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Observations

Observations

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

NASA's New Rocket: Will Congress's Pet Project Fly?

NASA's plans for human spaceflight, the subject of much hand-wringing since the curtains closed on the agency's space shuttle program in July, took a big step this week when the agency announced plans for a powerful new rocket to take astronauts into deep space...

September 15, 2011 — John Matson

Vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Remains Safe

By now, you're probably aware of the hype over a vaccine associated with these three letters: HPV. Designed to prevent people from acquiring human papillomavirus, some strains of which can lead to cervical, vulval, anal and vaginal cancer in women not to mention cancers of the anus and penis in men, the HPV vaccine has been thrust into the spotlight again during the recent debates among the GOP presidential candidates.The controversy centers on Texas Gov...

September 14, 2011 — Rose Eveleth

Jellyfish Genes Make Glow-in-the-Dark Cats

First there were glow-in-the-dark fish, then rats, rabbits, insects, even pigs. And, now, researchers have inserted the jellyfish genes that make fluorescent proteins into Felis catus , or the common household cat.The goal was just to make sure that the researchers could successfully insert novel genes into the cats...

September 12, 2011 — David Biello

The Flu Sheds Light on Holes in Immune System Knowledge

MALTA—Coming down with the flu—and slowly recovering from it—might seem straight forward enough. But a lot of what happens in your body on a molecular level during the time between initial infection and full recovery is still somewhat of a mystery to scientists.An improved capacity to track the course of an influenza infection could not only help in the development of more effective vaccines to protect against a much broader range of strains than just a few passing seasonal ones as are now included in annual flu shots, but it could also bring new understanding of the immune system as a whole.We still don't know "what maintains the size of the immune system" and keeps it in homeostasis, Peter Doherty, of the University of Melbourne's Department of Microbiology and Immunology, said September 11, at the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza (ESWI) fourth annual conference in Malta...

September 12, 2011 — Katherine Harmon

Stupid Science Statements Made by Public Figures: Send Us Your Favorites

"The brain holds on to false facts, even after they have been retracted"—Valerie Ross , "Lingering Lies: The Persistent Influence of Misinformation," Scientific American MIND , July 2011Lingering lies and entirely false scientific statements sometimes make a bigger impact on the public, policy, elections and scientific practice than do the facts themselves...

September 8, 2011 — THE EDITORS

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Dwindling Supply. Increasing Demand.

Dwindling Supply. Increasing Demand.

Solving the Water Crisis