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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.

  • Can Whales and Dolphins Make Mental Maps?

    Credit: Gregory "Greg" Smith via Flickr

    The brains of cetaceans—dolphins and whales—differ from those of other mammals in a number of ways, but one of the most striking differences is the size of the hippocampus.  As a general rule, the larger the size of a mammal’s brain, the smaller the fraction of it that the hippocampus occupies, so dolphins and whales [...]

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    Warp Drive Research Key to Interstellar Travel

    (TM) & © 2014 CBS Studios Inc. Star Trek and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

    As any avid Star Trek fan can tell you, the eccentric physicist Zefram Cochrane invented the warp-drive engine in the year 2063. It wasn’t easy. Cochrane had to contend with evil time-traveling aliens who were determined to stop him from building the faster-than-light propulsion system (see the 1996 movie Star Trek: First Contact for details). [...]

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    Why Wall Street Needs Remedial Biology

    Nature of Investing Cover

    There’s been a lot of chatter this month about high frequency trading, due in large part to the release of Michael Lewis’s latest book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt. We all love a story of heroes and villains, good versus evil: we love the emotion of it, and most of all we love that [...]

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    Hallmarks of Cancer 8: Tumor-Promoting Inflammation

    Tumors and their TAMs. Tumors secrete signalling molecules known as chemokines to attract circulating monocytes, a type of white blood cell. Once in the tumor, the monocytes differentiate into Tumor Associated Macrophages (TAMs). Oxygen-starved (hypoxic) areas of the tumor secrete VEGF, which attracts these TAMs. TAMs can also secrete VEGF, which in turn attract more TAMs to the tumor. / Image by Buddhini Samarasinghe.

    The Hallmarks of Cancer are ten underlying principles shared by all cancers. You can read the first seven Hallmarks of Cancer articles here. The eighth Hallmark of Cancer is defined as “tumor-promoting inflammation.” We consider the immune system as our friend; it protects us by fighting infections while keeping us healthy. But there is a [...]

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    Winter Is Coming… So Wear the Right Clothes

    Jon Snow donning the uniform of The Night's Watch / Courtest of HBO

    The April 6th Game of Thrones episode, “Two Swords,” eased the HBO series out of the gate and into its fourth season. With this Sunday’s episode, “The Lion and the Rose,” and King Joffrey’s Purple Wedding, things picked up speed considerably. One of GOT’s hallmarks is the way in which its physical and human geography [...]

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    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


    “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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