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Vol. 3, No. 35
THIS WEEK: Voyager’s momentous crossing, rats in suspended animation, why mice eat where they poop and Laura Sanders on brain hacking.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: Laura Sanders | FRAME OF MIND
Some schemes to boost brainpower are too clever by half

Human beings are the ultimate malcontents. Despite our giant brains, elaborate languages and sophisticated reasoning skills, we’re not satisfied. We want to be smarter yet. In our never-ending quest for a mental edge, we turn to things like caffeine, crossword puzzles and brain-training computer games….

*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 34
THIS WEEK: Ancient Egypt’s rapid rise, a peek at the sun’s distant future, warming’s effects on East Coast superstorms and Tom Siegfried on the birth of chaos theory.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: Tom Siegfried | RANDOMNESS
Born half a century ago, chaos theory languished for years before taking the sciences by storm

Predicting the impact of a scientific discovery is a lot like predicting the weather. You never know what obscure paper in the scientific literature (or small disturbance in the atmosphere) will eventually produce a deluge of new research (or rain)…

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Vol. 3, No. 33
THIS WEEK: Ancient jewelry forged from meteorites, brains grow in a lab dish, ice encases Saturn’s moon Titan and Julie Rehmeyer on a formula for cooperation among Wikipedia editors.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: Julie Rehmeyer | MATH TREK
Probing Wikipedia editors’ hive mind for rules on cooperative behavior

Wikipedia acts a bit like one big brain. Similar to how independently firing neurons somehow in aggregate produce thought, independently operating editors together produce the vast online encyclopedia, which, it has been argued, has an accuracy approaching that of the carefully curated Encyclopedia Brittanica. Taken as a whole, the system performs a sort of enormous computation, taking in the collective knowledge of the Internet and spitting out encyclopedia articles…

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Vol. 3, No. 32
THIS WEEK: Kepler stays dead, birds heed speed limits, a blood marker may gauge suicide risk and Laura Sanders responds to recent incidents of neurobashing.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: Laura Sanders | FRAME OF MIND
Calling neuroscience pointless misses the point

Despite the adage, there actually is such a thing as bad publicity, a fact that brain scientists have lately discovered. A couple of high-profile opinion pieces in the New York Times have questioned the usefulness of neuroscience, claiming, as columnist David Brooks did in June, that studying brain activity will never reveal the mind. Or that neuroscience is a pesky distraction from solving real social problems, as scholar Benjamin Fong wrote on August 11…

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Vol. 3, No. 31
THIS WEEK: Quantum teleportation moves toward practicality, infants’ brains react to race, stem cells bring a mouse heart to life and Erin Wayman explores the mystery of menopause.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: Erin Wayman | BECOMING HUMAN
Killer whales, grandmas and what men want: Evolutionary biologists consider menopause

Menopause seems like a cruel prank that Mother Nature plays on women. First come the hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irregular periods, irritability and weight gain. Then menstruation stops and fertility ends. Why, many women ask, must they suffer through this? Evolutionary biologists, it turns out, ask themselves more or less the same question. How on Earth could such a seemingly maladaptive trait ever evolve?…

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Vol. 3, No. 30
THIS WEEK: A promising malaria vaccine, a disappointing fusion experiment, another round of controversial flu experiments and Tom Siegfried explains the merits of multiversality.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: Tom Siegfried | RANDOMNESS
Belief in multiverse requires exceptional vision

If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. That’s an old philosophy, one that many scientists swallowed whole. But as Ziva David of NCIS would say, it’s total salami. After all, you can’t see bacteria and viruses, but they can still kill you….

