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Observations

Observations

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

Happy (25 x 3 - 1)th birthday to Martin Gardner

Longtime Scientific American columnist Martin Gardner turns 95 Wednesday, and a profile in Tuesday's New York Times honors the mathematical proselytizer who, tireless as ever, marks the milestone himself with the publication of a new book...

October 21, 2009 — John Matson

Spooky new spider weaves monster webs

One of the largest orb-weaving spiders had remained hidden from entomologists in plain sight. The new species of giant golden orb weaver ( Nephila komaci ), which builds meter-wide webs, entangled a doctoral student who stumbled upon a specimen in a museum collection...

October 21, 2009 — Katherine Harmon

Brain fest marks a gathering of the tribes

CHICAGO—The Society for Neuroscience, like Woodstock, just marked its 40th birthday. Undoubtedly, some of the attendees at the original Aquarian countercultural assemblage, ended up as full professors of experimental psychology, psychiatry and neurobiology, and now frequent the society's annual event that regularly draws more than 30,000 people...

October 20, 2009 — Gary Stix

Can Google Earth save an indigenous tribe with maps?

When Chief Almir first accessed Google Earth, he did what many others do and scrolled over the map to find his home. His home, however, happens to be a nominally protected swath of forest in the rapidly diminishing Amazonian rainforest...

October 19, 2009 — Katherine Harmon

Geoengineering wars: Another scientist teases out a surprising effect of global deforestation

AUSTIN—A new and unpublished analysis of the regional impacts of a hypothetical scheme to mitigate global warming via radical deforestation was unveiled here Sunday at a gathering of science journalists and writers, on the heels of a blogging firestorm about geoengineering and climate change in anticipation of the release of S uperfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance ...

October 19, 2009 — Robin Lloyd

Evolution details revealed through 21-year E. coli experiment

In 1988 an associate professor started growing cultures of Escherichia coli . Twenty-one years and 40,000 generations of bacteria later, Richard Lenski, who is now a professor of microbial ecology at Michigan State University, reveals new details about the differences between adaptive and random genetic changes during evolution...

October 18, 2009 — Katherine Harmon

Scabby knaves: Barnacles bind to ships using clotlike glue

Hitchhiking on the surface of a boat hull can be a rough ride, but barnacles seem to do it with ease. How are they able to hang on so tightly? Researchers have been studying the composition of super-strong barnacle glue for years, and a new analysis of the cement reveals that it has many of the same properties as a human blood coagulant, factor XIII, which helps to form scabs...

October 16, 2009 — Katherine Harmon

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