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Observations

Observations

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

UARS Satellite Reentered Atmosphere over Pacific Ocean, NASA Says [Updated]

A large, defunct satellite spiraling out of orbit and back to Earth will reenter the atmosphere sometime this afternoon or evening tonight or tomorrow morning Eastern Daylight Time has reentered the atmosphere, NASA says.* The 5.7-metric-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, which descended uncontrolled, was expected to drop some 500 kilograms of debris somewhere on Earth, although the chances of harm to human life were slim...

September 23, 2011 — John Matson

Preschool Funding for Kids Now Pays Off Billions Later

There are few sure investments in this chaotic economic climate, but on a national level, education has proven to pay off big down the road. As tight economic times have put the squeeze on education budgets here in the U.S., a new report shows the big benefits of even small investments in early education worldwide.For every dollar invested in boosting preschool enrollment, middle- and low-income countries would see a return of some $6.40 to $17.60, according to a new analysis published September 22 in The Lancet ...

September 22, 2011 — Katherine Harmon

U.N. Health Talks Promise Global Action on Heart Disease, Diabetes, Cancer

Palestine has grabbed the lion's share of attention at the U.N. General Assembly meeting this week in New York, but the international organization is also tackling several other major issues, including climate change and health, that could have great long-term effect on the world's population down the road.Earlier this week, the U.N...

September 22, 2011 — Katherine Harmon

Breakthrough Could Enable Others to Watch Your Dreams and Memories [Video]

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have reconstructed the internal "movie" that plays in a person's head. To re-create dynamic visual experiences, they used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the brain activity of volunteers (the other members of the research team) as they watched short movie clips (left panel in the video below)...

September 22, 2011 — Philip Yam

"The Quest" for Energy Security: The Search for More Oil and Its Alternatives

Mottanai : it's a Japanese term that translates as "too precious to waste." It's the philosophy that guides the island nation's approach to natural resources like energy, and it has become particularly important as the meltdowns at Fukushima have resulted in roughly 25 percent of Japanese electricity supply disappearing as other nuclear reactors remain shutdown.It is also the antithesis in many ways of the American approach to energy, whether that is electricity, fossil fuels or renewables...

September 21, 2011 — David Biello

Your Friday Forecast: Sunny, with a 1-in-21-Trillion Chance of Getting Hit by Orbital Debris

The orbital realm surrounding Earth is filled with millions of pieces of space junk, some of which occasionally fall back to Earth. Rarely, though, does an entire satellite or spacecraft come back uncontrolled, as NASA expects its Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) to do sometime on Friday.The schoolbus-size UARS [ see artist's depiction at left ] weighs some 5.7 metric tons, and NASA predicts that 500 kilograms of debris will survive reentry and land somewhere on Earth...

September 21, 2011 — John Matson

Superbugs Now Tracked Globally in Interactive Maps

Bacteria easily elude human detection—even those that can make us sick—quietly spreading from person to person, country to country. A recent global spike in bugs that are resistant to common antibiotics, however, has caused many scientists and policymakers to pay closer attention to when and where these infections are occurring.A new collection of updated interactive world maps reveal the prevalence of many of these so-called superbugs, including the prevalence of the relatively common MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ) as well as newly concerning gram-negative E...

September 21, 2011 — Katherine Harmon

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