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Observations

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.
  • Twin Earth May Be Better Than Earth for Life

    Artist's vision of Kepler-186f

    Pseudo-Earths are out there. That’s the message of today’s exciting announcement that a planet about the same size as Earth lives in its star’s habitable zone—the temperate region around a star where liquid water might flow. “For me, the impact is to prove that such planets really do exist,” said David Charbonneau, an astronomer at [...]

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    Debate Flares over Identity of Celebrated Human Fossils

    Australopithecus sediba lower jaws

    CALGARY—In 2010 paleoanthropologists announced to great fanfare that they had recovered from a South African cave two partial skeletons of a previously unknown member of the human family that lived nearly two million years ago. The skeletons—a young male and an adult female referred to as MH1 and MH2, respectively–were said to exhibit a striking melange [...]

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    Beat Jet Lag with This Scientist-Developed App

    Fed up with jet lag when you fly long distances? University of Michigan mathematicians have your back. They’ve developed a free app, available today, based on mathematical models that can tell you when to go outdoors and when to stay in bed to avoid the sleepiness and other side effects of crossing multiple time zones [...]

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    Brains in Boston: Weekend Recap of Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s Annual Meeting

    poster at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society Annual Meeting

    Greetings from Boston where the 21st annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society is underway.  Saturday and Sunday were packed with symposia, lectures and more than 400 posters.  Here are just a few of the highlights. The bilingual brain has been a hot topic at the meeting this year, particularly as researchers grapple with the [...]

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    The Day the World’s ATMs Stood Still—or Didn’t

    Image courtesy of Shaners Becker, via Wikimedia Commons.

    You’re probably on tenterhooks wondering what will happen to your reliable, convenient ATM on April 8, the day Microsoft officially sticks a fork in its hugely popular Windows XP operating system. You’re not? Did you know that more than 75 percent of the world’s automated teller machines use XP? And that an outdated operating system [...]

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    Electronic Health Record Tracking System Fails to Gain Federal Support

    fcc-highlights-text911-banner

    Health information technologies such as smartphone-based ultrasound and electronic health records should be regulated according to the risk they present to patients, per a proposed strategy rolled out Thursday by three federal agencies. The report, which is still subject to public comment, did not call for an extension of regulatory power for the agencies. Instead it [...]

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    DIY Opioid Antidote Gets Fast FDA Approval

    Evzio is designed to be user-friendly

    Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of injury in the United States. More people between the ages of 25 and 64 now die from overdose than in car crashes—and prescription drugs are largely to blame. Opioids are particularly dangerous, killing more than 16,000 people in 2010. Prescription opioid overdoses now claim more lives each year [...]

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    Toxins in Nutrition Supplements Still Escape FDA Oversight

    Image: Womenshealth.gov

    When young and middle-aged adults started showing up at the hospital with liver failure last spring, doctors in Hawaii struggled to find the thread that connected the patients. They found it in the form of a popular sports supplement, OxyElite Pro. The supplement was linked last May to severe hepatitis, but the U.S. Food and [...]

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    Unscientific Unamerican, and Other April Fools’ Jokes in SA History

    The more complex the mind, the greater the need for play. Okay, I ripped that off from Star Trek, episode 15, but I like to think the conceit applies to the Scientific American community of readers, writers, editors and authors. Any fan of science and technology must have a curious mind. Of course, you probably [...]

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    The Quest: How to Get a Medical Librarian to Do Your Search for Free

    In my last blog post, I said one of the things I like so much about MedlinePlus (a service of the National Library of Medicine, or NLM) is that “the medical librarians at the NLM have already done a lot of the heavy lifting for you.” I thought I’d give more detail about what I [...]

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