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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.
  • 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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    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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