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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.
  • Smartphone App Takes Morality Science out of the Lab and into the Real World

    Image of the Smartphone Experience-Sampling Signal (SMS linking to smartphone survey). Courtesy of Wilhelm Hofmann.

    Just when it seems there’s a mobile app for just about everything, psychologists have shown there’s room for one more: they are using smartphones to help them better understand the dynamics of moral and immoral behavior out in the community. A team of U.S., German and Dutch researchers has used Apple iOS, Google Android and [...]

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    Ancient Engraving Strengthens Case for Sophisticated Neandertals

    Neandertal engraving in Gorham

    One of the longest-running, most fervent debates in the history of human evolution research concerns the cognitive abilities of the Neandertals. Were they the slow-witted creatures of popular imagination or did an intellect like that of modern humans lurk behind that heavy brow? I think it’s safe to say that these days most paleoanthropologists have [...]

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    Is There a Future for Wilderness?

    wilderness-act-signing

    Wilderness is dead, long live the Wilderness Act. On Sept. 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson and the U.S. Congress signed into law the Wilderness Act. The law was the culmination of a populist movement that began with the founding of Yosemite all the way back in 1890. But the Act was also about a very [...]

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    Baby Sea Turtles Tracked with Hair-Extension Glue [Video]

    sea turtle face; still image from video

    Hatchling sea turtles face daunting odds in surviving to adulthood, and only a few find a way. Just where they go to find food and hide from predators has remained a mystery until earlier this year, when Kate Mansfield, a biologist at the University of Central Florida, came up with a novel way to stick [...]

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    Black Skies No More: Passenger Pigeons Slaughtered

    Passenger pigeon memorial at the Cincinnati Zoo.

    For nearly a minute the sky went black. Then it was over. I was standing in a long alley between two four-story brick buildings on a clear sunny day. Suddenly, off in the bright blue sliver of horizon I could see at the end of the alley, a dark cloud started to rise. It grew [...]

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    Archaeologists Assess Killing Power of Stone Age Weapons

    Experimental spears

    Half a million years ago in South Africa early human ancestors shaped lumps of rock into lethal points and then attached them to wooden shafts, producing the earliest known stone-tipped spears. It took a lot more time and effort to make these multicomponent implements than to make a simple, untipped wooden spear, but the result [...]

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    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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