Families of murdered Iranian nuclear scientists file lawsuit


The families of several slain Iranian nuclear scientists filed a lawsuit accusing Israel, the U.S. and Britain of being involved in their assassinations.

“Through this complaint, we declare to the world that actions of arrogant governments, led by the U.S., Britain and the occupying Zionist regime, in assassinating nuclear scientists and elites is against human principles,” Mansoureh Karami, the wife of slain Tehran University physics professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, said at a news conference Wednesday in Tehran, according to The Associated Press.

Mohammadi is one of five Iranian nuclear scientists who have been killed since 2010, and Iran repeatedly has blamed Israel’s Mossad intelligency agency as well as the CIA and Britain’s MI6 for the assassinations, with support from some of Iran’s neighbors. The U.S. and Britain have denied involvement in the slayings. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement.

In May, Iran executed 24-year-old Majid Jamali Fashi for the assassination of Mohammadi and spying for Israel. Mohammadi was killed by a remote-controlled bomb in January 2010.

In April, more than 15 Iranian and foreign nationals reportedly were arrested for carrying out alleged terrorist missions for Israel in Iran, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s official news service. The group was accused of spying for Israel, the attempted assassination of an Iranian expert and sabotage.

The state-backed Fars news agency said the lawsuit stressed that the deaths of the scientists would not undermine Iran’s progress because Iranian youths will double their efforts to make more achievements in scientific and technological fields.

Western powers accuse Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons, while Iran says it is attempting to build reactors for peaceful purposes such as power and medical isotopes.

Iranian suspects reportedly confess to killing scientists, training in Israel


More than a dozen Iranian citizens arrested in connection with the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists have confessed, Iranian state television reported.

The Iranians were shown in a television report describing how they were trained at an Israeli military camp near Tel Aviv. One of the suspects said the operation was being sponsored by the United States and Israel, according to The Associated Press.

“The assassination control room was in Tel Aviv, but it was receiving the orders from Washington and London,” according to the TV report.

The alleged spies, who were arrested in June, include eight men and six women, the AP reported.

At least five nuclear scientists have been assassinated in the last two years. Iranian officials have said they believe that Israel and its Mossad intelligence agency were behind the killings.

In May, Iran executed a man convicted of spying for Israel and assassinating an Iranian nuclear scientist. Majid Jamali Fashi, 24, was sentenced to death in August 2010 for the murder of Ali Mohammadi, a particle physics professor at Tehran University killed by a remote-controlled bomb in a January 2010 attack.

In April, more than 15 Iranian and foreign nationals reportedly were arrested for carrying out alleged terrorist missions for Israel in Iran, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s official news service. The group was accused of spying for Israel, the attempted assassination of an Iranian expert and sabotage.

Scientist is first Israeli to win World Food Prize


An Israeli scientist was awarded the prestigious World Food Prize, becoming the first Israeli to receive the award.

Dr. Daniel Hillel, who specializes in a new mode of bringing water to crops in arid and dry land known as micro-irrigation, was awarded the prize at the U.S. State Department on Tuesday.

The $250,000 award is given to an individual who has enhanced human development with innovative solutions to food quality. The recognition is an initiative privately sponsored by businessman and philanthropist Juan Roan of Des Moines, Iowa.

During the ceremony, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Hillel “a master of applying new thinking to old problems.”

“Food security is also fundamental to human security. Food scarcity can lead to social unrest,” Clinton said in her remarks, according to Haaretz. “When we strengthen food security and enhance cooperation we lay stronger base to promote human development. … It is up to up to us to save the next billion.”

In addition, Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, praised Hillel for his work for “maximizing efficient water usage in agriculture.”

“Dr. Hillel’s work and motivation has been to bridge such divisions and to promote peace and understanding in the Middle East by advancing a breakthrough achievement addressing a problem that so many countries share in common: water scarcity,” Quinn said in his remarks, according to Haaretz.

U.S. reportedly tells Iran: Strait closing is ‘red line’


The United States relayed a message to Iran that blocking the Strait of Hormuz would be a “red line,” the New York Times reported.

