There has long been a superstition among mariners that porpoises will save drowning men by pushing them to the surface, or protect them from sharks by surrounding them in defensive formation. Marine Studio biologists have pointed out that, however intelligent they may be, it is probably a mistake to credit dolphins with any motive of lifesaving. On the occasions when they have pushed to shore an unconscious human being they have much more likely done it out of curiosity or for sport, as in riding the bow waves of a ship. In 1928 some porpoises were photographer working like beavers to push ashore a waterlogged mattress. If, as has been reported, they have protected humans from sharks, it may have been because curiosity attracted them and because the scent of a possible meal attracted the sharks. Porpoises and sharks are natural enemies. It is possible that upon such an occasion a battle ensued, with the sharks being driven away or killed.
Whether it be bird, fish or beast, the porpoise is intrigued with anything that is alive. They are constantly after the turtles, who peacefully submit to all sorts of indignities. One young calf especially enjoyed raising a turtle to the surface with his snout and then shoving him across the tank like an aquaplane. Almost any day a young porpoise may be seen trying to turn a 300-pound sea turtle over by sticking his snout under the edge of his shell and pushing up for dear life. This is not easy, and may require two porpoises working together. In another game, as the turtle swims across the oceanarium, the first porpoise swoops down from above and butts his shell with his belly. This knocks the turtle down several feet. He no sooner recovers his equilibrium than the next porpoise comes along and hits him another crack. Eventually the turtle has been butted all the way down to the floor of the tank. He is now satisfied merely to try to stand up, but as soon as he does so a porpoise knocks him flat. The turtle at last gives up by pulling his feet under his shell and the game is over.
RALPH NADING HILL Window in the Sea
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The stuff of dreams
What is going on when a person experiences rapid eye-movements during sleep?
It is fairly clear that sleeping period must have some function, and because there is so much of it the function would seem to e important. Speculations about is nature have been going on for literally thousands of years, and one odd finding that makes the problem puzzling is that it looks very much as if sleeping is not simply a matter of giving the body a rest. 'Rest', in terms of muscle relaxation and so on, can be achieved by a brief period lying, or even sitting down. The body's tissues are self-repairing and self-restoring to a degree, and function best when more or less continuously active. In fact a basic amount of movement occurs during sleep which is specifically concerned with preventing muscle inactivity.
If it is not a question of resting the body, then perhaps it is the brain that needs resting? This might be a plausible hypothesis were it not for two factors. First the electroencephalograph (which is simply a device for recording the electrical activity of the brain by attaching electrodes to the scalp) shows that while there is a change in the pattern of activity during sleep, there is no evidence that the total amount of activity is any less. The second factor is more interesting and more fundamental. Some years ago an American psychiatrist named William Dement published experiments dealing with the recording of eye-movements during sleep. He showed that the average individual's sleep cycle is punctuated with peculiar bursts of eye-movements, some drifting and slow, others jerky and rapid. People woken during these periods of eye-movements generally reported that they had been dreaming. When woken at other times they reported no dreams. If one group of people were disturbed from their eye-movement sleep for several nights on end, and another group were disturbed for an equal period of time but when they were no exhibiting eye-movements, the first group began to show some personality disorders while the others seemed more or less unaffected. The implications of all this were that it was not the disturbance of sleep that mattered, but the disturbance of dreaming.
CHRISHER EVANS The stuff of dreams from The Listener
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