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Observations

Observations

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

Science Is the 99 Percent

AUSTIN—A regular feature of American Astronomical Society conferences is an evening lecture on the state of science funding. Let's just say it's not a great date night.

January 10, 2012 — George Musser

What's in a Femtosecond of Laser Light? A Map of Electron Energy

Illuminate a piece of metal, such as copper or silver, and the electrons get excited. These excitable particles in turn alter the electromagnetic fields that give rise to many of the properties technologists exploit, such as copper's excellent performance as a conductor of electricity.Efforts to observe electrons have become easier in recent years, thanks to advances with incredibly short laser pulses, despite the foundational principles of quantum mechanics that hold sway at this scale...

January 6, 2012 — David Biello

Scientific American Previews the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

Attending the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is like walking along a loud, crowded boardwalk on a hot summer day. There may not be much sun or sand, but amongst the thousands of tech peddlers who flock there each January, you'll find no shortage of hype, hoopla and expensive gimmicks...

January 6, 2012 — Larry Greenemeier

GM to Bolster Chevy Volt Batteries Following Electrical Fires

General Motors announced on Thursday that it will install mechanisms to better protect the battery pack of its Chevy Volt electric-gas hybrid. GM stopped short of calling it a recall, but will notify customers of the more than 7,600 Volts currently on the road when the retrofit modifications are available although the company hasn't specified a time frame for this.GM's action came in response to a federal investigation into the possibility that Chevy Volt batteries could catch fire during a severe side-impact collision...

January 5, 2012 — Larry Greenemeier

Missing Medical Data Could Harm Patients

Big clinical trials—to test new drugs or procedures—generate reams of important data about safety and efficacy. Only a fraction of that information sees the light of day, a publishing practice that could put patients at risk, according to a special report published this week in the British Medical Journal ( BMJ ).Even though scientific and medical journals are loaded with what might seem like endless reports—and lengthy methodology descriptions–from clinical trails each year, about half of clinical trial results go unpublished, An-Wen Chan, of the University of Toronto's Women's College Research Institute, noted in one of the seven new papers in the BMJ special section...

January 4, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Robot Uses Lizard Tail to Leap [Video]

Science fiction often envisions worlds populated by humanoid robots. In reality, insects, reptiles and non-human animals often serve as a more practical template for automatons.

January 4, 2012 — Larry Greenemeier

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