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  • Screentime

    Lend an ear to science

    Pop music hit maker Clive Davis knows a catchy song when he hears one. Now an app aims to define that elusive quality more concretely.

    Designed by computer and cognitive scientists at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Hooked! asks citizen scientists to help uncover the mystery ingredients of a hook — the most memorable part of a song. The results...

    02/19/2014 - 17:20 Psychology, Technology, Science & Society
  • How Bizarre

    Levitating objects with sound

    View the video

    Step into Jun Rekimoto’s lab at the University of Tokyo and you might see a screw floating through the air. Don’t worry, it’s normal: Rekimoto’s team has built a new device that uses sound to levitate objects and — for the first time — maneuver them in all directions. For decades physicists have levitated milli­meter-sized objects by trapping them in pockets of low...

    02/18/2014 - 07:50 Physics
  • It's Alive

    ‘Packrat’ is the new term for ‘really organized’

    A real packrat doesn’t store junk in its bedroom. Or its bathroom.

    Its midden home may look like a heap of sticks, but inside, what a floor plan. What storage. The more eclectic hoarder species segregate pantry from lumber room from junk museum. The result is more orderly than the closets of some human packrats.

    Some packrats like variety, while others specialize. Neotoma stephensi...

    02/14/2014 - 14:28 Animals
  • Science Visualized

    Ways of seeing the brain inspire notions of how it works

    The mysterious contents of the skull have long captivated their owners.

    Ancient Egyptians treated brain injuries by pouring milk in both ears. Aristotle believed the brain was a cooling unit for the heart. Galen, the leading physician of the Roman Empire, claimed that “animal spirits” imbued the brain with its abilities.

    These ideas were a product of limited tools and unscientific...

    02/13/2014 - 09:46 Neuroscience
  • Reviews & Previews

    The Sixth Extinction

    Almost nothing in nature is so rare as a mass extinction. On only five occasions in Earth’s long history has a large fraction of the planet’s biodiversity disappeared in a geological instant. But, journalist Kolbert reminds us in her new book, we are well on our way to making it six.

    A lesser writer tackling this subject might offer up a dreary list of dead and dying species;...

    02/11/2014 - 09:03 Earth, History of Science