Skip to main content
Observations

Observations

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

Soot May Help Shift Tropics North

Soot May Help Shift Tropics North

Soot may be responsible for the tropics expanding north, according to an analysis involving multiple computer models of the climate. By absorbing sunlight and trapping extra heat in the atmosphere, the tiny, black particles may be helping the poleward march of tropical conditions.The research will be published in Nature on May 17.

May 16, 2012 — David Biello
Microbes Annihilate the "Nature versus Nurture" Debate

Microbes Annihilate the "Nature versus Nurture" Debate

Most E. coli bacteria found in the body are harmless The latest research into the genetics of the human microbiome is taking to a whole new level the old (and not always fruitful) argument about whether nature or nurture is a more important influence in our lives.In the past few days, Science Express published a paper that demonstrated that friendly (or commensal) bacteria don't just passively crowd out the disease-causing ones.

May 16, 2012 — Christine Gorman
The Mathematician's Obesity Fallacy

The Mathematician's Obesity Fallacy

As I write, this interview with mathematician Carson C. Chow is the number-one most-emailed story on the New York Times Web site. Chow, a researcher at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, had no experience in the health sciences before he came to study the problem of why so many Americans are overweight.

May 15, 2012 — Michael Moyer
Searching for the Onset of Autism

Searching for the Onset of Autism

Diffusion tensor image shows white matter pathways in infant at risk for autism. Warmer colors represent higher fractional anisotropy, a measure of white-matter organization.

May 15, 2012 — Mariette DiChristina
The Most Exciting Moment of My Scientific Career

The Most Exciting Moment of My Scientific Career

Thumbi Ndung'u left Kenya 1995 to study medicine at Harvard. He later returned to Africa on a mission to exploit HIV's vulnerabilities. Now the head of the HIV Pathogenesis Program at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, Ndung'u spoke with Scientific American contributor Brendan Borrell about a research breakthrough early in his career that helped set the pace for the Kenyan's ongoing study of genes in the immune system that may help to fight AIDS and lead to a vaccine.

May 15, 2012 — Brendan Borrell
How Neuroscientists and Magicians Are Conjuring Brain Insights

How Neuroscientists and Magicians Are Conjuring Brain Insights

Apollo Robbins (right) in action removing the wristwatch of Mariette DiChristina. (Credit: Flip Phillips.) “I see you have a watch with a buckle.” Standing at my side, Apollo Robbins held my wrist lightly as he turned my hand over and back.I knew exactly what was coming but I fell for it anyway.

May 14, 2012 — Mariette DiChristina
Walking as Search: Google Glasses May Not Be a Good Idea

Walking as Search: Google Glasses May Not Be a Good Idea

Google Glasses prototype It would be nice if state governments went one step further and banned texting while walking. The law might require that anyone entering an emoticon into a smartphone would be required to stand (very still) within a foot of the sidewalk’s edge or cough up a $50 fine.Going on foot from the Canal Street stop of the A train in lower Manhattan to the door of the huge former printing factory building where Nature Publishing Group has its offices has increasingly become a series of patterned avoidance maneuvers to skirt erratically moving objects immersed in text-crazed oblivion.Mobile devices have succeeded in desensitizing a not insubstantial percentage of urban populations from their physical surroundings.

May 12, 2012 — Gary Stix
Earth-Facing Sunspots Could Erupt This Weekend

Earth-Facing Sunspots Could Erupt This Weekend

Click to see full image, with diameters of Earth and Jupiter for scale. Credit: NASA/SDO Space weather forecasters are keeping a close watch on a large collection of sunspots that could unleash blasts of energy or charged particles toward Earth in the coming days.

May 11, 2012 — John Matson

Blog Index

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

Complex Causes. Alternative Solutions.