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Observations


Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American
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    From the editors and reporters of Scientific American , this blog delivers commentary, opinion and analysis on the latest developments in science and technology and their influence on society and policy. From reasoned arguments and cultural critiques to personal and skeptical takes on interesting science news, you'll find a wide range of scientifically relevant insights here. Follow on Twitter @sciam.
  • Are You a “Pre-crastinator”?

    395px-A_metal_buckett

    Each of us, at times, can be a procrastinator, putting off something that is hard to do or that we don’t want to do. But three researchers at Pennsylvania State University think we humans may also be precrastinators—hurrying to get something done so we can cross it off our mental to-do list, even if the [...]

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    300,000-Plus People March for Climate Action, in Pictures

    The Sunday morning rush hour is not usually known for packing people into subway cars like sardines. But September 21, 2014 was not your average Sunday commute as hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, Americans from across the country and foreign contingents converged on Columbus Circle and Central Park West for the People’s Climate March. [...]

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    Fracking Woes Stem from Oil Addiction, Not Hydraulic Fracturing

    fracking-in-pennsylvania

    Flaming tap water comes from bad wells, and not the drinking-water kind. Folks who live closest to natural gas wells in Pennsylvania suffer ill health. And the uptick in earthquakes in parts of Colorado and New Mexico is entirely human-induced. All of these problems are associated with fracking, yet none of them have anything to [...]

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    Mechanical Forces Affect Cell Development and Disease [Video]

    Genes alone do not control a cell’s fate. Physical forces pulling on that cell can determine how a cell becomes a complex organ.

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    Smartphone App Takes Morality Science out of the Lab and into the Real World

    Image of the Smartphone Experience-Sampling Signal (SMS linking to smartphone survey). Courtesy of Wilhelm Hofmann.

    Just when it seems there’s a mobile app for just about everything, psychologists have shown there’s room for one more: they are using smartphones to help them better understand the dynamics of moral and immoral behavior out in the community. A team of U.S., German and Dutch researchers has used Apple iOS, Google Android and [...]

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    Ancient Engraving Strengthens Case for Sophisticated Neandertals

    Neandertal engraving in Gorham

    One of the longest-running, most fervent debates in the history of human evolution research concerns the cognitive abilities of the Neandertals. Were they the slow-witted creatures of popular imagination or did an intellect like that of modern humans lurk behind that heavy brow? I think it’s safe to say that these days most paleoanthropologists have [...]

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    Is There a Future for Wilderness?

    wilderness-act-signing

    Wilderness is dead, long live the Wilderness Act. On Sept. 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson and the U.S. Congress signed into law the Wilderness Act. The law was the culmination of a populist movement that began with the founding of Yosemite all the way back in 1890. But the Act was also about a very [...]

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    Baby Sea Turtles Tracked with Hair-Extension Glue [Video]

    sea turtle face; still image from video

    Hatchling sea turtles face daunting odds in surviving to adulthood, and only a few find a way. Just where they go to find food and hide from predators has remained a mystery until earlier this year, when Kate Mansfield, a biologist at the University of Central Florida, came up with a novel way to stick [...]

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    Black Skies No More: Passenger Pigeons Slaughtered

    Passenger pigeon memorial at the Cincinnati Zoo.

    For nearly a minute the sky went black. Then it was over. I was standing in a long alley between two four-story brick buildings on a clear sunny day. Suddenly, off in the bright blue sliver of horizon I could see at the end of the alley, a dark cloud started to rise. It grew [...]

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    Archaeologists Assess Killing Power of Stone Age Weapons

    Experimental spears

    Half a million years ago in South Africa early human ancestors shaped lumps of rock into lethal points and then attached them to wooden shafts, producing the earliest known stone-tipped spears. It took a lot more time and effort to make these multicomponent implements than to make a simple, untipped wooden spear, but the result [...]

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