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Observations

Observations

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

Breath Test Could Sniff Out Infections in Minutes

Bacteria hiding in the lungs might not be able to hide much longer. Although traditional tests can take days or weeks to culture to determine the presence of certain harmful bacteria—such as those that cause tuberculosis—a much more rapid technique for detecting lung infections might be on the horizon.Researchers have developed a test that can detect the presence of common infectious bacteria based just on the breath.

January 11, 2013 — Katherine Harmon

What Will It Take to Solve Climate Change?

Australia had to add a new color to its weather maps this week. Meteorologists used royal purple to denote an off-the-charts high temperature of 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), part of an unprecedented heat wave and ongoing wildfires occurring down under this month.

January 10, 2013 — David Biello

Some Barefoot Runners Tip Orthodoxy Back on Heels

Barefoot, five-finger, super-minimal, zero-drop. Whatever joggers embrace as the approach-du-jour for improving form, most of these trends stem from one physiological principal: people who grow up running sans footwear—the way our ancestors did for hundreds of thousands of years—run by landing on their fore- or mid-foot.A new study finds, however, that not all habitually barefoot runners today actually run that way.

January 9, 2013 — Katherine Harmon

Asteroids: Close and Closer, but Not Too Close for Comfort

Early this morning, while most of the U.S. slept, a once-menacing asteroid drew close to Earth on its usual rounds through the inner solar system. The 300-meter asteroid, known as Apophis, kept a comfortable distance, flying well beyond the orbit of the moon.

January 9, 2013 — John Matson

Earth-Like Planets Fill the Galaxy

LONG BEACH, Calif.—Look up on a starry night. Almost every one of those tiny pricks of light is home to an unseen world. Our Milky Way galaxy is full of planets—100 billion or more—and many of those planets are Earth-like rocks (although our solar system still appears to be an oddball).

January 8, 2013 — Michael Moyer

Common STD Grows Resistant to Treatment in North America

Stain of fluid containing gonorrhea courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/CDC/Norman Jacobs The most commonly acquired sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S., chlamydia and gonorrhea, are usually cleared out swiftly and easily with a dose of oral antibiotics.

January 8, 2013 — Katherine Harmon

How to Revive the Promise of Better Health Care through IT

Four years ago the Obama administration offered up $19 billion in stimulus funds to help get health care IT (including electronic health records, or EHRs) in the pink—or at least in the black.Better information technology throughout the health care system would save money, improve care and bring the health care industry into the 21st century, proponents argued.But, as is obvious by the continuance of paper records, isolated institutional networks and clunky interfaces, health care IT is still in critical condition.A new report, assembled by the RAND Corporation, a non-profit, non-partisan research group, suggests that health care IT is not a hopeless case, however.

January 7, 2013 — Katherine Harmon

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Scientific American Health & Medicine

Scientific American Health & Medicine