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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.
  • New GOP Leaders Embrace Science but Don’t Hug Trees

    man hugging big tree trunk

    Congress can be…chaotic. Last Thursday night, President Obama unveiled plans for immigration reform, and literally challenged Congress to stop him. The next day, Speaker of the House John Boehner said that the GOP would be suing the White House over unconstitutional changes to the Affordable Care Act. It’s a mess. But for science—and scientific research—there’s [...]

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    The Fossil That Revolutionized the Search for Human Origins: A Q&A with Lucy Discoverer Donald Johanson

    Don Johanson and Maurice Taieb with Lucy

    Forty years ago today, a young American paleoanthropologist named Donald Johanson made the discovery of a lifetime in the arid badlands of Ethiopia’s remote Afar region: a 3.2-million-year-old skeleton of a small-brained creature that walked upright like we do. It was a primitive hominin, a member of the human family. To scientists it is known [...]

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    Ants Abound in Manhattan’s Slivers of Green

    Pavement ants (Tetramorium) on human food in a Manhattan street median

    Ants—they’re everywhere. Charging across your picnic blanket, sneaking into your sandwich and, naturally, marching one by one (hurrah! hurrah!). Throughout the temperate zone you’ll find ants swarming in almost every forest, ducking beneath blades of grass in virtually every prairie. Forests and prairies are hard to come by in New York City. But in a [...]

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    Climate Preparedness Index Reveals Rich–Poor Gap

    Alpaca (Wikimedia)

    High in the Peruvian Andes 8,000 alpacas died during a particularly harsh period of cold in the summer of 2004. For the herders who raise and shear these long-haired beasts for a living, it was a huge loss amounting to one fifth of all the alpacas living in that region of the highlands. Since then [...]

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    Acid Maps Reveal Worst of Climate Change

    global-ocean-ph-map-february-2005

    Much of the change in climate change is happening to the ocean. It’s not just the extra heat hiding within the waves. The seven seas also absorb a big share of the carbon dioxide released by burning the fossilized sunshine known as coal, natural gas and oil. All those billions and billions of CO2 molecules [...]

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    Watch the Milky Way Eat Its Neighbors [Video]

    The Milky Way has a history of devouring its neighbors, the smaller satellite galaxies that orbit it. Over time our galaxy’s gravity will tug on the near sides of these satellites more strongly than their far sides, slowly stretching them out until they tear apart and their stars assimilate into the Milky Way. A relatively [...]

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    Ratio of Workers to Retirees Will Plummet Worldwide

    ratio US, fixed

    As a nation’s population ages, more and more older people may draw from support systems such as Social Security, yet fewer workers may be around to pay into those systems. The problem is more dire than we think. The ratio of workers to retirees will drop precipitously in numerous countries worldwide this century, potentially sending [...]

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    The Human Cost of Science: Stephen Hawking and The Theory of Everything

    Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in the new biopic, The Theory of Everything.

    Stephen Hawking is one of our greatest living geniuses—his insights into the nature of black holes, space and time have truly revolutionized physics. But his breakthroughs did not spring from his mind fully formed—they required hard work and sacrifice, from both the physicist and from his first wife, Jane Wilde. In the new biographical film [...]

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    What Interstellar Gets Wrong about Interstellar Travel

    A starship travels through a cosmic wormhole

    Christopher Nolan’s new film, Interstellar, is a near-future tale of astronauts departing a dying Earth to travel to Saturn, then through a wormhole to another galaxy, all in search of somewhere else humanity could call home. It’s a gorgeous, ambitious work, with outstanding performances from a star-studded cast augmented by high-fidelity visual effects and a [...]

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    Ted Cruz Is Not 100 Percent Wrong That Net Neutrality Is ObamaCare for the Internet

    President Obama announced his support Monday for net neutrality. And Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz let loose one of his biggest howls, tweeting: “Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government. — Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014 Cruz really really does not like net [...]

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