The newspaper reported Friday that there is considerable skepticism in the Obama administration and among the military that Iran would go through with threats to shut the strait, through which much of the world’s oil must pass, if only because Iran would effectively cut off its own oil trade by doing so.

Nonetheless, the threat was deemed important enough to convey to Iran through secret channels that such a shutting would prompt a military response.

Iran issued the threats in the wake of a series of steps the Obama administration has taken in recent weeks to intensify sanctions until Iran agrees to make more transparent its suspected nuclear weapons program.

A number of media outlets are reporting this week that Iran has agreed to reopen discussions later this month about its nuclear program, which it maintains is purely civilian in nature, with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Obama administration condemns Iran car bomb


The Obama administration condemned an attack in Tehran that killed a nuclear scientist, and Iran threatened Israel with revenge.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, was killed Wednesday when a bomb placed on his car by a motorcyclist exploded. Roshan reportedly was a supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, in addition to being a professor at Tehran’s technical university.

“We condemn any assassination or attack on an innocent person, and we express our sympathies to the family,” Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council spokesman, denied any U.S. role. “The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this,” he said. “We strongly condemn all acts of violence, including acts of violence like this.”

Iran blamed Israel for the attack and threatened revenge.

“The bomb was a magnetic one and the same as the ones previously used for the assassination of the scientists, and the work of the Zionists,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Tehran’s Deputy Governor Safarali Baratloo as saying. Fars called the explosion a terrorist attack.

Kayhan, a newsmpaper considered a mouthpiece for the theocracy, suggested retaliation.

“We should retaliate against Israel for martyring of our young scientist,” an editorial quoted by the New York Times said.

At least four Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in anonymous attacks since January 2010. Iranian officials have blamed Israel and the United States for the attacks.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said in a statement that the killing was “a heinous act” and that “We will continue our (nuclear) path without any doubt … Our path is irreversible,” Reuters reported.

Israeli media reported Tuesday that Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said in an address to a closed Knesset committee that Iran should expect more “unnatural” events in 2012.

Iran’s top nuclear official said the country was about to start production at its second major uranium enrichment site.

Iran announced last week that it would begin uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility located near the holy city of Qom.

With killing of another nukes scientist, Iran again blames Israel


Iranian officials are blaming Israel for an attack in Tehran that killed a nuclear scientist.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, was killed Wednesday when a bomb placed on his car by a motorcyclist exploded. Roshan reportedly was a supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, in addition to being a professor at Tehran’s technical university.

“The bomb was a magnetic one and the same as the ones previously used for the assassination of the scientists, and the work of the Zionists,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Tehran’s Deputy Governor Safarali Baratloo as saying. Fars called the explosion a terrorist attack.

At least four Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in anonymous attacks since January 2010. Iranian officials have blamed Israel and the United States for the attacks.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said in a statement that the killing was “a heinous act” and that “We will continue our (nuclear) path without any doubt … Our path is irreversible,” Reuters reported.

Israeli media reported Tuesday that Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said in an address to a closed Knesset committee that Iran should expect more “unnatural” events in 2012.

Iran’s top nuclear official said the country was about to start production at its second major uranium enrichment site.

Iran announced last week that it would begin uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility located near the holy city of Qom.

Scientist who aimed to spy for Israel pleads guilty


A former U.S. government scientist pleaded guilty to charges of trying to sell classified information to Israel.

Stewart Nozette, who was caught in an FBI sting operation in October 2009, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

As part of a plea bargain, Nozette was sentenced to 13 years in prison, with credit for the two years he has served since being arrested, according to reports. Nozette was determined to be a flight risk when he was jailed.

He is accused of asking for $2 million from an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer in 2009 in exchange for the information.

Nozette held security clearances as high as top secret and had access to classified information until at least 2006, according to the Washington Post. He has knowledge about the U.S. nuclear missile program and helped discover evidence of water on the moon’s southern pole.

Iranian scientist requests asylum in Israel


An Iranian nuclear scientist has requested political asylum in Israel, an Israeli lawmaker said.

Ayoub Kara, a Druze minister of the Likud Party, said Saturday that an Iranian academic with ties to Iran’s nuclear program passed the request for asylum via an Israeli woman of Iranian descent, according to reports.

