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  • Reviews & Previews

    Our Mathematical Universe

    Math is everywhere: medicine, sports, banking, gambling, National Security Agency espionage.

    And then there’s science, which has adopted math as the preferred method of description for life, nonlife and the entire physical universe. Math does a decent enough job at this to inspire wonder among physicists about why it works so well. The answer isn’t obvious, but Tegmark thinks he knows:...

    03/19/2014 - 10:55 Numbers
  • Mystery Solved

    How string quartets stay together

    String quartet players continuously adjust the timing of their notes to stay in sync. But exactly how players do it has been unclear. New data tracking millisecond-scale corrections suggests that some ensembles are more autocratic — following one leader —while other musical groups are more democratic, making corrections equally. Researchers had two well-established quartets play Joseph Haydn’s...

    03/17/2014 - 08:00 Psychology
  • Reviews & Previews

    Do your bit for bumblebees

    Bumblebee populations are in decline, but scientists don’t have enough data on which bee species live where to target conservation efforts. People throughout North America, armed with smartphones and cameras, can now help find the bumblebees.

    The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and its partners have launched the Bumble Bee Watch website to track sightings. When you see a bee...

    03/15/2014 - 11:23 Ecology
  • Reviews & Previews

    The Monkey's Voyage

    By 26 million years ago, the ancestors of today’s New World monkeys had arrived in South America. How those primates reached the continent is something of a conundrum. The leading explanation has the animals floating across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa aboard a giant raft of vegetation.

    The scenario may sound preposterous. But de Queiroz, an evolutionary biologist, uses fossil, genetic...

    03/14/2014 - 14:50 Evolution
  • Say What?

    Osmotroph

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    An organism that eats by osmosis, relying on nutrients diffusing into its body from a higher concentration in its environment.

    About 550 million years ago, ambitious aquatic fronds began growing taller and tapped into more nutrient-rich water than found at the seafloor surface. Researchers simulated fluid flow over early multicellular osmo-trophs, which may be early...

    03/13/2014 - 10:29 Microbes, Plants
  • Cell visible by own light

    Scientists can now “see” a single living cell made visible by its own light. A new image intensifier, which amplifies the very faint light of an individual cell in a way somewhat like the television screen makes its bright picture, has been developed. It can be made to amplify light as much as a million and a half times….

    George T. Reynolds of Princeton … used the image intensifier with...

    03/12/2014 - 13:00 Microbiology, Cells
  • Science Visualized

    Second wave of bird flu ups pandemic worries

    A new type of flu began making people sick in China in 2013. Researchers quickly discovered that the virus was a type of avian influenza, known as H7N9, never before seen in humans. In one year the virus has surged twice, sickening 370 people in China and killing 115 (according to data available as of February 28).

    As with seasonal flu, infections tapered off during the summer of 2013...

    03/11/2014 - 11:57 Health, Immune Science, Biomedicine
  • It's Alive

    Pelican spiders: slow, safe assassins

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    Spiders, thank goodness, haven’t evolved assassin drones. But the specialized hunters of the family Archaeidae can kill at a distance.

    It’s a distance of only a few millimeters. But that’s substantial for these teensy dramas, and enough space to let a group called pelican spiders bring down their wary and dangerous prey: other spiders.

    The pelican name comes...

    03/09/2014 - 08:30 Animals
  • Feature

    The addiction paradox

    Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s February death from a drug overdose triggered media reports blaming the terrible disease of addiction for claiming another life. But calling addiction a “disease” may be misguided, according to an alternative view with some scientific basis. Most people who are addicted to cigarette smoking, alcohol or other drugs manage to quit, usually on their own, after...

    03/07/2014 - 14:30 Psychology
  • Feature

    Cloudy forecast

    From space, clouds appear to perform an intricate and never-ending ballet. Thin streaks dance at the poles, vast storms plow across the jet streams, spinning cyclones get tossed up in the tropics and deep convecting monsters churn near the equator. Clouds whip and curl and billow, materializing seemingly out of nowhere and dissipating just as mysteriously.

    The mystery deepens when...

    03/07/2014 - 14:30 Climate, Earth