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Observations

Observations

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

Farmers Deplete Fossil Water in World's Breadbaskets

Irrigation has helped farmers feed a population that has now reached 7 billion people. But in many places farmers have overused underground aquifers that have taken thousands of years to form, drawing down the fossil water much faster than it can be replaced.

August 9, 2012 — David Biello

Kenyan Fossils Rekindle Debate over Early Human Diversity

If I had to pick the hottest topic in paleoanthropology right now, I’d say it’s the origin and early evolution of our genus, Homo. Researchers know quite a bit about our australopithecine predecessors (Lucy and her ilk) and about later phases of Homo’ s evolution.

August 9, 2012 — Kate Wong

Curiosity Gears Up to Zap Rocks in Huge Crater at Red Planet

Now that NASA's "seven-minutes of terror" have passed safely, the Mars Curiosity rover's exploratory mission is off and running. Over the next two years—probably more, if it's anything like the Opportunity or Spirit rovers—the Jeep-sized rover will explore its new home using a variety of tools.

August 6, 2012 — Larry Greenemeier

Brain Scans of Hoarders Reveal Why They Never De-Clutter

Jill, a 60-year-old woman in Milwaukee, has overcome extreme poverty. So, now that she has enough money to put food in the fridge, she fills it. She also fills her freezer, her cupboard and every other corner of her home.

August 6, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Dana Vollmer's Butterfly Stroke Features Dolphinlike Moves [Video]

U.S. swimmer Dana Vollmer's record-setting performance in London in the 100-meter butterfly is sure to be a model for aspiring Olympians. Vollmer's edge in butterfly competition comes from her uncanny ability to closely mimic the underwater undulation and kick of nature's greatest swimmer—the dolphin.The 24-year-old Syracuse, N.Y., native worked with a team of motion-capture video specialists from New York University (N.Y.U.) prior to the 2012 Olympic Games to analyze her kick, grab and recovery as she cuts through the water and found the similarities striking.

August 6, 2012 — Larry Greenemeier

Senators Fiddle While Deep Ocean Temperatures Rise

The latest evidence that average temperatures are increasing around the globe comes from the deepest parts of the ocean, Dr. James McCarthy of Harvard University told a Senate committee hearing on climate change on Wednesday.

August 3, 2012 — Christine Gorman

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