The scientist is waiting for Israel’s decision from a “friendly” third country, according to Kara, who did not name the scientist or the country in which he is hiding.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that an increasing number of Iranian nuclear scientists are defecting or leaking information about Iran’s nuclear program to Western nations.

Fund assists Israeli cancer researchers


If mapping the human genome was the seminal biological work of the 20th century, then learning how to “read” those genes will define this century, said one of Israel’s top cancer researchers as he tinkers in his lab surrounded by tiny plastic tubes of DNA.

“What is really important is how genes are developed,” said Howard Cedar, a U.S.-born scientist at the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical School.

Cedar recently won the prestigious Wolf Prize in Medicine — Israel’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize — for his work on how genes become active and inactive during the normal development of cells and how this process is compromised in cells that become cancerous.

He is among hundreds of Israeli scientists whose research has been supported by the

New film foams with the soap story of Dr. Bronner


Emanuel Bronner, creator of the company Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, was not your typical boardroom suit.

Third-generation soap-maker, escaped mental patient and son of Orthodox Jews and Holocaust victims, Bronner, who died in 1997, is the subject of a new documentary, “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox,” and in the film, the only suit Bronner wears is a swimsuit. That’s because his pool is one of the many pulpits from which Bronner preaches his messages of “All-One-God-Faith” and “The Moral ABCs,” both of which he pasted on every soap bottle he produced.

In the film, Bronner’s black sunglasses and passionate, Germanized speech make him a cross between mad scientist and preacher on a mission. He employs feverish, often religious rhetoric, invoking such names as Moses, Hillel, Confucius, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha and Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz as prophets of one God. “All one! All one! All one!” Bronner insists throughout the movie.

“Dad’s intensity could drive you away,” Bronner’s son, Ralph, said in an interview, “because he also couldn’t control stopping.” Even when the camera turns to someone else, Bronner continues to rant in the background.

The film, which opens July 13 in Los Angeles, mythologizes Bronner but does not canonize him. His tragic flaw is his intense devotion to his mission, which caused him to neglect his children. Even though Bronner’s speech is intelligible, his ideas are so strange that subtitles had to be used. Clearly, it was hard for him to articulate his thoughts in a way that was understandable to other people.

Why is this award different from all others?


I’m sitting with my husband in the packed and darkened auditorium at Royce Hall in UCLA. It’s the night of the LA Times Book Prizes, but we might as well be at some Hollywood awards show: The stage is decorated like the set of a movie — Sean Penn is sitting two seats to my right; Bruce Dern and Mike Farrell are rumored to be somewhere in the audience; and a tall, slim woman with long, dark hair and very pronounced curves has just appeared from stage left, surrounded by a halo of light, to bring to the presenter a sealed envelope bearing the name — not of “the winner,” but of “the person to whom the award goes.”

Earlier, master of ceremonies Jim Lehrer asked the audience to think of him as an author first, and everything else second, because he has written and published for far longer than he has had a television career.

Now, M.G. Lord opens the envelope. The Science and Technology award, she says, goes to Eric R. Kandel, author of “In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind.” Music blares, the spotlight abandons the curvaceous presenter in favor of the section in the audience where finalists from each category are seated, and Kandel makes his way up the steps and to the podium.

He looks somewhere in his late seventies. He’s wearing a very sharp gray suit and a red bow tie, and he appears every bit as distinguished and scholarly as you might expect from a Columbia University professor. He says he’s genuinely pleased to be receiving this award — which is nice of him, I think, given that this isn’t the first time he has found himself on a stage delivering an acceptance speech: Before making his way to Los Angeles and Royce Hall, Kandel has garnered the National Medal of Honor, the Wolf Prize, the Gairdner International Award, and, in the year 2000, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

When he says that this award means as much to him as the Nobel, a chuckle rises from the audience and quickly spills into applause. But Kandel isn’t joking. “I’ve been asking myself,” he says, “what the difference is between being here and being in Stockholm.” Again, there’s laughter from the audience.

