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Observations

Observations

Opinion, arguments & analyses from guest experts and from the editors of Scientific American

Moss Sperm Smells Sweet Enough for Sex

Moss Sperm Smells Sweet Enough for Sex

Image courtesy of Rocky Cookus/Portland State University Moss, that cushy, moisture-loving ground cover, is more promiscuous than we thought. These plants might not have the sexy flowers of a peony, but according to new research, they do manage to attract small pollinators with a subtle sweet smell.Previously, scientists had presumed that these primitive plants needed a layer of water for their sexual reproduction.

July 18, 2012 — Katherine Harmon
5 Sigma What's That?

5 Sigma What's That?

A graph of the normal distribution, showing 3 standard deviations on either side of the mean µ. A five-sigma observation corresponds to data even further from the mean.

July 17, 2012 — Evelyn Lamb
Mosquito Guts Implanted with GMO Malaria Assassins

Mosquito Guts Implanted with GMO Malaria Assassins

Mosquitoes don’t cause malaria—the disease comes courtesy of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. Yet mosquitoes do a fine job of spreading Plasmodium to about half a billion people every year.The parasite depends on mosquitoes for more than just transport, however.

July 17, 2012 — Michael Moyer
Forget Human Spaceflight: Send Worms Instead!

Forget Human Spaceflight: Send Worms Instead!

C. elegans worms. Credit: NIH Spaceflight is hard on the body, but, even so, a new study has found that the tiny nematode (or roundworm) Caenorhabditis elegans appears to age more slowly in space than on the ground.

July 14, 2012 — John Matson
CT Scans Reveal Early Human Fossils Inside Rock

CT Scans Reveal Early Human Fossils Inside Rock

Two partial skeletons of Australopithecus sediba were unveiled to the public in 2010. The one on the left represents an adult female, the one on the right a juvenile male nicknamed Karabo.

July 13, 2012 — Kate Wong
Clovis People Were Not Alone During Early Colonization of the Americas

Clovis People Were Not Alone During Early Colonization of the Americas

Western Stemmed points from Paisley Caves date to more than 13,000 years ago--as old or older than Clovis points. Image: Jim Barlow Once upon a time, the initial migration of humans into the New World looked like a very tidy story: the so-called Clovis people, it appeared, were the first to enter the Americas, arriving from Siberia by land bridge and spreading across the continental U.S.

July 13, 2012 — Kate Wong
For Unendowed Fish, A Fake Dinner Leads to Sex

For Unendowed Fish, A Fake Dinner Leads to Sex

Image courtesy of Kolm et al./Current Biology The promise of a nice dinner might not always win over a woman, but for some male fish, a tasty-looking lure seems to get the girl pretty reliably.

July 12, 2012 — Katherine Harmon
Major Phobias Might Hasten Aging

Major Phobias Might Hasten Aging

Image courtesy of iStockphoto/Kuzma Do you get panicky in wide-open spaces? Tight, closed ones? What about in high places or—eek!—around arachnids? If these fears are frequent or debilitating, you might have a phobic anxiety.

July 11, 2012 — Katherine Harmon
GE Develops Recyclable, Rechargeable Batteries for Cell Tower Backup

GE Develops Recyclable, Rechargeable Batteries for Cell Tower Backup

A person's arsenal of wireless communications devices—smartphones, tablets, laptops, et cetera—places a heavy burden on surrounding cell towers. But when storms or power surges interrupt electrical service, these towers are forced to rely on a costly and environmentally unfriendly combination of lead-acid batteries and diesel generators to keep wireless users connected.GE on Tuesday unveiled a new battery that, it claims, can provide more backup capacity for telecommunications providers and utilities at a fraction of the cost.

July 10, 2012 — Larry Greenemeier

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ObservationsOpinion, arguments & analyses from guest experts and from the editors of Scientific American

Beyond XX and XY

Beyond XX and XY

Biology. Identity. Equality.