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    The editors of Scientific American regularly encounter perspectives on science and technology that we believe our readers would find thought-provoking, fascinating, debatable and challenging. The guest blog is a forum for such opinions. The views expressed belong to the author and are not necessarily shared by Scientific American.

  • A Month of Math, Magic and Mystery

    math magic ambigram

    Haven’t got the Math Awareness Month bug yet? Here are three teasers to get you started: 1. What read the same right side up and upside down, and combine mathematics, art, and language? Ambigrams, of course, like this one: 2. How can a 5 by 13 rectangle be cut into 4 pieces which can be [...]

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    Out of the Deep Freeze: Captain America, the Winter Soldier and the Wood Frog

    Courtesy of Kris Pearn, illustrator on Project Superhero

    “Put him back on ice…” — Evil Hydra scientist Arnim Zola speaking about Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier There’s a great convergence of activities occurring right now. The Major League Baseball season is just starting up and the sporting lens is squarely on America’s Pastime. At the same time we have Captain [...]

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    Alan Alda’s Quest to Put Story to Science

    Alda speaks at the "Stars of Stony Brook" gala in 2013 where he was honored for his central role in creating and growing The Center for Communicating Science. / Credit: Sam Levitan

    Science scares people. All too often, I am confronted by the perception of science as an institution of white-haired professors mixing colorful concoctions in underground laboratories. (Because, let’s be honest, most of the things chemists mix don’t have interesting colors). In the lab, the science is only as good as the data. On the street, [...]

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    IPCC Finally Acknowledges Its “Himalayan Blunder”

    The Himalayas are considered the 'Third Pole’ since outside the polar regions they contain the largest amount of freshwater that is frozen into snow and ice. / Credit: Pallava Bagla

    BANGALORE, India—Amidst the doomsday scenario presented by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) there is one silver lining, at least the glaciers in the Himalayas are not disappearing for at least a couple of centuries. The billion plus people who inhabit the fertile flood plains of the Ganga, Indus and Brahmaputra can breathe [...]

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    Is a Footprint the Right Metaphor for Ecological Impact?

    Credit: Nevit Dilmen/Wikimedia Commons

    On the cover of Our Ecological Footprint, published in 1996, a giant foot stomps on the Western hemisphere, carrying the weight of cars, overpasses and skyscrapers. William Rees, a population ecologist at the University of British Columbia, first thought of the footprint metaphor while boasting to a graduate student about the “small footprint” of his [...]

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    Magic, Puzzles Delight Math Fans at G4G

    infinite cigarettes

    From March 20-23, Atlanta attracted hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds who communicated in the lingua franca of Martin Gardner. Perhaps the last true polymath, Gardner has inspired so many people over the last five decades that they are almost compelled to seek each other out and share their latest discoveries. The focus of the [...]

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    China-India Smog Rivalry a Sign of Global Menace

    LEFT: Smog obscures the Forbidden City in Beijing in September 2005. Credit: Brian Jeffery Beggerly/Flickr. RIGHT: Smog hangs over Connaught Place in New Delhi in November 2006. Credit: Ville Miettinen/Flickr.

    Air pollution kills around 7 million people every year, accounting for one in eight deaths worldwide, according to a report from the World Heath Organization (WHO) released March 25. Thankfully, the problem is getting more media attention. Images of Beijing’s “Airpocalypse” were a staple of news coverage in 2013, and when pollution levels soared in [...]

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    Haitian Cholera Outbreak Highlights Need for Infrastructure, Not Blame

    Arindam Banerjee/iStock

    A cholera epidemic has infected more than 700,000 people and killed over 8,000 in Haiti over the last few years, a country of just over 10 million people. Why did the epidemic strike Haiti, when the disease has been absent from that region for a century? And why has the outbreak been so difficult to [...]

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    A Networked Approach to Fighting the TB Pandemic

    The circular M. tuberculosis genome is shown with all genes drawn in the blue and orange rings.  The complex and dynamic expression of these genes is controlled by a class of regulators called transcription factors.  Transcription factors exert their influence by interacting with small molecules, each other, and ultimately the DNA to change gene expression in response to a given condition.  The M. tuberculosis genome encodes over 200 transcription factors, and in collaboration with others we have characterized the regulatory capacity of nearly all of these control genes.  In this figure the colored lines depict the location of the transcription factor and its bound targets. This figure is drawn from a subset of all binding data, including only the most significant binding events for the most abundant family of transcription factor in M. tuberculosis.  Regions of binding hotspots are depicted by green spikes radiating out from the gene rings. / Figure created by Kyle J. MInch

    It may not be marked on your calendar, but today, March 24 is World TB Day , created to remind people of the massive global health problem caused by tuberculosis. On this day in 1882, the brilliant microbiologist Dr. Robert Koch announced his stunning discovery that TB is caused by infection with a bacterium, Mycobacterium [...]

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    Why Science Has Produced the Most Spiritual Idea in History

    Bronze statue of Giordano Bruno by Ettore Ferrari (1845-1929), Campo de' Fiori, Rome. / Credit: Jastrow via Wikimedia Commons

    With Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey now in its second broadcast week, the number of discussions generated online seems high enough to compete with the number of stars in our galaxy. I’m exaggerating, but you realize this if you have a cosmic perspective. Even so, the diversity of reactions to this next generation of Carl Sagan’s [...]

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