For one thing, he says, he knew ahead of time to prepare an acceptance speech for Stockholm; for another, here he is among authors who write not just about science, but about everything else in the world as well. In other words, this, to him, is a more intimidating crowd than a room full of fellow Nobel winners.

Not that any of the writers in the audience believes him, but I think we’re grateful for the complement nevertheless.

I go home that night and look up Kandel’s history online. I learn that he was born in Vienna in 1929, escaped the Nazis in 1939. I read about his many degrees and countless achievements, about his research and writings in scientific fields the names of which I can barely pronounce. Forget Sean Penn and Bruce Dern, I tell my kids. Eric Kandel was by far the biggest hit of the evening.

The next day, in the green room, I’m sitting with two friends when Kandel walks up and asks if he can join us at our table. It’s lunch hour, the place is packed, and he needs to share a table with someone, but I still think this is an act of God — like when Michael Jordan appeared out of thin air on a basketball court in an inner-city neighborhood in the middle of a sweltering summer afternoon, and passed the ball to the wide-eyed children in those television ads for some sporting good or other. I tell Kandel as much, and he laughs, puts his plate down and starts asking about me and the others at the table — what we write and where we come from, if we like our agents and publishers.

I ask him what book he’s working on, and I gather from his response that it has something to do with Freud and European Expressionism, but he’s more interested in finding out how many children I have than in explaining the subject matter of his book. I ask how long he’s staying in Los Angeles — only till Sunday, and then he’s off to New York, Paris, then Vienna, where he is to receive another award.

He offers that he has a son in New York, and a daughter — Minoosh — in San Francisco. He says he likes his children’s spouses, thank God; they’re good people and responsible parents. He has four grandchildren, and he doesn’t see them as often as he would like, what with his teaching schedule and all the traveling he has to do, but they all make a point of getting together for the holidays.

People come up to him every few minutes and ask him to sign their books, and he interrupts what he’s saying, engages in cordial conversation with the fans, then picks up with me where he left off. Two agents, an editor, a pair of newspaper reporters stop by to pay their respects, and end up staying. Before I know it, we’re all exchanging high holiday stories and talking about our children, how quickly they seem to have grown up, how we wish they wouldn’t take off for the other side of the country every time the wind blows, how we hope that they will observe Jewish traditions whether or not we’re there to enforce it.

“When he was alive,” Kandel says, “my father had us all at his home for every Jewish holiday. After he died, it fell upon me to do the same.”

What is the difference between being here and in Stockholm? I wonder. At the end of the day, between one Jew and another, perhaps not very much.

Gina B. Nahai is an author and a professor of creative writing at USC. Her new novel, “Caspian Rain,” will be published this fall. Gina Nahai’s column appears monthly in The Journal.

Spectator – The Holy Land of Progress


The Israeli firm, M-Systems, developed flash technology that allows huge amounts of computer data to be stored on a key chain. Given Imaging Ltd. created a miniature, disposable video camera that can be fitted into a capsule and swallowed, giving doctors thousands of images of a person’s intestines. Nemesysco invented voice-sensitive technology that reveals, over the telephone, whether someone is telling the truth.

The achievements of these Israeli companies aren’t the kind that are likely to make headlines, especially coming from a region long dominated by violence and political turmoil. But for British philanthropist Trevor Pears — who conceived and funded the 2005 book, “Israel in the World: Changing Lives Through Innovation” (Orion Publishing Group, Limited) — they were just the kinds of stories he wanted to share.

“Other books tell you how to argue for Israel,” he said. “They don’t tell you why you should…. [So I] figured perhaps I might make that happen.”

Eventually journalists Helen and Douglas Davis signed on to write the book, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch wrote the forward.

“From media and telecommunications to … banking, Israeli technological advances are key contributors to the progress and strength of the global economy,” Murdoch wrote.

Pears’ favorite “Innovation” story is about Yoel Margalith, an Israeli scientist known worldwide as “Mr. Mosquito.” Margalith, a Holocaust survivor, is credited with saving millions of lives through his discovery of a naturally occurring bacteria that kills disease-carrying mosquitoes without harming the environment.

