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Observations

Observations

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

Are Chevy Volts Really Cheaper and Cleaner? A Case Study

A 2011 Chevy Volt owned by someone other than my parents. Credit: flickr/NRMA New Cars Whenever Scientific American posts an article about electric cars, we see comments along the lines of "electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, so electric cars don't really reduce your carbon footprint, and the electricity is more expensive than gas anyway," possibly with more expletives.

September 21, 2012 — Evelyn Lamb

Nanotubes Turn Heat into Firepower

One of the biggest barriers to advances in nanotechnology has manipulating objects at such a small scale. Scientists can make balls, rods and tubes that are only billionths of a meter in size—and have developed techniques to get them to self assemble in different patterns—but tweaking the structure of individual nano-scale particles without breaking them down has proved problematic.A technique for creating more flexible nanotubules that pulsate in response to temperature changes could help make these materials easier to work with and reveal new uses for them, according to a team of scientists from Korea's Seoul National University, Japan's Nagoya University and China's Harbin Institute of Technology.

September 20, 2012 — Larry Greenemeier

Bumblebees Quickly Learn Best Paths to Sweet Flowers

Image courtesy of Andrew Martin Bumblebees, it turns out, don't bumble. Using tiny radar tracking devices, motion-activated cameras and artificial flowers, scientists have learned how the bees themselves quickly learn the best routes to take when they go foraging from flower to flower.

September 20, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Oyster Genome Pries Open Mollusk Evolutionary Shell

Image of fresh Pacific oyster courtesy of ©Guofan Zhang, photo by Tao Liu The world of the mollusk genome is now our oyster, as researchers have now sequenced the genetic code of this hearty (and delicious) shellfish, revealing it to be even more complex and adaptable than previously imagined.The new genome provides insights how oysters manage to cope with a dynamic habitat and how they build their shells.

September 19, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

ATM Trades Old Gadgets for New Cash

New smartphones from Apple, Nokia, Samsung and others are poised to hit the market in time for the holiday buying season. Come January there will be a lot of obsolete gadgets looking for new homes.

September 19, 2012 — Larry Greenemeier

Caveman Couture: Neandertals Rocked Dark Feathers

Artist's conception of a Neandertal's feather decorations. Image: Antonio Monclova GIBRALTAR—Jordi Rosell removes a thumbnail-size piece of reddish-tan bone from a sealed plastic bag, carefully places it under the stereomicroscope and invites me to have a look.

September 18, 2012 — Kate Wong

Romney Cites Energy Report That Advocates Carbon Price

Mitt Romney wants to fund energy research and development, but not the “green energy” research that Barack Obama has favored. That’s the clear takeaway from his answers to the 14 questions posed to the two candidates by Scientific American and ScienceDebate.org.

September 18, 2012 — Michael Moyer

Voters Should Pay More Attention to Freshwater Issues

Source: League of Women Voters We have passed the halfway point in our weekly examination of the 14 top science questions that President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney need to address as part of their quests to lead the United States for the next four years.

September 14, 2012 — Christine Gorman

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