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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.
  • Why Space Stinks [VIDEO]

    Parts of this supposed vast emptiness smell like rotten eggs or gunpowder.

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    The Shifting Politics of NASA’s Astronaut Program

    Senators Ted Cruz and Bill Nelson laugh during a subcommittee meeting

    Ever since President George W. Bush’s decision to retire the space shuttles in the aftermath 2003’s Columbia disaster, NASA’s human spaceflight program has been adrift. Bush told NASA to go back to the Moon. Obama canceled most of those plans, directing the agency instead to a nearby asteroid—a proposal that has proved very controversial among [...]

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    The “Pause” in Global Warming Is Finally Explained

    Pacific_Ocean

    Let’s be clear: The planet is still getting hotter. The so-called pause, or hiatus, in global warming means the rate of temperature rise has slowed. The average global temperature is still going up, but in the past 10 to 15 years it hasn’t been going up as quickly as it was in the decades before. [...]

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    Tar Sands Pipeline Vetoed, Climate Threat Marches On

    canadian-liquids-pipelines

    Pres. Barack Obama vetoed a bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline on February 24—not because of climate change, not because of low oil prices and not because of the risks from leaking diluted bitumen from the tar sands. Obama vetoed the pipeline bill “because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive [...]

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    NYC’s East River Ice Floes Are a Throwback to the 1800s [Video]

    Courtesy of Larry Greenemeier

    More than a century ago, New York City’s East River would freeze over every few decades, creating major issues for commuters who relied on ferries for access to Manhattan from the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. The problems were serious enough that they helped prompt the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883, [...]

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    Best Actor Eddie Redmayne on Portraying Stephen Hawking (Q&A)

    Eddie Remayne and Felicity Jones as Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde in 'The Theory of Everything'. (Focus Features)

    Last night at the 87th Academy Awards, Eddie Redmayne won the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Back in October, I was invited to attend the New York premiere of the film, which follows Hawking’s relationship with his first wife, Jane Wilde, [...]

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    Parents Support Later Start Times for High School

    tired teen

    A new, national survey released by the University of Michigan has found that 50 percent of parents who have teenage children would support later start times for high school. That number might not impress you. But it is much higher than even a few years ago, when many parents felt that such a change would [...]

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    Don’t Block the Sun to Cope with Global Warming

    ship-tracks-off-oregon

    Modified jets spewing sulfuric acid could haze the skies over the Arctic in a few years “for the price of a Hollywood blockbuster,” as physicist David Keith of Harvard University likes to say. For a mere billion dollars a program to swathe the entire planet in a haze of sulfuric acid droplets could be ready [...]

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    Raindrops Spread Crop Disease [Video]

    Farmers testify that certain crop diseases like wheat rust seem to spread much farther and faster after a rainstorm. Researchers had various ideas on why this might be the case. But thanks to high-speed video, a team from M.I.T. and the University of Liege in Belgium has just found an unlikely culprit: raindrops. Close examination [...]

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    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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