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Observations

Observations

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

New Astronauts Face Limited Opportunities for Spaceflight

NASA announced on Monday its 2013 class of astronaut candidates, but the current state of the agency’s human spaceflight program makes it hard to get excited about what lies ahead for these remarkable individuals.To mark the announcement, NASA hosted a Google Hangout on Air with several administrators and former astronauts. After sifting through more than 6,300 applications—the second-highest amount ever received—NASA chose four men and four women, and will train them “for missions to low Earth orbit, an asteroid and Mars,” according to a NASA press release.NASA’s human spaceflight program has gone through some recent downsizing...

June 18, 2013 — Bryan Bumgardner

Supreme Court Rejects Patents on 2 Naturally Occurring Genes

When Angelina Jolie announced last month that she decided to get a prophylactic double mastectomy, she based her decision on the presence of the BRCA1 gene in her body—a gene that was detected via a costly medical test.The Supreme Court today unanimously struck down patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 —two genes linked to hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancer—when the genes occur in the body...

June 13, 2013 — Dina Fine Maron

Who Is Fooling Whom When It Comes to Combating Climate Change?

  Here's the scam. A Chinese company manufactures hydrofluorocarbons, the refrigerant gases partially responsible for climate change. The gases can efficiently be turned into cash, either by using them in products like refrigerators or air conditioners or, more lucratively, by destroying them...

June 11, 2013 — David Biello

Is It Possible to Keep Electronic Secrets?

Unless you live under a rock, you've heard of PRISM, a vast digital surveillance program run by the National Security Agency that was recently revealed by a whistleblower.

June 10, 2013 — Bryan Bumgardner

Best Summer Books: SA`s Picks and Yours

All year long Scientific American editors, bloggers and contributors mull over and write about recently published science books worth reading. These works cover everything from ancient quantum computing to surviving a mass extinction...

June 7, 2013 — Bryan Bumgardner

How to Fly a Model Helicopter Using Only Your Thoughts

For decades, scientists have been developing brain-computer linkages they hope will enable people to manipulate objects hands free . Duke neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis reported a few years ago that a monkey fitted with implanted electrodes could use its brainpower to control the walking patterns of a robot ...

June 4, 2013 — Larry Greenemeier

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