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Observations

Observations

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

Tall order: How to train a giraffe [Video]

How do you get a bear to ride a bicycle? In addition to "very carefully," the answer is operant conditioning. A trainer rewards a particular behavior when performed by a subject, reinforcing the behavior in that subject...

February 17, 2011 — Steve Mirsky

Was "Ardi" not a human ancestor after all? New review raises doubts

Genetic findings often underscore the notion that organisms with similar-looking body parts aren't always close evolutionary relatives. Wings for flying or sharp teeth for ripping into food can be the result of convergent evolution, in which natural selection results in similar-looking solutions to problems faced by different species—whether they are distantly or closely related...

February 16, 2011 — Katherine Harmon

Oh, the humanity: Jeopardy! champs aim to take down IBM's Watson computer

As IBM preps for its next big man–machine showdown (and latest high-tech publicity stunt), Scientific American took a brief, informal, unscientific poll on Monday of 26 print and online staffers to determine whether there was a consensus on who would win this week's Jeopardy!...

February 14, 2011 — Larry Greenemeier

NASA's Stardust spacecraft closes in for a Valentine's Day rendezvous with Comet Tempel 1

Some 340 million kilometers away, out beyond the orbit of Mars, the Stardust spacecraft is getting ready for a big Valentine's Day date. On February 14 the NASA craft will fly past Comet Tempel 1 at a planned distance of only 200 kilometers, getting a good look at the second comet it has investigated at close range since the probe's 1999 launch...

February 11, 2011 — John Matson

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