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

Almost winning is just as exciting for problem gamblers

Oh, so close. Just one more try.

It's hard to understand what keeps problem gamblers betting after a long losing streak. But a new study published May 5 in The Journal of Neuroscience suggests their brains' reward centers, part of the dopamine system (so-called because the neurons release the neurotransmitter dopamine), react the same way to a "near miss" as they would to a win...

May 5, 2010 — Katie Moisse

How the immune system's T cells seem to improve learning

The immune system's cells work hard to fight off infections. But new research is uncovering their important role in cognition, and a study published online May 3 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine reveals how the immune system's T cells, which aren't present in the brain, can impact learning and memory...

May 3, 2010 — Katherine Harmon

Marathon organizers turn to electronic health records

Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit are studying injury-related and other information gathered electronically from last year's Detroit Free Press Marathon in preparation for this year's race in October...

May 3, 2010 — Larry Greenemeier

Star physicists trade barbs over cosmological model

A tony social club in midtown Manhattan is not the place one might expect to find a verbal sparring match between famous physicists. But that was the case April 23 at the Harmonie Club, when Alan Guth and David Gross had a feisty off-the-cuff debate about Guth's model for the dawn of the universe...

April 30, 2010 — John Matson

Oil spill worsens, offshore drilling plans in dire straits?

The Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill keeps getting worse—now gushing more than 200,000 gallons per day, according to NOAA estimates—five times more than original estimates and more than BP's absolute worst case scenario in disaster plans filed with the government...

April 29, 2010 — David Biello

Alien horror: Stephen Hawking hawks Stephen King

This past weekend, the renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking joined what seems to be a growing chorus of cautious naysayers—or nervous nellies?—when it comes to possible contact with intelligent aliens from other worlds...

April 28, 2010 — Philip Yam

Federal government approves Cape Cod offshore wind farm

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a federal blessing for the controversial Cape Wind project today—clearing a path for mammoth wind turbines to be built offshore of the Massachusetts vacation destination, the first such offshore wind farm in the U.S...

April 28, 2010 — David Biello

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