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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.
  • Sleepy Teens: High School Should Start Later in the Morning

    sleeping teen

    High school begins across the U.S. this week and next. And it begins too early! Too early in the day, that is. Ask any groggy teenager waiting for a bus or yawning in “home room” and he or she will tell you that it’s just too darn early in the morning to learn chemistry equations [...]

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    Earthquakes in Napa, Iceland and…Ohio? [Video]

    Photos are everywhere today of wine bottles, and in some cases wine barrels, broken on the floors of Napa Valley, the famous wine region in California–dashed to the ground by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck there early Sunday. News outlets are also filing regular reports from Iceland, where thousands of small earthquakes have occurred [...]

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    How Do Our Brains Remember? [Video]

    Kandel_06 crop

    Each of us has a unique experience on this earth. A major reason for that is the buildup of our memories over time, which forms the ongoing narrative that we know as our life. Memories are also central to learning. But how does the brain—a collection of cells, neurons chief among them—remember and learn? Eric [...]

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    Did Climate Shocks Shape Human Evolution? [Video]

    In a video, noted scientists debate the connections between ancient climate changes and the emergence of modern human traits.

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    Could Google Glass Ruin Your Memory?

    We’ve all done it: We’re at an event, we take a bunch of photos with our phones, we take a selfie and maybe one with a friend, we post all the images online, and we’re done. Done with what? Well, documenting that moment in our lives. That way everyone knows what we did. And we [...]

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    Poaching Could Drive Elephants Extinct in Decades

    elephant-carcasses-killed-by-poachers

    Two or more dead elephants in one place means one thing: poaching by professional killers. Another tip-off is the lack of a face, as poachers hack off the tusks to be sold for ivory. That ivory is then made into valuable trinkets in Asia or even parts of violin bows in Europe and North America. [...]

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    Flip-Flop Summer Caused by Strange Jet Stream

    jetstream2

    By now, if you live in the northeastern U.S. you have heard or even said the following:  “This summer has been so cool. I love it.” Or: “This summer has been so cool. I hate it.” Yet if you live in Oregon or Washington, you’ve heard the opposite: “It’s been so hot this year!” Maybe [...]

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    Google Maps Dives Underwater with “Street View”

    Credit: WIkimedia Commons

    Google has taken its ‘street view’ maps to a whole new level—namely, the ocean’s depths. Already, scientists have collected 400,000 panoramic photos of coral reefs and other marine marvels off the coast of Australia and in the Caribbean, some of which viewers can access on Google Maps. This week, U.S. government scientists will dive the [...]

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    Brain-Inspired Computing Reaches a New Milestone

    One idea for neuromorphic computing is to integrate its capabilities into assistive glasses for the visually impaired that can help them navigate through complex environments, without the need for a wifi connection. Image courtesy of IBM.

    For the past few years, tech companies and academic researchers have been trying to build so-called neuromorphic computer architectures—chips that mimic the human brain’s ability to be both analytical and intuitive in order to deliver context and meaning to large amounts of data. Now the leading effort to develop such a system has achieved a [...]

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    Why Lasers Won’t Protect Airliners

    A mobile Buk surface-to-air missile launcher, similar to that believed to have been used to shoot down Flight 17. Image courtesy of .:Ajvol:. via Wikimedia Commons.

    Questions over the best way to protect civilian aircraft from surface-launched missiles have reemerged in light of the recent Malaysia Airlines tragedy over the Ukraine. On July 17, a medium-range Buk surface-to-air missile fired from the territory controlled by pro-Russia separatists reportedly struck Flight 17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Boeing [...]

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