Researcher Yossi Leshem saves lives in a different way. His pioneering use of unmanned aerial vehicles has tracked the flight paths of hundreds of species of migratory birds so airplanes can keep away from them. Leshem provided the United States government with information on the birds’ migratory patterns during the 1991 Gulf War; he now works closely with other Western governments, as well as the Jordanian and Turkish air forces.

“It’s breathtaking how broad Israel’s innovative genius has become in the 21st century,” said Larry Weinberg of Israel21c, which works to give a fuller picture of Israel beyond the Palestinian conflict. A number of the stories in the book are from his organization’s archives, Weinberg said: “People look at this book and go, ‘Wow! Even Jews don’t know what Israel has become in the 21st century.”

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Q & A With Dr. Michael A. Friedman


Last May, Dr. Michael A. Friedman took the helm of City of Hope as its CEO. A federally designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, the 112-acre biomedical research and treatment center in Duarte got its start in 1914 when members of the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association set up two tents as a haven for those stricken with

tuberculosis.

Friedman, an oncologist and clinical researcher, also has experience in public policy and commercial drug development. He served as the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under President Bill Clinton and as associate director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). He got his start as a clinical oncologist and professor at UC San Francisco Medical Center and most recently worked in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Jewish Journal spoke with Friedman as City of Hope celebrates its 90th anniversary, Friedman marks his first year with the institution and a state-of-the-art Helford Clinical Research Hospital, scheduled to open this fall, nears completion:

The Jewish Journal: What attracted you to this position?

Dr. Michael A. Friedman: If you look for the intersection between wonderfully creative research and dedicated, effective and compassionate care in an environment where all the best humanistic values are evidenced, I don’t think there’s another institution that captures all of that confluence quite so well as City of Hope. It’s an institution that has a splendid history, but more than that, is poised to have some wonderful scientific and clinical accomplishments over the next decade.

JJ: What were some of the challenges you faced as you began your tenure as CEO?

MF: The general challenges are that the health care environment in Southern California is very challenging, dynamic and unpredictable. Support for research from federal and local agencies is finite and hotly competed for. The economic environment in Southern California and the nation has been struggling, and that has affected development opportunities and fund raising.

The unique challenges here, I think, are to examine how a modest-sized institution that has aspirations of the highest quality activities can function effectively. We’ve decided there are a limited number of clinical areas that we want to focus on and do them extremely well.

JJ: Does that mean there some areas that you’ve had to let go or de-emphasize?

MF: Not so much de-emphasize as not emphasize. There’s a difference. We feel confident and capable of giving superb care for all kinds of malignancies, but from a research perspective, we’re going to focus on certain of these malignancies … where we can make a world-class difference.

JJ: With medical costs rising dramatically, how does City of Hope meet the financial challenges of health care delivery?

MF: Providing the highest quality care and research can’t be done without great expense. Our research is partly underwritten by grants … our patient revenues are higher than ever before … our past successes translating basic science into clinical science has generated substantial royalty income, but even these are not enough to cover costs. If we didn’t have donations, this would not be possible. We recognize that public generosity makes our quality of care and quality of research possible. We could spend less money and have things more self-sustaining, but we would lose the greatness of the institution.

JJ: How is City of Hope poised to make a difference in cancer research?

MF: The unique aspect of what we do here is taking basic science knowledge and translating it into clinically meaningful treatments. We’ve had this very pragmatic perspective since the institution was founded of trying to make a practical difference in people’s lives.

On this campus, a scientist in one building gets an idea, makes a small molecule — or monoclonal antibody or gene therapy or whatever it is — gets FDA approval to use that molecule in patients and walks across campus where the substance can be made under the most rigorous standards. And then the clinicians can administer that treatment here. That’s making that loop [from idea to reality] as short as possible without compromising a moment of patient safety or concern.

JJ: What was it like working at the FDA?

MF: It was hugely interesting and overall very enjoyable — especially looking back on it. When I was sitting in the House or the Senate testifying, I enjoyed looking around at the formal organs of government and knowing that it’s a privilege to participate in a democracy.

