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Observations

Observations

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

Did big babies help bring human ancestors down from the trees?

Relative to our ape brethren, humans give birth to really big babies. This especially substantial infant size—along with newborns' large heads and general helplessness—helped to spur the development of more advanced social systems to help mother and child safe, researchers think...

January 3, 2011 — Katherine Harmon

Alpha-carotene from veggies linked to longer life

Need another reason to eat your greens (and yellows and oranges) as part of a healthful diet in the New Year? A large U.S. study has found that adults with higher concentrations of serum alpha-carotene in their blood were likely to live longer than those who had lower levels...

December 30, 2010 — Katherine Harmon

Fossilized food stuck in Neandertal teeth indicates plant-rich diet

Ancient humans' lax dental hygiene has been a boon for researchers looking for clues about early diets. Traces of fossilized foodstuffs wedged between Neandertal teeth have revealed plentiful traces of grains and other plants, supporting the theory that these heavy-browed humans were not just meat-eaters...

December 27, 2010 — Katherine Harmon

Genomes for wild strawberries and fine cacao sequenced

Can chocolate-dipped strawberries be improved upon—genetically? Separate teams of researchers have sequenced the genomes of varieties of the two crops that make up this treat, finding key coding information that could help keep these sweets on dessert trays—and assist science in the meantime...

December 26, 2010 — Katherine Harmon

Why is the north magnetic pole racing toward Siberia?

Finding Santa Claus's home at the North Pole is easy on a globe—just look for the point on top where all the lines of longitude meet. But that is just the "geographic" North Pole; there are several other definitions for the poles, all useful in different scientific or navigational contexts...

December 24, 2010 — John Matson

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