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Observations

Observations

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

How Exercise Might Help Our Cells Help Us

In addition to helping us get fit, exercise seems to play a disproportionate role in fending off chronic diseases, such as diabetes. A new study suggests how activity on the cellular level might be keeping us healthy when we get activity on the macro level.The process in question is autophagy, a series of actions in which cells recycle internal bits and that, in turn, helps to keep cells agile and able to adjust to changes in energy requirements and nutritional conditions...

January 18, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

What's Next in the SOPA Fight?

The English version of Wikipedia may have gone black in a one-day protest, but SOPA isn't going away. U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and one of the sponsors of the House version of the Stop Online Privacy Act, announced January 17 that he expected the committee to restart work on SOPA in February...

January 18, 2012 — Michael Moyer

Childhood and Adult Obesity not Budging Much in the U.S.

The rates of obesity in the U.S. are holding steady, despite ongoing efforts to curb the epidemic, according to two new reports, published online Tuesday in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association ...

January 17, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

How Long Could Cruise Ship Crash Victims Survive in Cold Waters?

Rescue efforts were called off earlier today in the aftermath of a Costa Concordia shipwreck on rocks off the coast of Italy three days ago. Six of the cruise liner's 4,200 passengers and crewmembers have been reported dead, so far, and another 15 or more remain missing.As lifeboats filled up and malfunctioned and rescue efforts had yet to arrive on Friday, dozens of passengers took the chance and jumped into the 14-degree Celsius water to swim ashore to the nearby island of Giglio...

January 16, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Magnetoastrocoolness: How Cosmic Magnetic Fields Shape Planetary Systems

AUSTIN, Texas—Astrophysicists have a funny attitude toward magnetic fields. You might say they feel both repelled and attracted. Gravitation is assumed to rule the cosmos, so models typically neglect magnetism, which for most researchers is just as well, because the theory of magnetism has a forbidding reputation...

January 13, 2012 — George Musser

Fewer Babies Die, but Many Suffer Long-Term Health Problems

Infant mortality is at its lowest rate ever. Now fewer than three percent of babies worldwide die within the first five weeks of life, which is surely cause for celebration.Many of the infants who have been saved, however, did not enter this world easily...

January 12, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Fracking's Future in the U.S. Comes Down to Upcoming New York State Decisions

New York State is the key battleground that will determine the future of fracking in the U.S., and January 11, 2012, is a turning point. The date ends the public comment period on proposed state regulations that will govern the process: drilling into deep Marcellus shales, fracturing the rock with water and chemicals to release natural gas, and disposing of the resulting wastewater that flows back up the well with the gas...

January 11, 2012 — Mark Fischetti

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