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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; Kolbert...

    02/11/2014 - 09:03 Earth, History of Science
  • Moon like blue cheese?

    The moon’s surface is probably closer to green cheese than to solid rock. Blue cheese may be more accurate than green when an astronaut finally steps off into the rough, dark, opaque material left by micrometeorite bombardment.

    Dr. Thomas Gold, director of the center for radiophysics and space research, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., said that the action of micrometeorites on the moon...

    02/10/2014 - 09:01 Planetary Science
  • Science Stats

    Biggest climate warmers

    The United States, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany and the United Kingdom are responsible for more than 60 percent of the 0.74 degree Celsius rise in global average temperature observed from 1906 to 2005, a new report shows.

    Nations add to warming through fossil fuel use, land-use change and other effects. In a cartogram (final slide, above), a nation’s size expands if its warming...

    02/09/2014 - 16:45 Climate, Earth
  • Reviews & Previews

    Naturalists at Sea

    For centuries after Columbus, the flora and fauna of the New World remained a mystery to Europeans. But in the 1600s and 1700s, explorers began to visit and describe what were then considered remote corners of the Earth. Williams brings to life these naturalists who preceded Charles Darwin.

    While others on the ships mapped the blank spots on their charts, the naturalists scrambled...

    02/08/2014 - 10:08 History of Science
  • Feature

    Cataloging the connections

    Mapping the human brain is a noble goal, but a rather ill-defined one. It’s like making a map of the United States. You could just show political boundaries and the locations of cities. Or you might depict geographical features like mountains and rivers. Or transportation routes, like interstate highways and railroad tracks. You might even go Google Maps all the way and show the location of...

    02/07/2014 - 14:00 Neuroscience
  • Feature

    Brain shot

    When the president of the United States makes a request, scientists usually listen. Physicists created the atomic bomb for President Roosevelt. NASA engineers put men on the moon for President Kennedy. Biologists presented their first draft of the human genetic catalog to an appreciative President Clinton.

    So when President Obama announced an ambitious plan to understand the brain in...

    02/07/2014 - 14:00 Neuroscience