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Observations

Observations

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

Three Thoughts on the Fisker Debacle

On April 24, executives from the grievously wounded plug-in-hybrid firm Fisker Automotive will face a House of Representatives oversight committee. The question of the day: Why did the Department of Energy loan nearly $200 million to a company that is now facing bankruptcy?...

April 23, 2013 — Seth Fletcher

Finding My Inner Neandertal

Consumer genetic-testing companies report how much of one's DNA comes from archaic human species, but what do the results really mean?

April 19, 2013 — Kate Wong

Senators Who Opposed Background Checks Voted Against Their Constituents

Yesterday the U.S. Senate defeated a measure that would require background checks for individuals purchasing guns. Various senators who voted against it said their constituents told them to do so—despite nationwide surveys in the past few months indicating that roughly 90 percent of the nation favors background checks...

April 18, 2013 — Mark Fischetti

Why It's Better to Text Than Call in a Mass Emergency

Today at BoingBoing, Maggie Koerth-Baker has a fascinating Q&A with communications engineer and entrepreneur Brough Turner about how mobile-phone networks respond to sudden spikes in call volume, as occurred April 15 in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings...

April 17, 2013 — John Matson

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Found in Sharks and Seals

Bacteria, viruses and parasites from land animals such as cats, cows and humans are sickening and killing sea mammals. Scientists have been finding a daunting number of land-based pathogens in seals, dolphins, sharks and other ocean dwellers that wash ashore dead or dying, according to an article by Christopher Solomon in the May 2013 issue of Scientific American, entitled “How Kitty is Killing the Dolphins.”The "pollutagens" could pose a threat to people, too...

April 16, 2013 — Mark Fischetti

Why Jim Hansen Stopped Being a Government Scientist [Video]

Why did James Hansen retire on April 2 after 32 years as director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies? As he told the enterprising students of Columbia University's Sustainability Media Lab who captured him in the following video, "I want to devote full time to trying to help the public understand the urgency of addressing climate change." It's not exactly the "spend more time with my family" excuse often give by retiring government officials, but his family is nonetheless the reason for this change...

April 12, 2013 — David Biello

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