JJ: What do you think the founders who pitched those tents 90 years ago would think of today’s institution?

MF: While they would be confused by the complexity … and frightened by the number of choices and possibilities for the future … I think they would be struck by the humanness and the heart and good intentions of the institution that have remained remarkably intact over the years.

JJ: Are you willing to be a soothsayer and predict when cancer will be conquered?

MF: I don’t know the answer to that. I can tell you that there will be selective cancers that will be cured within the next decade. There are others that will be difficult and less tractable. This is the most complicated problem because each person is different and each person’s tumor is different. To come up with general answers to such unique situations is challenging.

There’s a pioneering spirit that was true when this place was first started and remains today: No problem is too hard. Today, it’s easy to look back and minimize the challenge of tuberculosis, but TB was miserable. There was no treatment and it was the No. 1 killer for many years. But nobody said, “That’s too hard.”

As TB became highly treatable, this institution could have easily folded its tents. But they said, “OK. We’ve dealt with one impossible problem. Let’s take on another impossible problem — this time it’ll be cancer. Or diabetes.” That speaks volumes about what this place is about: Hope. Hatikvah resonates in a lot of different ways. It’s a powerful idea that is right at the heart of this institution.

Being Richard Feynman


I’ve always felt that what viewers bring to a play or movie by way of personal background and experience determines their level of enjoyment (or dislike) as much as the skills of the actors and author.

Having spent some 30 years as a science writer at UCLA, during which I must have interviewed well over a thousand scientists and engineers and then tried to interpret their often abstruse research for the lay reader, I brought a high degree of empathy to the performance of "QED" at the Mark Taper Forum.

The play chronicles the exuberant, questioning mind and spirit of physicist Richard Feynman, which did not desert him even as he faced incurable cancer and death.

Feynman shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics for his formulation of quantum electrodynamics — thus the play’s title. To refresh your Latin, q.e.d. also stands for quod erat demonstrandum, which the program notes translate as "that proves it," and my dictionary, more felicitously, I think, as "which was to be proved," certainly more in the spirit of Feynman, who never took anything as permanently proven.

Feynman was a certified genius who questioned everything and explored what to ordinary minds appears trivial — for instance, why dry spaghetti always breaks in half when you take it out of the box.

He was also a multifaceted fun guy who took distinguished visitors to his favorite topless bar, played the drums, acted in amateur theatricals at Caltech, deciphered Mayan hieroglyphics and was inordinately fond of the opposite sex — including his three wives.

So it would have been easy to play Feynman as the proverbial eccentric scientist, a kind of hip Einstein. It is to the credit of playwright Peter Parnell, director Gordon Davidson and Alan Alda as Feynman that they resisted such a temptation. They are not afraid to insert some science lessons — how photons behave when they hit a glass surface, for instance — and more importantly, the scientific method and viewpoint in a still largely superstitious world.

They have been aided by Feynman’s extraordinary ability to explain his complex research and methodology in simple terms. That ability confirms my observation over 30 years that it is the top scientists who are confident enough to converse with laymen, while it is the young post-docs and assistant professors who take refuge in convoluted jargon.

Even more important than explaining specific theories and discoveries, Feynman — and the play — convey the scientific attitude.

As the physicist put it, "Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain. Now, we scientists are used to this, and we take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure — that it is possible to live and not know."

Feynman was, of course, Jewish. He was rejected by Columbia in 1935 because the university had already filled its quota of Jewish freshmen.

The play’s only reference to his religion — or rather rejection of it — comes in a flashback, when he begins to recite the "Kaddish" (with fine Hebrew pronunciation) at his father’s grave.

To his mother’s anguish, he stops after the first few words, unable to praise a God neither he nor his father believed in.

"QED" is a play that challenges the mind as well as the emotions as it portrays that rarest of human beings, a man of absolute intellectual integrity.

"QED," Mark Taper Forum, through May 13. Tickets $30-$44; reduced prices weekdays two hours before curtain, and to Medicare card holders. More in-formation: call (213) 628-2772.

