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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.
  • 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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    U.S. Agency Aims to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

    CDC’s Kitty Anderson holds up a 96-well plate used for testing the ability of bacteria to growth in the presence of antibiotics. Credit: CDC

    When patients take too many unnecessary antibiotics it inches us ever closer to a world where essential drugs are no longer effective. More than two million people in the United States develop antibiotic resistant infection each year and some 23,000 of them die as a result. Yet understanding the origins of the problem remains a [...]

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    No, Earth Wasn’t Nearly Destroyed by a 2012 Solar Storm

    Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA

    Yes, a large glob of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun did just miss us two years ago, as news organizations have feverishly reported over the past few days, following a NASA press release. At the time, scientists were hugely relieved it flew by Earth and missed us entirely. If it had hit, the [...]

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