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Observations

Observations

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

Super-Toxic Snake Venom Could Yield New Painkillers

A bite from the black mamba snake ( Dendroaspis polylepis ) can kill an adult human within 20 minutes. But mixed in with that toxic venom is a new natural class of compound that could be used to help develop new painkillers.Named "mambalgins," these peptides block acute and inflammatory pain in mice as well as morphine does, according to a new study.Researchers, led by Sylvie Diochot, of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at Nice University, Sophia Antipolis in France, purified the peptides from the venom and profiled the compounds' structure...

October 3, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Diminutive Dinosaur Bore Beak, Bristles and Fangs [Video]

Move over platypus, a recently discovered dinosaur may have bested you for the strangest combination of physical features. Two hundred million years ago, a two-foot- long, beaked biped covered in quills scampered about an area that is now part of South Africa.The dinosaur's discoverer is paleontologist Paul Sereno, of the University of Chicago...

October 3, 2012 — Daisy Yuhas

Climate Change Could Delay Fall Foliage Colors [Video]

It’s that time again: time to take a hike and enjoy the splendid fall foliage. Or, if you live in a tourist town like I do, time to see “leaf peepers” driving their cars aimlessly throughout the countryside searching for a stand of incredibly red maples or golden oaks...

October 2, 2012 — Mark Fischetti

Internet Billionaire Ponies Up More Cash for Physics Prizes

Tech investor Yuri Milner, who shook the physics world two months ago by dishing out $27 million to the nine inaugural awardees of his Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation’s namesake award, has just sweetened the pot.Milner’s organization today announced the addition of a new award, the Physics Frontiers Prize, which will place three individuals in the running for the $3-million Fundamental Physics Prize and bestow $300,000 on those who do not win it...

October 1, 2012 — John Matson
How Would Fish Vote in the 2012 Election?

How Would Fish Vote in the 2012 Election?

This week’s look at the ScienceDebate answers provided by Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama focuses on their replies to a question about the health of our oceans and coastlines...

September 28, 2012 — Christine Gorman

Best Countries in Science: SA's Global Science Scorecard

"Global society operates as a network of creativity and innovation."--John Sexton, writing in Scientific American . In the October 2012 issue, we publish our Global Science Scorecard, a ranking of nations on how well they do science—not only on the quality and quantity of basic research but also on their ability to project that research into the real world, where it can affect people’s lives.The United States comes out on top, by a wide margin, followed by Germany, China, Japan, the U.K., France, Canada, South Korea, Italy and Spain...

September 28, 2012 — Fred Guterl

Ode to the Last Neandertal [Video]

On a recent visit to Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar I stood in the dark, damp recesses of the seaside limestone cavern and cried. I had come to see the site of the last known Neandertals, who lived here some 28,000 years ago...

September 28, 2012 — Kate Wong

Electronic Sensors That Dissolve Could Keep Tabs on the Body from the Inside [Video]

Most people appreciate electronics that are durable and can last for years before needing to be replaced. If the device in question is a medical implant or a sensor for monitoring environmental conditions, however, designers might prefer the gadget to simply biodegrade without a trace once its purpose is fulfilled.University of Illinois researchers, working with colleagues at Tufts University and Northwestern University, report in the September 28 issue of Science having developed a way to make "transient" electronics able to do just that by dissolving in small amounts of bodily fluid...

September 27, 2012 — Larry Greenemeier

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