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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.
  • Senators Vote in Circles about Global Warming and the Keystone XL Pipeline

    US-capitol-building

    The U.S. Senate voted 62 to 36 yesterday to build the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring oil from tar sands in Canada down through the U.S. Tar sands are one of the dirtiest forms of oil and expansion of their use would ensure too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, helping climate change wreak [...]

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    Shopping Habits Reveal Personal Details in “Anonymized” Data

    Credit/Source: PhotoDisc/ Getty Images

    Details about where and when you use your credit card could help reveal your identity to data thieves—even if they don’t know your name, address and other personal information. That’s according to the latest study to poke holes in the notion that anonymous data records are an effective way to protect privacy. Businesses, medical facilities [...]

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    Planet Hunters Bet Big on a Small Telescope to See Alien Earths

    A view of Alpha Centauri hanging over the horizon of Saturn

    In 1990, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft briefly looked back from its journey out of the solar system, capturing a view of the faraway Earth. Carl Sagan called it the “pale blue dot.” From more than 6 billion kilometers away, beyond the orbit of Pluto, it seemed remarkable that our planet was even visible. But the [...]

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    Obama Asks Astronaut for Instagrams from Space During State of the Union

    Obama state of the union

    President Obama made a rare shout-out to space in Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, referencing NASA’s recent Orion capsule launch and addressing astronaut Scott Kelly in the audience at the Capitol. “Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars,” Obama said, [...]

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    Astrobiologist Aims to Make Science Education More Interactive

    screen grab from Habitable Worlds course

    I remember battling sleepiness as I slouched in a large lecture hall, squinting to make out the writing on the blackboard during my freshman introductory physics course in college. My difficulty staying alert in class was not the fault of the subject—I went on to major in physics—or even the teacher. Instead, I think it [...]

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    Science Far from Center Stage in Obama’s State of the Union

    Pres. Obama delivers his State of the Union

    President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, his first before a Republican-led legislature, was studded this evening with references to science and technology amidst talk of middle class tax cuts, thawing U.S. relations with Cuba, economic empowerment and closing the pay gap between men and women. The speech included mentions of climate change, [...]

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    Humans Cross Another Danger Line for the Planet

    Disappearing Forests: Green are sustainable for now, yellow and red are past the safe limit.

    Five years go an impressive, international group of scientists unveiled nine biological and environmental “boundaries” that humankind should not cross in order to keep the earth a livable place. To its peril, the world had already crossed three of those safe limits: too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, too rapid a rate of species [...]

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    The New Chevy Volt Is Impressively Unremarkable

    2016 Chevrolet Volt. Credit: General Motors

    Over the holidays, while visiting family in Southwest Missouri, where I grew up, I saw one of the oddest sights on local roadways since armadillos started showing up as road kill: multiple Chevrolet Volts. In cities and suburbs, cars like the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model S are pretty common. But Southwest Missouri [...]

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    Free Community College: Obama Heeds Scientific American‘s Advice

    It took awhile. But President Obama finally decided to take us up on the editorial we published last summer on making community college free. What kept him? Kim Jong Un? John Boehner? Actually, beats us if he actually read it. But the idea of making community college free is one whose time has come. “Great [...]

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    Beef from Former Mad Cow Epicenter Could Hit U.S. Shelves This Year

    american cuts of beef diagram

      After nearly 16 years, the U.S. has agreed to import beef from Ireland—the first European country to get the go-ahead since the epidemic of mad cow disease swept the continent In the 1980s and 1990s. The move—which may extend to the rest of the British Isles later this year—serves as a milestone in the [...]

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