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Vol. 3, No. 29
THIS WEEK: Tracing monogamy’s roots, watching a black hole eat, going camping for a good night’s sleep and Tom Siegfried on wormholes, real and imagined.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: Tom Siegfried | RANDOMNESS
Long the stuff of fantasy, wormholes may be coming soon to a telescope near you

For decades now, black holes have been the rock stars of popular astrophysics, both fact and fiction. Physicists rely on them to explain all sorts of mysterious astrophenomena, and black holes have been essential plot devices in various films, from Star Trek (2009) to Galaxy Quest (1999) to (obviously) The Black Hole (1979)…

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Vol. 3, No. 28
THIS WEEK: Where gold comes from, making fake memories, steering with one flagellum and Julie Rehmeyer on a different kind of 3-D movie.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: Julie Rehmeyer | MATH TREK
Flatland and its sequel bring the math of higher dimensions to the silver screen

In 1884, Edwin Abbott wrote a strange and enchanting novella called Flatland, in which a square who lives in a two-dimensional world comes to comprehend the existence of a third dimension but is unable to persuade his compatriots of his discovery. Through the book, Abbott skewered hierarchical Victorian values while simultaneously giving a glimpse of the mathematics of higher dimensions. …

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Vol. 3, No. 27
THIS WEEK: The invention of warfare, levitating with sound, a simple way to diagnose depression and Tom Siegfried on penetrating cancer’s networks.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED| RANDOMNESS
Systems biology tunes in to cancer networks

If cable TV systems had a channel called The Cancer Network, doctors would be wise to tune in…

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Vol. 3, No. 26
THIS WEEK: Deep-space chemistry, lab-grown livers, a pristine royal tomb in Peru and Rachel Ehrenberg on how parents really don’t understand their kids when it comes to online privacy.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: RACHEL EHRENBERG| CULTURE BEAKER
What parents just don’t understand about online privacy

Not long ago, police and school officials in Old Saybrook, Conn., held a high school assembly on Internet safety. The purpose of the assembly, wrote New Haven Register reporter Susan Misur, was to make students aware of how public their photos, tweets and profiles are online. To make this point, the presentation included a slide show with pictures and updates grabbed from the students’ Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts…

*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 25
THIS WEEK: Larcenous lemurs, physicists’ first tetraquark, the most ancient genome ever sequenced and Erin Wayman on a rocky route to bipedalism

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: ERIN WAYMAN| BECOMING HUMAN
Human ancestors scrambled to their feet, a new explanation for bipedalism asserts

WHOOSH. Scrambler Man ascends steep cliffs in a single burst, leaving his barbaric enemies in the dust. Then, while chasing angry beasts uphill and down, Scrambler Man is transformed into — POOF — The Biped, who can outwalk, outlast and outsmart them all…

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Vol. 3, No. 24
THIS WEEK: The evolutionary history of the neck, the best brain map yet, a volcano at the bottom of the world and Julie Rehmeyer on a surfeit of number theory results.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: JULIE REHMEYER| MATH TREK
A field where breakthroughs are hard to come by produces two big advances on a single day

Problems in number theory often have a certain exasperating charm: They are extraordinarily simple to state, but so difficult to prove that centuries of effort haven’t sufficed to crack them. So it’s pretty remarkable that on one day this May, mathematicians announced results on two of these mathematical conundrums. Both proofs address one of the most fundamental questions in all of mathematics, the relationship between multiplication and addition…

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Vol. 3, No. 23
THIS WEEK: The hazards of headers, fish that sire fry after dying, a neural switch for obsessive behavior and Tom Siegfried on the molecular secrets to staying mentally sharp.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED| RANDOMNESS
Even if science can’t make life longer, perhaps a pill can make a long life better

To live long and prosper (physically, not financially), you’d probably rather take a pill than starve yourself. So far, though, most of the evidence says very-low-calorie diets are the best strategy for living a longer life. At least if you’re a worm or a fly…

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Vol. 3, No. 22
THIS WEEK: Roaches that won’t take the bait, the unseen perils of interplanetary flight, the birth of French winemaking and Rachel Ehrenberg on what happens to you online after you die.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: RACHEL EHRENBERG| CULTURE BEAKER
Computer scientists grapple with how to manage the digital legacy of the departed

In April, Google added to its services an Inactive Account Manager, which lets you designate an heir who will control your Google data when you die. You choose a length of inactivity, and if your accounts are ever quiet for that long, Google will notify your heirs that they’ve inherited access to your Gmail correspondence, YouTube videos or Picasa photo albums — whatever you specify…

*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 21
THIS WEEK: Kepler’s legacy, the fungal plenitude of the human foot, progress toward a universal flu vaccine and Tom Siegfried on how microbes may influence our moods.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED| RANDOMNESS
Microbes at home in your gut may also be influencing your brain

When your gut grumbles or growls, it’s speaking to your brain. And it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Evolution favors guts that can tell a brain what they want.

