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Observations

Observations

Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

  • Search Engine Plants Trees as It Finds Your Info

    Search Engine Plants Trees as It Finds Your Info

    By Mark Fischetti | July 24, 2015 |

    Some people prefer Google when exploring the Web . Some like Yahoo or Bing. But now more than 2.5 million people a month are using Ecosia, because every time they click “Search” they help plant a tree. Ecosia donates an impressive 80 percent of its income, after expenses, to programs that sows trees in Africa. […]

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  • Is It Snowing on Pluto?

    Is It Snowing on Pluto?

    By Maria Temming | July 15, 2015 |

    Plutophiles are abuzz over the New Horizons spacecraft’s observations of the object formerly known as the ninth planet. As the ship approached Pluto on July 13, it snapped the best shot of the dwarf planet yet, revealing previously unseen surface features that, according to NASA scientists, suggest Pluto is home to a rare weather phenomenon: snow. […]

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  • At Pluto, the End of a Beginning

    At Pluto, the End of a Beginning

    By Lee Billings | July 14, 2015 |

    Early this morning, if all has gone well, the first golden age of interplanetary exploration will have come to a close. At 7:49 Eastern time, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was slated to reach its primary target, Pluto and its moons, concluding what some call the preliminary reconnaissance of the known solar system. […]

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  • How Scientific Inventions Sparked Population Explosion

    How Scientific Inventions Sparked Population Explosion

    By Kat Long | July 13, 2015 |

    The world’s population is projected to hit at least 10 billion by the end of this century. A new video and interactive timeline produced by Population Connection, a nonprofit that advocates family planning programs, shows how scientific discoveries and inventions allowed civilizations to spread across the globe for the last 2,000 years. […]

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  • 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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