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

Environmental ills? It's consumerism, stupid

Two typical German shepherds kept as pets in Europe or the U.S. consume more in a year than the average person living in Bangladesh, according to research by sustainability experts Brenda and Robert Vale of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand...

January 22, 2010 — David Biello

Big Help from Big Pharma

Activists often slam large pharmaceutical companies for failing to develop drugs that are of critical importance to the developing world.Andrew Witty, GlaxoSmithKline's youthful chief executive, gave those critics pause yesterday in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.Witty promised to sell the company's malaria vaccine that is in late-stage clinical trials in Africa for no more than a 5 percent profit...

January 21, 2010 — Gary Stix

Slime mold validates efficiency of Tokyo rail network

What do Tokyo commuter-rail designers and the slime mold Physarum polycephalum have in common? The two will build strikingly similar networks.

A Japan-based research team found that if they placed bits of food (oat flakes) around a central Physarum in the same location as 36 outlying cities around Tokyo, the mold created a network connecting the food sources that looked rather like the existing rail system...

January 21, 2010 — Katherine Harmon

Hexapod robot moves in the right direction by controlling chaos

Given that robots generally lack muscles, they can't rely on muscle memory (the trick that allows our bodies to become familiar over time with movements such as walking or breathing) to help them more easily complete repetitive tasks...

January 17, 2010 — Larry Greenemeier

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Scientific American Health & Medicine