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June 29, 2005
For the Uncommon Good

We're delighted to inform our readers that most of the stories in this edition of Science@Berkeley Lab have absolutely nothing in common.

Well, almost nothing. It's true that topics like heavy-ion fusion, quantum computing, sniffing for dirty bombs, and seeking cures for breast cancer won't be found near each other in a scientific encyclopedia. On the other hand, researchers pursuing goals as various as these routinely work cheek by jowl in multidisciplinary national laboratories like Berkeley Lab.

Even when scientists don't set out to build better mousetraps, their efforts to understand nature routinely produce material benefits. It can seem accidental, as when inventions like the World Wide Web, cobbled together by particle physicists who wanted a better way to communicate, result in profound economic benefits. But Ray Orbach, Director of DOE's Office of Science, has pointed out that even in the absence of tangible inventions science improves a nation's productivity by way of a better educated, more productive workforce.

The research described in this issue of Science@Berkeley Lab is more focused, however. Practical fusion energy could relieve global warming and international tensions. Quantum computers could make web commerce and communication unbreakably secure. Car filters are already providing a cheap, practical element of defense against terrorism. Seeking better health for women is its own justification.

If you have comments or questions on any of these uncommon stories, just drop us an email.

Paul Preuss, Editor, Science@Berkeley Lab