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Observations

Observations

Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

  • How Precision Medicine Will Transform Cancer Treatment [Video]

    How Precision Medicine Will Transform Cancer Treatment [Video]

    By Seth Fletcher | July 1, 2015 |

    LINDAU, Germany—Cancers, revered researcher Harold Varmus told me today, are like snowflakes, each one unique. But cancers also belong to families, and members of those families share vulnerabilities—genetic weak spots that scientists are learning to target with increasing precision. […]

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  • Taking the Weight of an Alien World

    Taking the Weight of an Alien World

    By Lee Billings | June 18, 2015 |

    Though hobbled by age, NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting telescope is proving to be an almost inexhaustible engine of discovery. The observatory found thousands of new worlds before an  equipment malfunction  in 2013 slowed its planetary torrent to a trickle, but clever researchers have managed to squeeze  remarkable new findings  out of its vast trove of archival data. […]

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  • 8 Spacecraft That Have Been Rescued, Resurrected and Repurposed

    8 Spacecraft That Have Been Rescued, Resurrected and Repurposed

    By Maria Temming | June 17, 2015 |

    Earlier this week, the Rosetta spacecraft’s Philae lander finally woke up after a seven-month snooze. When Philae touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko last November, it landed in a shady spot and didn’t get enough sunlight to recharge its batteries. […]

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  • What if Dark Matter Is Stranger Than We Thought? [Video]

    What if Dark Matter Is Stranger Than We Thought? [Video]

    By Clara Moskowitz | June 16, 2015 |

    One of the biggest mysteries in science today is what makes up dark matter—the plentiful, invisible material that swarms throughout the universe, exerting its gravitational lure on regular matter. Physicists have traditionally surmised that dark matter is a single type of particle that rarely interacts with the rest of the particles in nature, such as the normal electrons and quarks that make up the atoms in our bodies. […]

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  • Africa Is Way Bigger Than You Think

    Africa Is Way Bigger Than You Think

    By Mark Fischetti | June 16, 2015 |

    Look at the usual flat map of the world and it appears that Greenland is nearly as big as Africa. But it’s not even close. Africa is 14 times larger. Flat maps significantly distort the sizes of countries and continents, the result of converting a spherical surface to a handy rectangle. […]

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  • 75-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Soft Tissue Suggests Ancient Organic Preservation May Be Common

    75-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Soft Tissue Suggests Ancient Organic Preservation May Be Common

    By Kate Wong | June 9, 2015 |

    During the process of fossilization, all organic compounds--such as those that make up cells and tissues—disappear, leaving behind remains composed strictly of mineral. That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway. But discoveries made over the past two decades have steadily chipped away at this tenet of paleontology, revealing what appear to be blood cells, bone cells and other organic materials in a handful of exceptionally well-preserved dinosaur fossils. […]

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  • How Mindfulness and Home Cooking Helped Me Lose 12 Pounds

    How Mindfulness and Home Cooking Helped Me Lose 12 Pounds

    By Christine Gorman | June 8, 2015 |

    Like many Americans, I have struggled with weight much of my adult life. In my case, a desk job and a tendency to eat under stress have made it easier to add a few pounds than to maintain my weight in any given year. Starting in February, however, I tried two new things to slim down. […]

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  • Now You Can

    Now You Can "Hear" Climate Change [Video]

    By Mark Fischetti | May 21, 2015 |

    Want a visceral sense of how much temperatures around the Northern Hemisphere are  deviating from average ? Well, have a listen. University of Minnesota geography student and super cello player Daniel Crawford has composed a two-and-a-half minute piece for string quartet that let’s you hear the temperature change from 1880 to 2014. […]

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  • Archaeologists Take Wrong Turn, Find World's Oldest Stone Tools [Update]

    Archaeologists Take Wrong Turn, Find World's Oldest Stone Tools [Update]

    By Kate Wong | May 20, 2015 |

    Archaeologists Sonia Harmand and Jason Lewis of Stony Brook University examine the oldest stone tools in the world, discovered at a site called Lomekwi 3 in Kenya. Image: MPK-WTAP Editor’s note: This April 15 story has been updated with a new photo after the publication of a paper in the May 21 Nature by archaeologist Sonia Harmand of Stony Brook University and her colleagues, who describe their discovery of the oldest stone tools in the world. […]

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  • Black Hole "Blazars" Reveal Hidden Side of the Universe [Video]

    By Clara Moskowitz | May 19, 2015 |

    Blazars, some of the most powerful phenomena in the universe, are gigantic black holes at the centers of galaxies that are gorging on matter and shooting out jets of particles and light. This light is so bright astronomers can spot blazars from billions of light-years across the universe. […]

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