So it’s not surprising that the brain and the gut should have a reliable communications connection. But suppose the gut’s messaging system was hacked by foreign invaders sending a different sort of message, messing with your mind. Guess what? It is…

*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 20

THIS WEEK: Kepler’s exit, cloning embryonic stem cells, billion-year-old groundwater deposits and Julie Rehmeyer on an abstract branch of mathematics that is proving surprisingly useful.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: JULIE REHMEYER| MATH TREK
One of the most abstract fields in math finds application in the ‘real’ world

Every pure mathematician has experienced that awkward moment when asked, “So what’s your research good for?” There are standard responses: a proud “Nothing!”; an explanation that mathematical research is an art form like, say, Olympic gymnastics (with a much smaller audience); or a stammered response that so much of pure math has ended up finding application that maybe, perhaps, someday, it will turn out to be useful…

*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 19
THIS WEEK: Tiny flying robots, Europe’s family tree, the global toll of toxic waste and Erin Wayman on humanity’s first brush with extinction.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: ERIN WAYMAN| BECOMING HUMAN
Eruption early in human prehistory may have been more whimper than bang
If Hollywood’s right, the apocalypse will be brutal. Aliens, nuclear war, zombies, plague, enslavement by supersmart robots — none of them are good endings…
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Vol. 3, No. 18
THIS WEEK: A viral fossil, the health dangers of hookahs, cannibalism in colonial America and Tom Siegfried on the limits of selfishness.


