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Observations

Observations

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

Scientific American Snags "Science in Society" Essay Award

We are thrilled to pass along the news that Scientific American has won this year's prestigious Science in Society award, given by the National Association of Science Writers, for the essay Ban Chimp Testing that appeared online and in our October 2011 issue...

August 24, 2012 — Fred Guterl

50 Shades of Sea Slug Sex: It's Stranger Than You Think

Two-part barbed penises, a physical struggle and 20 minutes of penetration. That's how some sea slugs do it. But the real shocker is that, for one species at least, those in the female role seem to engage in these bizarre, violent sexual encounters more often than might be biologically necessary.Nothing about sea-slug sex sounds like fun...

August 24, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

The Mathematical Legacy of William Thurston (1946-2012)

William Thurston, whose geometrization conjecture changed the fields of geometry and topology and whose approach to mathematics and mathematics education has reverberated throughout the mathematical world, died on August 21 following a battle with cancer...

August 23, 2012 — Evelyn Lamb

Gibbons Sing Like Sopranos

Move over, Renée Fleming. There’s a new diva on the block—a white-handed gibbon from the Fukuchiyama City Zoo in Kyoto, Japan. And though this small-bodied ape may never star in a Verdi opera, researchers have found that she belts out her song using the same vocal techniques that human sopranos use to sing to the rafters.Received wisdom holds that human speech, which is unique among primate vocalizations, originated as a result of evolutionary modifications to our vocal anatomy...

August 23, 2012 — Kate Wong

1 in 5 Rx's for Seniors Is Inappropriate

Take two of these—or should that be three? Or one?Congress recently took steps to improve the safety of children’s drugs. Now, a new study finds that those on the other end of the age spectrum also frequently receive medication that may put their health at risk.Approximately 20 percent of prescriptions that primary care providers give to patients over the age of 65 are inappropriate, according to the study, published online August 22 in PLoS ONE ...

August 22, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

A Ride in an Air Tanker Refueling F-15s

NEW YORK CITY—I’ll probably never live out my childhood fantasy of riding in a fighter jet, let alone piloting one. But gazing down on a airborne F-15 Eagle from a cruising air tanker was more than enough to satisfy my adult self, who doesn’t mind vicariously taking in a thrill ride from a safe distance.Then again, “safe distance” may be an overstatement here...

August 21, 2012 — John Matson

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Scientific American Health & Medicine

Scientific American Health & Medicine