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Science news and technology updates from Scientific American
How to Use the Bathroom on a 20-Hour Plus Solar Airplane Flight [Video]
Wed, 22 May 2013 12:13:00 EST
In a bid to set the record for longest distance solar flight, Andre Borschberg will pilot the Solar Impulse airplane from Phoenix to Dallas. Total flying distance, barring route deviations due to weather or other factors, would be nearly 1,400 kilometers, or more than 200 kilometers farther than the previous longest flight set in 2012.On May 3, in just under 20 hours, the Solar Impulse airplane flew from Moffett Field near San Francisco to Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. After the long, slow flight, the solar airplane still had 75 percent of its battery power remaining when pilot Bertrand Piccard, who previously circumnavigated the globe in a balloon, landed the unwieldy aircraft just after midnight local time. A full breakdown of the technology that makes the manned solar airplane possible is here , including a slide show . [More]
Why Twisters Hammer Tornado Alley
Wed, 22 May 2013 17:01:00 EST
The tornado that devastated Moore , Okla. has now officially been placed into the highest category--a five on the so-called "Enhanced Fujita" scale, meaning winds in excess of 320 kilometers-per-hour. Scientific American corresponded with meteorologist Harold Brooks, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration's National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla.
USC Dornsife Scientific Diving: An Analysis of Sargassum Horneri Ecosystem Impact
Wed, 22 May 2013 09:35:00 EST
By: Richelle Tanner Introduction: [More]
Prolonging the Buzz with Grandma
Wed, 22 May 2013 07:28:00 EST
A nonagenarian puts aging research into perspective. [caption id="attachment_7353" align="alignright" width="448" caption="Gram, goofing off at her 90th birthday party."] [/caption] [More]
What's Individuality, and Where Does It Come From?
Wed, 22 May 2013 09:43:00 EST
"Let's say you have an axe. Just a cheap one, from Home Depot," opens the horror-comedy novel John Dies at the End . "On one bitter winter day, you use said axe to behead a man." This blow splinters the axe's handle - so the story goes - so you get the hardware store stick a new handle on the blade.The repaired axe sits in your garage until one day the next spring, when you damage the blade while fending off "a foot-long slug with a bulging egg sac on its tail," which requires another trip to the store to replace the axe-head. Unfortunately, when you arrive home, you're greeted by the enraged reanimated corpse of the man you beheaded last year. He takes a long look at the weapon you're holding, and he screams, "That's the same axe that beheaded me!" [More]
Hard To Beat Feet For Fostering Fungus
Wed, 22 May 2013 13:30:08 EST
Do fungi have a foot fetish? When researchers mapped the fungal species living on the surface of the human body, they found the skin on the feet harbors the most diverse fungal community. The work is in the journal Nature . [Keisha Findley et al, Topographic diversity of fungal and bacterial communities in human skin ]
#SciAmBlogs Wednesday - niche construction, cicadas, ageing, Moon, pirates' dodo, sick caecilians, hurricane forecasts, and more.
Wed, 22 May 2013 22:33:00 EST
- David Rothenberg - Discover the Secret of the 17-Year Cicada, But It Won't Get You Tenure [More]
Introducing: Kyle Hill
Wed, 22 May 2013 06:02:00 EST
This is a series of Q&As with young and up-and-coming science, health and environmental writers and reporters. They have recently hatched in the Incubators (science writing programs at schools of journalism), have even more recently fledged (graduated), and are now making their mark as wonderful new voices explaining science to the public.
Today we introduce you to Kyle Hill ( Overthinking It , Twitter )
Is Ketamine the Next Big Depression Drug? (preview)
Wed, 22 May 2013 08:00:00 EST
For 20 years Joan * quietly suffered from an unrelenting desire to commit suicide. She held down a job as a special-education teacher and helped care for her family in the northeastern U.S. Yet day after day she struggled through a crushing depression and felt neither joy nor pleasure. Except for the stream of psychiatrists recommending different antidepression treatments--all of which failed to provide relief--Joan kept her condition private. She says it was the fear of hurting her students or abandoning her father that kept her alive. “I really don't know how I survived,” she says.
Psychologists Find New Ways to Steel Minority Students against Fear of Failure (preview)
Wed, 22 May 2013 07:45:00 EST
Neil deGrasse Tyson, the renowned science communicator, earned his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Columbia University in 1991. About 4,000 astrophysicists resided in the country at the time. Tyson brought the total number of African-Americans among them to a paltry seven. In a convocation address, he spoke openly about the challenges he faced:
Dividing Arcella (test construction in progress)
Wed, 22 May 2013 09:42:00 EST
A quickie post to assure y'all I'm still around. Got a few proper posts coming soon!Remember our testate amoeba friends, the arcellinids ? Here is a pair of Arcella s (Arcellae?) in the midst of division. Organic tests(="shells") rust over time, as in they turn yellow and then brown with oxidation. Based on that, you can tell that the newer test is on the bottom, as they start out clear. These cells have almost finished dividing, with a lingering cytoplasmic bridge barely connecting the two, between their mouthes (ok, 'oral apertures'). Mouth-to-mouth division. The three tiny round things at the top end of the cytoplasmic bridge look like the last organelles that will be transferred over to the younger cell -- perhaps a few mitochondria, based on their size. Don't worry, there's already plenty that have been transferred to the younger cell already! [More]
How to Expel Hurtful Stereotypes from Classrooms across the Country
Wed, 22 May 2013 08:30:00 EST
In this month's Scientific American science writer Ed Yong explores new research on stereotype threat --the fear of confirming derogatory stereotypes about one's social group. Such anxiety can undermine people's performance in school, sports and the workplace. A girl in an advanced math class, for example, might worry that she will not test as well as the boys, because of the stereotype that boys are better at math. Her concerns might distract her and tax her mental resources so that she performs below her abilities. Similarly, a young white basketball player might play poorly because he is worried that he is not as skilled as his African-American peers. Stereotype threat is one of the explanations for certain achievement gaps.