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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED| RANDOMNESS
Greed may breed financial fitness, but evolution allows unselfishness to survive
If greed is good, as Gordon Gekko proclaimed in the 1987 movie Wall Street, then economics ought to be a superlative science…
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Vol. 3, No. 17
THIS WEEK: Pulsating corals, consciousness in infancy, how bats see the world and Matt Crenson on what the long-dead can tell us about modern plagues.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: MATT CRENSON| RECONSTRUCTIONS
What ancient mummies have to tell us about the perils of modern life
Once you hit a certain age, visiting a doctor is basically a guilt trip. All that satisfying stuff you eat, drink or smoke is killing you, a white-coated overachiever tells you. You need to exercise and lose weight, or the grim reaper will be at your door long before you’re ready. And it will all be your fault…
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 16
THIS WEEK: Bioengineered kidneys, the coelacanth genome, potentially wet exoplanets and Rachel Ehrenberg on how J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson ran afoul of shopper psychology.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: RACHEL EHRENBERG| CULTURE BEAKER
The psychology of J.C. Penney: Why shoppers like it when retailers play games with prices
Last year, J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson put an end to “fake prices,” the ones that customers see but rarely pay because of coupons and sales. Instead, the clothing retailer decided to sell items at cheaper everyday prices in an effort to “stop playing games” with consumers. By June, Johnson had conceded that this strategy wasn’t working. Penney brought back coupons in September; the return of clearance racks soon followed. But it may have been too late for Johnson; he got the boot on April 8 after a mere 17 months on the job . . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 15
THIS WEEK: The killer ingredient in red meat, a slow-moving debate over tortoise taxonomy, the answer to a very sensitive question about male anatomy and Alexandra Witze with the skinny on sinkholes.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: ALEXANDRA WITZE | EARTH IN ACTION
Geologists develop weapons to combat that sinkhole feeling
What do five Porsches, several Kentucky thoroughbreds and a three-story building in Guatemala City have in common? They’ve all been swallowed by sinkholes . . .
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Vol. 3, No. 14
THIS WEEK: The cocaine-addicted brain, the latest on dark matter, what babies can say with a growl and Tom Siegfried on the intersection of junk DNA with flawed logic.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED | RANDOMNESS
Reports of junk DNA’s ‘demise’ were based on junky logic and dubious definitions
Science is an oddly successful enterprise. On the whole, it provides an impressive guide to reality. From antibiotics and atomic bombs to laser beams and X-rays, science enables humans to forge powerful tools from nature’s secrets . . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 13
THIS WEEK: A 3-D sound cloak, a truly unbearable heat wave, the imperfection of the mammalian ear and Erin Wayman on humankind’s legacy of destruction.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: ERIN WAYMAN | BECOMING HUMAN
Humankind’s destructive streak may be older than the species itself
Some scientists have proposed designating a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, that would cover the period since humans became the predominant environmental force on the planet. But when would you have it begin? Some geologists argue that the Anthropocene began with the Industrial Revolution, when fossil fuel consumption started influencing climate. Others point back several thousand years earlier to the onset of agriculture, when humans cleared swaths of forest to make way for neat little rows of cultivated crops. . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 12
THIS WEEK: EThe genes of the giant squid, a plague on impatiens, the best look yet at the cosmic microwave background and Julie Rehmeyer on what it takes to prove a mathematical conjecture.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: JULIE REHMEYER | MATH TREK
A theorem in limbo shows that QED is not the last word in a mathematical proof
When a top-tier mathematician announced in August that he had proved one of the greatest problems in mathematics, the claim was trumpeted in the New York Times, Nature, Science and the Boston Globe. . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 11
THIS WEEK: The latest from Mars Curiosity, well-traveled Neandertals, what you reveal when you ‘like’ something on Facebook and Tom Siegfried on why time is a one-way street.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED | RANDOMNESS
Explanations for time’s arrow keep marching on
Time after time, physicists have tried to explain time. Many claim to have succeeded. But they haven’t. Otherwise everybody would quit trying to explain it all over again. . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 10
THIS WEEK: Arctic camels, sperm navigation, craters as cradles of life and Rachel Ehrenberg on the insidious effects of online nastiness.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: RACHEL EHRENBERG | CULTURE BEAKER
When trolls come out from under their bridges, it’s bad news for scientific discourse
Depending on your age, the word troll might evoke a nasty creature who lives under a bridge — or a nasty creature who posts inflammatory comments online. The former, found mostly in Scandinavian folktales, is typically a dim-witted beast, not inclined to help humans. The latter (judgment on wits aside) is also rarely considered helpful. But new research suggests a more nefarious role for these postmodern trolls: Their uncivil, rancorous remarks can influence how readers perceive science. . .
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Vol. 3, No. 9
THIS WEEK: Tadpoles see with transplanted eyes, a new SARS-like virus raises concerns, a supermassive black hole hitchhikes to a new galaxy, miniature machines assemble themselves on cue and Alexandra Witze on asteroid protection plans.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: ALEXANDRA WITZE | EARTH IN ACTION
When an asteroid heads for Earth, it’s time to reconsider those doomsday plans
Chicken Little is right. The sky is falling.
The million-plus people living in Chelyabinsk, Russia, got that message on February 15, when a space rock some 17 meters across detonated over their homes. People rushed to the windows in wonderment as a blaze of light arced through the sky; seconds later many of them got a face full of glass shards. It was the most damaging cosmic collision since 1908, when an even bigger asteroid chunk blew up over Siberia. (In an era before YouTube and dashboard cameras, it was weeks before tales trickled out of reindeer herders
being thrown from their tents by the blast.). . .
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Vol. 3, No. 8
THIS WEEK: An eye on the inner ear, snaring viruses with nanoparticles, how primates got their drink on and Tom Siegfried on building a Maxwell’s demon.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED | RANDOMNESS
Real-life Maxwell’s demon adds fuel to debate about status of the second law
Fight Club had its First Rule (don’t talk about Fight Club). The Transporter enforces Rule Number 1 (never change the deal). And NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs observes Rule 1 (never mix the suspects together in the same room). . .
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Vol. 3, No. 7
THIS WEEK: Erasing memories with drugs, Heisenberg on a grand scale, detachable sex organs and Julie Rehmeyer on a streamlined proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: JULIE REHMEYER | MATH TREK
A mathematician puts Fermat’s Last
Theorem on an axiomatic diet

