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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.

  • ScienceDebate Revs Up for 2016 Presidential Election

    President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton launched the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a partnership between the presidential centers of George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson on September 8, 2014. (Photo by Paul Morse)

    This year, I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of the inaugural class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program, which brings together 60 leaders from around the country to work on projects designed to create significant social impact and change. PLS is co-sponsored by the presidential libraries of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, [...]

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    Darwin: the Movie

    Clockwise from top left: Young Charles Darwin (George Richmond, 1840); Daniel Radcliffe (Joella Marano/Flickr); Henry Cavill (David Shankbone/Wikimedia); Andrew Garfield (Paulae/Wikimedia)

    It’s true, Mr. and Ms. Hollywood Producer, Nash, Hawking, Turing were great and all, and their stories brought big bucks and a few Oscars rolling your way, but come on! When it comes to Hollywood science biopics, what about The Man? I mean his discoveries changed how we see our place in nature, who we [...]

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    Cell Phones Monitor Water, Soil on African Farms [Q&A]

    Pulsepod, a cellular-enabled system for low-cost environmental sensing. (Photo: Adam Wolf)

    When he was in elementary school, Kelly Caylor built a weather station in his parents’ Tallahassee, Florida backyard. Decades later, he’s distributing high-tech environmental sensors, or “pods,” throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike the DIY contraption he built as a student, these pods are smart, high-tech, and talkative. Now an ecohydrologist at Princeton University, Caylor wants to [...]

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    John Conway Reminiscences about Dr. Matrix and Bourbaki

    John H. Conway holds an advance copy of a forthcoming biography. (Photo: Colm Mulcahy)

    Last week, life took me through Princeton, and I seized the opportunity to drop in to see resident English mathematician John Horton Conway. He was in particularly good form despite health issues that come with aging, and proudly showed me an advance copy of a forthcoming biography of his life by Siobhan Roberts. “Being the [...]

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    The Quest for Better Broccoli Starts with More Science

    Image: Puamelia/Flickr

    Everyone knows that broccoli is good for you. What was not known—until researchers examined how broccoli was prepared for distribution—is that frozen broccoli lacked the cancer-fighting nutrients that the fresh vegetable provided. With a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), however, scientists at the University of Illinois discovered [...]

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    Cord-Blood Research Sits Poised for Therapeutic Discovery

    Blood is extracted from an umbilical cord. (Blood and Tissue Bank/Flickr)

    Whenever one examines any area of scientific inquiry, there are two important things to understand: where the science is today, and where it may lead us in the future. To examine only the former is to engage in half an inquiry and create the perception that things in this particular area have reached a dead [...]

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    How Many Digits of Pi Do You Really Need to Know? Find Out with This Bar Bet

    Pi 1

    A physicist or engineer who uses π (pi) in numerical calculations may need to have access to 5 or 15 decimal place approximations to this special number, but most of us—mathematicians included—don’t need to know more (decimal-wise) than the fact that it’s roughly 3.14. Yet there is an inexplicable nerdy subculture far removed from real [...]

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    How Identity Evolves in the Age of Genetic Imperialism

    Image: Wildpixel/iStock/Thinkstock

    From designer babies to women whose genitals smell like peaches, 2014 graced us with a taste of the hope, hype and superficiality of business as usual in Silicon Valley. It is tempting to listen to those who tell us that there is a gene-hack to solve every “problem”—that DNA is just a code to personalize [...]

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    Beyond Resveratrol: The Anti-Aging NAD Fad

    Aging cells. Old human fibroblasts showing their mitochondria in large branched networks (red), their nuclear DNA (blue) and sites of DNA damage (green). (Image: Glyn Nelson/Flickr)

    Whenever I see my 10-year-old daughter brimming over with so much energy that she jumps up in the middle of supper to run around the table, I think to myself, “those young mitochondria.” Mitochondria are our cells’ energy dynamos. Descended from bacteria that colonized other cells about 2 billion years, they get flaky as we [...]

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    Birdwatchers, Hunters Train Their Scopes on Conservation

    A group of men stand birdwatching. (Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia)

    Sparked by Richard Louv’s book on Nature-Deficit Disorder, many organizations, agencies, teachers and the White House have made the push to get people outside for the benefit of their mental and physical health. Now there is another reason: to benefit environmental health. In a new study my colleagues and I show that outdoor recreationists—in this [...]

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