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

CT Imaging Allows Analysis of Hidden Human Fossil

JOHANNESBURG—At a tea party earlier today for a research team at the University of the Witwatersrand that has grown accustomed to making stunning discoveries of human fossils, a curious excitement erupted when Kristian Carlson unveiled a seemingly modest find: a rib bone from Australopithecus sediba ...

November 30, 2011 — Kate Wong

Patients Get More Unnecessary Scans from Doctors Who Own Equipment

More and more physicians are investing in their own imaging equipment. But when a doctor stands to make money on each MRI he or she orders, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that they might be inclined to order too many scans.Patients with back problems whose orthopedic surgeons referred them for an MRI were much more likely to have their spinal lumbar scan come back clean—indicating that the test might not have been necessary—if their doc had a financial stake in the equipment being used, than if he or she didn't, according to new findings that were presented this week at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago."It is important for patients to be aware of the problem of self-referral and to understand the conflict of interest that exists when their doctor orders an imaging exam and then collects money on that imaging exam," said Ben Paxton, a radiology resident who led the study at Duke University Medical Center in a prepared statement.Of 250 spine lumbar MRIs ordered by orthopedic surgeons who had financial interest in the imaging equipment, 106 scans came back negative—that is, without serious abnormalities...

November 30, 2011 — Katherine Harmon

Is This Your Long-Lost Ancestor?

In the spring of 2010, the world met Australopithecus sediba, a nearly two-million-year-old human relative whose remains were found at a site just a short drive from Johannesburg, South Africa...

November 29, 2011 — Kate Wong

Artist Paints Lichens on NYC Buildings

New York, New York. A metropolis of gleaming skyscrapers, majestic brownstones and concrete as far as the eye can see. But on the northern border of Greenwich Village , a strange, little biological experiment is taking place...

November 29, 2011 — Rose Eveleth

A Brief History of Stephen Hawking: A Video Tribute

In most cases, you need to make a huge donation to have a building named after you. The Perimeter Institute, however, made no such demands on its new Stephen Hawking Centre because, well, he's Stephen Hawking .The renowned physicist, of course, is known for pushing the frontier of science, mentoring and inspiring younger generations, communicating discoveries to the public, and appearing in many television shows...

November 28, 2011 — Philip Yam

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