Fermat’s Last Theorem is so simple to state, but so hard to prove. Though the 350-year-old claim is a straightforward one about integers, the proof that University of Oxford mathematician Andrew Wiles finally created for it nearly two decades ago required almost unimaginably complex theoretical machinery. The proof was a dazzling demonstration of that machinery’s value, but one aspect of it troubled mathematicians: It relied on stronger axioms than mathematics normally requires, and ones far more complex than are needed to state the problem. . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 6
THIS WEEK: A lake under ice, moles smelling in stereo, a fearless woman’s Achilles’ heel and Tom Siegfried on physicists’ many interpretations of quantum theory.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED | RANDOMNESS
Poll of quantum physicists shows agreement, disagreement and something in between
Science is not a democracy. Nature’s laws are not subject to the whims of popular vote. A scientific theory succeeds by providing logical explanations for puzzling phenomena and making correct predictions about the outcomes of new experiments. It doesn’t matter how many scientists believed in the theory beforehand (or even afterward, for that matter). . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 5
THIS WEEK: Corals in crisis, wildlife’s feline menace, sleep problems in the military and Rachel Ehrenberg on predicting box office bounty.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: RACHEL EHRENBERG | CULTURE BEAKER
In Hollywood, buzz beats star power when it comes to predicting box office take
Movie studios love awards season. Winning one of the glittery statuettes that are annually bestowed upon those in the biz can provide a hefty box office boost. But if you are going to put money on which movies will sell the most tickets in the long run, accolades from critics and peers aren’t a very good crystal ball. When it comes to predicting box office success, it turns out that the little people really do matter. . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 4
THIS WEEK: Dung beetle navigation, DNA data storage, deep-brain stimulation for autism and Laura Sanders on the quest for faster-acting antidepressants.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: LAURA SANDERS | FRAME OF MIND

A new generation of antidepressants could help patients feel better faster

People talk a lot about speeding up drug development. But for some problems, they should also focus on speeding up the drugs. For brain disorders like depression, the medicines prescribed by doctors can take weeks or months to kick in. (And even after the long wait, the number of people who experience complete turnarounds is surprisingly low.)…
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 4
THIS WEEK: New insights into barnacle sex, the potential for life on exomoons, the frustrating hunt for depression genes and Tom Siegfried on the quantum roots of randomness.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED | RANDOMNESS
Rules for computing classical probabilities might depend on quantum randomness
For all the deference to “laws” of nature that supposedly govern everything that happens, the truth is that randomness rules the world. . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and full column here on our website.

Vol. 3, No. 2
THIS WEEK: Improved cancer detection, a pretend mission to Mars, earthquakes in unexpected places and Alexandra Witze on the lessons of the Italian earthquake verdict.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: ALEXANDRA WITZE| EARTH IN ACTION
Italian earthquake verdict exposes rifts between science and society
Sometimes a little shake-up is exactly what scientists need to make a major breakthrough. Other times it can send them to jail.
Six Italian researchers and one government official have each been sentenced to six years in prison for their role in communicating — or failing to communicate — seismic risks in L’Aquila, Italy. That beautiful medieval town was devastated by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake in the wee hours of April 6, 2009. More than 300 people died; the aftershocks reverberated not only across Italy but also throughout the global network of seismologists. . .
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Vol. 3, No. 1
THIS WEEK: Squeezing quiets cancer cells, meteorite hunters strike gold, hot hitters give their teammates a boost and Julie Rehmeyer examines the math of competitive bidding.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: JULIE REHMEYER | MATH TREK
For new federal plan to buy medical supplies, devil is in the details
Medicare could waste billions of dollars, bankrupt small businesses and leave seniors without crucial medical equipment, some economists warn, with a new auction-based purchasing plan that ignores mathematical principles of competitive bidding. . . .
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Vol. 2, No. 47
THIS WEEK: SN Prime reviews the year in science with a compilation and analysis of the most fascinating stories of 2012. Also highlighted are reader favorites, debunked science, stunning images and the year’s weirdest stories.

