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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.
  • Hawaii Faces More Dangerous Tsunami Risk

    Northern tsunamis aimed at Hawaii

    An ocean debris pile, much further inland than expected, testifies to past giant waves from the north.

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    CDC Launches Ebola Response Team

    cdc ebola response

    In the two days since the second U.S. Ebola patient was diagnosed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has assembled a new team to battle the threat of Ebola. This team has no steady lineup, but it will be deployed anywhere in the country that sees a new case of Ebola, CDC [...]

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    Credits and Fines Allow Carmakers to Comply with Fuel-Efficiency Standards

    Prius crop

    Cars, SUVs and pickup trucks sold in the U.S. are quickly becoming more fuel efficient, in large part because Federal rules require them to be. Many domestic and overseas manufacturers meet the rising Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards by trimming vehicle weight and working technical innovations into their new models. But they also have [...]

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    Countdown to the Kuiper Belt [Videos]

    For the first time two spacecraft will soon make up-close studies of objects from the solar system’s Kuiper Belt, a mysterious region beyond Neptune’s orbit. There, billions of icy asteroids represent pristine examples of the raw building blocks of the solar system’s planets. NASA’s New Horizons mission will visit the Kuiper Belt’s largest member, the [...]

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    What It’s Like to Carry Your Nobel Prize through Airport Security

    Nobel Prize medal

    Nine scientists became new Nobel Laureates this week when the 2014 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Physics and Physiology or Medicine were announced. Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner won the chemistry prize for improving the microscope; Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura won the physics award for inventing blue light-emitting diode [...]

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    Ancient Indonesian Cave Paintings Force Rethink of Art’s Origin

    Cave painting of a babirusa

    Archaeologists have determined that artwork found in limestone caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is far older than previously thought. First documented in the 1950s, the images–stencils of human hands and depictions of animals—were assumed to be less than 10,000 years old. Paintings older than that would not survive in such a tropical environment, [...]

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    Ability to See Single Molecules Gets Chemistry Nobel

    proteins in a cell

    Stefan W. Hell, Eric Betzig, and William Moerner share the prize for developing new ways to see inside a cell.

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    Clean Coal Era Begins

    boundary-dam-power-plant

    On October 2, the Boundary Dam power plant in Saskatchewan became the first full-sized coal-fired boiler to capture the copious carbon dioxide that had previously billowed from its smokestack, preventing the greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere. On the resulting invisible stream of hot smoke ride the hopes of combating climate change while still burning [...]

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    Spain Confirms First Ebola Transmission outside of Africa

    This is a microscopic image of an Ebola virus.

    Health authorities in Spain have confirmed that a health worker at the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, Spain has been infected with the Ebola virus. This is the first time anyone has contracted the virus outside of Africa. The woman, a nurse technician, had worked in the room where two Ebola patients—both missionaries—were treated at [...]

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    Clay Jenkins and Zachary Thompson Are Ebola Heroes

    All last week CDC officials reiterated their conclusion—based on nearly 40 years worth of successfully containing past outbreaks—that you cannot catch the Ebola virus from people who are infected unless they have already begun suffering a fever or started showing other signs of illnesses. Two Dallas County officials took them at their word and wore [...]

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