Fluoride Loosens Bacterial Enamel Grip
Wed, 22 May 2013 20:24:08 EST
Fluoride helps fight cavities. That’s why it’s in our drinking water and toothpaste. But how this mineral works its dental magic is still somewhat mysterious. Now, researchers offer an incisive solution. They find that fluoride treatment can loosen bacteria’s grip on tooth enamel. The study is in the journal Langmuir . [Peter Loskill et al, Reduced Adhesion of Oral Bacteria on Hydroxyapatite by Fluoride Treatment ]
We Fit Nature to Us: Evolution's 2-Way Street
Wed, 22 May 2013 11:41:00 EST
It is in our nature to fit nature to us. We are best at it, but other species do it. This obvious but overlooked factor contradicts the dominant one-way-street gene-centric view of adaptation. A better framework for evolution is needed. Its shape isn't clear, but it must incorporate: extracorporeal gene effects, "gene-culture coevolution," "niche construction," reduced randomness, and intelligent influences.George Williams, a founder of the gene-centric school, claimed " Adaptation is always asymmetrical; organisms adapt to their environment, never vice versa ." He was wrong. [More]
Discover the Secret of the 17-Year Cicada, But It Won t Get You Tenure
Wed, 22 May 2013 15:40:00 EST
All the hoopla over the 17-year cicadas, set to emerge any day now in the Northeast, has so far missed one of the greatest facts about them. Sure, it's no surprise for grand gatherings of male animals to get together and sing their hearts out. Frogs do it, crickets do it, and we all know that humans do it. In animals it's called a lek, in humans it's called a rock band, and these words basically mean the same thing.That's what we thought 17-year cicadas were up to--they emerge only in these rare prime-numbered years after slowly growing underground to live just a few weeks high in the trees to sing, fly, mate and die. The females are just attracted to all this noise and mating then happens. [More]
Google CEO s Condition Spotlights Vocal Cord Paralysis and Its Treatment
Wed, 22 May 2013 07:30:00 EST
When Google CEO Larry Page blogged about his struggles speaking and, at times, breathing last week on his Google+ page he spotlighted a rare condition, bilateral vocal cord paralysis , which leaves sufferers short of breath and with few viable treatment options. This is likely to change in coming years. Page has deep pockets and has promised to fund research into the disorder via the Voice Health Institute . In the meantime scientists are experimenting with electrical stimulation technologies to enhance existing voice therapy as well as surgical treatments. [More]
Why Portland Is Wrong About Water Fluoridation
Wed, 22 May 2013 12:53:00 EST
Late last night, Portlanders rejected a plan to fluoridate their city's water supply (and the water of over a dozen other cities). It's the fourth time Portland has rejected the public health measure since 1956. It's the fourth time they've gotten the science wrong.
Frog-Killing Chytrid Fungus Hits Rarely Seen, Wormlike Amphibians
Wed, 22 May 2013 09:20:00 EST
Don't feel bad if you've never seen a caecilian , let alone don't know how to pronounce the word . These rare, legless amphibians--which look like a cross between a worm and a snake--spend most of their time underground, far from the prying eyes of scientists and other humans. Although some of the 190 or so known caecilian (think "Sicilian") species can reach massive lengths--1.9 meters in some cases--they are rarely studied and very little is known about them.Here's something we do know: Caecilians, like the frogs and salamanders to which they are related, are apparently now at risk from the deadly chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis ( Bd ), which has already caused hundreds of amphibian extinctions around the globe. [More]
Pirates, Charles Darwin, and One Very Un-Extinct Dodo
Wed, 22 May 2013 10:00:00 EST
[caption id="attachment_3087" align="alignnone" width="600" caption=""Dodo Birds". Black and amber chalk on cream paper. By Roelandt Savery, ca. 1626. Public Domain; click for source"] [/caption]Any animated film starring pirates, Charles Darwin, and a dodo is going to be worthy of mention here, but Aardman Animations -- of Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run fame -- has outdone itself with "The Pirates!: Band of Misfits". I missed its theatrical run. But I happened to catch it recently and I think it's well worth your time, especially if, like me, you enjoy witty, screwball comedies. [More]
#SciAmBlogs Tuesday - Oklahoma, cervical cancer, Weil's postulate, immunity and reproduction, global energy, UK wallabies, and more.
Tue, 21 May 2013 23:06:00 EST
Take a look at the newest Image of the Week ! - Hilda Bastian - Dissecting the controversy about early psychological response to disasters and trauma [More]