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Vol. 2, No. 46
THIS WEEK: Curiosity gets a whiff of Martian soil, Voyager enters new territory, the Large Hadron Collider sees matter behaving strangely and Tom Siegfried explores the possibility that our reality is just someone else’s simulation.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED | RANDOMNESS
Maybe there’s a way to find out
if reality is a computer simulation

In olden days, before the Star Trek holodeck and movies like TRON and The Matrix, philosophers used to wonder whether life was but a dream. Nowadays they’re more concerned that reality could be just a computer simulation. . .
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Vol. 2, No. 45
THIS WEEK: Melting ice sheets, superstrong artificial muscles, the universe before dark energy’s rise and Rachel Ehrenberg on how math won on Election Day.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: RACHEL EHRENBERG | CULTURE BEAKER
After nailing 2012 elections, number crunchers suggest pollsters are asking the wrong question
President Obama wasn’t the only winner in November’s election: Math also triumphed. At the forefront of the algorithmic charge was numbers nerd Nate Silver, who correctly predicted the presidential winner in all 50 states on his New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight.. . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 2, No. 44
THIS WEEK: Human ancestors’ early airborne weapons, doubt about drought models, a potentially habitable planet found hiding in data, the search for enzymes that can take the heat and Laura Sanders on pinpointing face recognition in the brain.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: LAURA SANDERS | FRAME OF MIND

Study gives a jolt to brain researchers seeking to understand face blindness

At the push of a button, Dr. Josef Parvizi’s face melted. When Parvizi turned on the juice to two electrodes in his patient’s brain, “you just turned into somebody else,” the patient told the doctor from the hospital bed. “Your face metamorphosed. Your nose got saggy and went to the left. You almost looked like somebody I’ve seen before, but somebody different. That was a trip.” …
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 2, No. 43
THIS WEEK: Corals call cleaning crew when algae attacks, an alternate proposal for an ancient flood, your brain on speed dating, a primer on hydraulic fracturing, and Tom Siegfried on how models work best when they’re efficient.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED | RANDOMNESS

Physicists’ theories, biology’s brains work best when they’re models of efficiency

When scientists talk about computer models, they don’t mean little toy facsimiles of a PC or Mac. A computer model is a digital representation of some piece of reality. It’s a translation of matter and motion into math, so a computer can calculate how a process will unfold under various circumstances.. . .
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Vol. 2, No. 42
THIS WEEK: The bird family tree, cancer-causing viruses, a Mars rover’s acerbic alter ego and Alexandra Witze on the fate of southern sea ice.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: ALEXANDRA WITZE | EARTH IN ACTION
Poles apart, the Arctic and Antarctic exhibit very different records for sea ice
People might think they’re twins, but the North Pole and the South Pole are really more like
distant cousins who, at family reunions, can’t believe they are related. . .
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Vol. 2, No. 41
THIS WEEK: Lucy up a tree, aspirin’s colon cancer benefits, the birth of Saturn’s multifarious moons and Julie Rehmeyer on the lose-lose proposition of international climate negotiations.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: JULIE REHMEYER | MATH TREK
Game theory suggests current climate negotiations won’t avert catastrophe
Climate treaty negotiators might be wise to have a conversation with a game theorist.
So far, negotiators’ promises to reduce greenhouse gas production have been paltry and results paltrier, as both emissions and global temperatures have risen. . .
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Vol. 2, No. 40
THIS WEEK: A comparatively nearby exoplanet, the expansion of the human life span, teens’ remarkable capacity for self-control and Tom Siegfried on making time crystals.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED | RANDOMNESS

To build a clock that ticks forever, you need a spacetime crystal blueprint

Nothing lasts forever, although some things seem to. Speeches at political conventions, the NBA play-offs and those fight scenes in the Matrix movies just go on and on and on. Sometimes life itself seems like one never-ending wallpaper pattern, duplicated over and over again at regular intervals. . .
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Vol. 2, No. 39
THIS WEEK: Nobel prize coverage, cell death by magnet, a brainless organism that makes memories and Rachel Ehrenberg on the cosmology of the Twitterverse.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: RACHEL EHRENBERG | CULTURE BEAKER
Scientists embrace Twitter for spreading the word and hashing through new data
When NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity touched down on August 5, nerds of the Twitterverse went wild. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory team that sends out tweets on behalf of the rover (@MarsCuriosity) immediately posted the news: “I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!! #MSL”. . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 2, No. 38
THIS WEEK: Curiosity sees signs that water once flowed on Mars, Gouldian finches need the right eye to find a mate, how legless lizards and snakes evolved and Laura Sanders on studying brains in the wild.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: LAURA SANDERS | FRAME OF MIND