The Nano Meter: Israel Adds to the Future of Technology


Israeli scientists, like their colleagues worldwide, are thinking smaller and smaller. The world’s first computer occupied an entire room. Today’s laptop does everything better and faster than its elephantine predecessor.

The key to this miracle of miniaturization is, of course, the microchip — the integrated electronic circuit that, at 1-mm square, is so tiny it can be clutched in the jaws of an ant. But 20-30 years from now, scientists say, today’s microchip will seem as cumbersome as the technology that powered the room-sized computer.

Today’s aim is to shrink microchips to the size of human cells in an emerging discipline known as nanotechnology. This new technology, which measures matter in nanos or billionths of a meter, is already used in computers, mobile phones and photocopiers. As far as the dreamers are concerned, however, this is just the beginning of a future in which we manipulate atoms as easily as toy Legos.

There’s still a long way to go. Yet Israel, with its repeatedly proven technological track record, is helping shorten the road. The first working electronic component for the nanocircuits of the future, for example, was created at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Called a nanowire, it’s a string of tiny particles of silver, a thousand times thinner than a human hair, which actually passes a current.

“Wires are the foundation of any circuit, because they link circuit components to one another and to the outside world,” says physicist Uri Sivan, who fathered the nanowire together with fellow physicist Erez Braun and chemist Yoav Eichen. The Technion team synthesized strands of DNA — the molecule that makes up genes — to make a scaffolding for the wire. Because DNA is an insulator that does not conduct electrical current, they attached grains of silver along the scaffold. The resulting nanowire is three times thinner than those created for microchips. Using molecules such as DNA to construct electronic devices is totally new, says Professor Jacob Sagiv, a materials scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.

“It’s akin to the history of architecture. Early man lived in caves, carving the rock and extending his cave, until this technology reached its limits. Then he began chiseling out smaller stones for building blocks — a technique that ultimately led to the skyscraper. This is what’s happening today with electronic devices. Until now, we’ve built integrated electronic circuits by chemically carving crystals. Now that we’re reaching the limits of this technology, we’re learning to build structures and apparatus from the tiniest available building blocks: molecules and atoms.”

With colleagues from Weizmann, Sagiv has built three-dimensional structures out of molecules, one of them shaped like a Star of David, with each of its sides only 1,000th the width of a human hair.

Just as the cavemen identified which stones built the best houses, so today’s scientists are learning which molecules work best for them. Professor Reshef Tenne of the Weizmann Institute searched with colleagues in his department and at Oxford University in Britain for molecules to act as switches in computer memory. Unable to find this in nature, they shaped a single layer of nickel-chloride molecules into a sphere. This has not only produced highly reliable magnetic memory switches, it has also led to the creation of tiny molecular pipes.

The Weizmann nanotubes have been warmly welcomed by Professor Aaron Lewis, director of the Laser Center at the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem. He and Tenne believe the nanotubes will extend the use of his recently developed nanomicroscope, now in use from Beijing to Stanford.

“In this microscope, light is passed through a hole only nanometers in dimension, allowing us to examine single genes and even single proteins, and how they alter on the cell surface,” Lewis says.

Punching glass to make a hole only 10 nanometers wide for the microscope itself demanded the creation of new technology. This knowledge led, in turn, to the development of tiny glass tubes into which Lewis slid an even tinier metal wire, creating an instrument that functions like a surgical laser with a wide range of different lasers depending on the electric pulses sent through it. A fraction of the cost of a variety of surgical lasers, it is now in clinical trials at Hadassah.

Another tool that evolved from the new technology is what Lewis calls a nano-fountain pen. It is, in fact, a hollow nanotube that can deposit chemicals on nanodimensions. Its uses may include chemically altering faulty genes.

Scientists are dreaming of a future in which cell-sized capsules will chemically recognize diseased cells and deliver appropriate drugs; in which measurements and instruments will be calibrated to an accuracy of one-ten thousandth of a millimeter; in which laboratory instruments will float on high-pressure air cushions to reduce vibration; in which we will build everything from computers to cheese sandwiches, atom by atom. And if the future is not yet now, it is certainly closer than ever before — and with lots of help from Israeli scientists.


Wendy Elliman writes on business and technology from Israel.