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Observations

Observations

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

Are Torosaurus and Triceratops one and the same?

A rare horned dinosaur known as Torosaurus may not be a distinct species, after all, according to a presentation given Friday at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Bristol, England.

September 28, 2009 — Kate Wong

Surrogates: A little too true to life

When l was an astronomy teaching assistant in grad school, some of my students would look through the telescope eyepiece at Saturn, pull back as if they didn't know what to make of it, look again, and ask: “That’s really Saturn?

September 24, 2009 — George Musser

Caster Semenya and the issue of gender ambiguity

The controversy over South African athlete Caster Semenya's gender has given the public a view into the complexities of gender. At first blush, the issue should be fairly straightforward: a person is either a male (with an X and a Y chromosome) or a female (with two X chromosomes).

August 21, 2009 — Larry Greenemeier

Physicist Stephen Hawking hospitalized, "very ill"

Stephen Hawking, the physicist who brought cosmology to the masses with the best-seller A Brief History of Time, is "very ill" and has been taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, England, according to the University of Cambridge.

April 20, 2009 — John Matson

GM, Segway roll out an electric scooter built for two

Cash-strapped General Motors Corp., which is still mulling what to do with its failing gas-guzzling Hummer Division, today showed its greener side when it unveiled Project PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), a compact, battery-operated two-wheeler for two that it's developing with Segway, Inc., maker of the upright electric  lawn mower–like vehicle that debuted in 2002.

April 7, 2009 — Larry Greenemeier

Could a big earthquake reduce Manhattan to rubble someday?

A new study from the Earth Institute at Columbia University says there’s more seismic activity around the Big Apple than previously thought. Researchers also say they discovered a new active fault line running from Stamford, Conn., 25 miles (40.2 kilometers) west toward the Hudson River.

August 22, 2008 — Adam Hadhazy

Good-Bye Blue Monday

Good-bye Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., whose resemblance to that other great American satirist, Mark Twain, is almost uncanny. And I believe his literary doppelganger would have enjoyed visiting the Vonnegutian universe populated by Kilgore Trout, Wanda June, Eliot Rosewater, Francine Pefko, Paul Proteus, Billy Pilgrim, Howard Campbell, Jr., the planet Tralfamadore, ice nine, granfalloons, foma, Illium, N.Y., and, of course, the lovely Montana Wildhack.Call him a pessimist, a stoic, or a dark and cranky curmudgeon, Vonnegut, like Twain, supplied what any self-satisfied civilization occasionally needs to keep it honest—a good thwacking from a brilliant satirist.And thwack he did.

April 13, 2007 — Michael J. Battaglia

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