To understand meetings of minds, scientists should study brains in the wild

Usually, scientific research papers appeal to their readers with results or ideas, not art. But as I was poking through some journals last week, an outlier caught my eye. Instead of the normal bland tables, bar graphs and trend lines, the first illustration in this paper looked more like a frat boy’s Facebook page the day after a rowdy throwdown…
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Vol. 2, No. 37
THIS WEEK: Neandertal arts and crafts, dissolvable electronics, a close look at a very big black hole and Alexandra Witze on the beginning of dinosaurs’ end.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: ALEXANDRA WITZE | EARTH IN ACTION
Bad days for dinosaurs began long before the last of them died
Sometimes a bad day doesn’t know when to stop. It turns into a bad week, then a bad month, and maybe even the worst year you’ve ever had . . .
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Vol. 2, No. 36
THIS WEEK: Ritalin and risk-taking, African prehistory documented in DNA, a more precise take on Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Matt Crenson on the fall of civilizations.
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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: MATT CRENSON | RECONSTRUCTIONS
Matt Crenson
What the Maya really have to tell us about the end of the world

In the wake of the third hottest U.S. summer on record, with the Arctic sea ice at its smallest extent on record and a drought driving food prices to all-time records, it might be a good time to consider what the Maya have to teach us about the end of the world. . .
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Vol. 2, No. 35
THIS WEEK: Virgin snakes give birth, Facebook gets out the vote, two probes near the solar system’s limit and Tom Siegfried confronts dragon kings.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: TOM SIEGFRIED | RANDOMNESS

Scientists seek mathematical insights for taming and explaining ‘dragon kings’

The Mother of All Dragon Kings sounds like a character from Game of Thrones.
But in fact, it’s a mix of wartime rhetoric and a technical scientific term. A “dragon king,” in the lingo of scientists who study complex systems, is an outlier. It’s an event, or effect, or activity, that’s literally off the scale — so big, so calamitous, that it doesn’t fit in the range of expected magnitudes. Huge earthquakes, sudden economic depressions, companies worth $600 billion are the dragon kings of the natural and socioeconomic worlds. In older times, prime dragon king examples included outsized political entities, like the Roman Empire, or epidemics like the Black Death. . .
*Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.

Vol. 2, No. 34
THIS WEEK: A record low for Arctic ice, a binary star system with twin planets, new theories from the Hadean on the origin of cells, and Rachel Ehrenberg on taking science funding to the people.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: RACHEL EHRENBERG | CULTURE BEAKER
Science needs a kick to take advantage of the generosity of crowds
Back in the days before electronic ignitions, “kick-starter” referred to an old-fashioned means of igniting an engine with a hearty thrust of your foot. Today the term usually alludes to a thoroughly modern means of igniting financial support for a project. . .
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Vol. 2, No. 32
THIS WEEK: Sick snakes, tainted tattoos, the secret of llama fertility and Laura Sanders on why it may be OK to covet your neighbor’s assets.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: LAURA SANDERS | FRAME OF MIND

Copycat mentality may be a hardwired way for animals to learn to avoid others’ mistakes

Human beings are highly social creatures. But sometimes we seem to be a little too worried about what our fellow humans are up to. Think of the girl who runs out and buys the same exact shirt you wore last week, or that guy who repeats the hilarious joke you just cracked, but louder. . .
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Vol. 2, No. 32
THIS WEEK: Neat wrinkles, a chameleon robot, the invention of mummification and Alexandra Witze on probing a giant volcano’s restless heart.

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COLUMN SNEAK PEEK: ALEXANDRA WITZE | EARTH IN ACTION
When studying a monster volcano, poke softly with a sensitive stick
Sometimes the best thing you can do with a monster is to poke it with a stick. Gently, of course. Prod too hard, and he might roar back in your face. That’s the chance scientists are taking in Italy, where they are drilling right into the heart of a restive supervolcano to see what it might do… *Read the full column by downloading the free app and purchasing this issue, or if you are a print subscriber you can read the full column here on our website.