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  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘The Sound Book’ explores echoes, bad acoustics and more

    The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the WorldTrevor CoxNorton & Co., $26.95

    Most lists of the world’s wonders include visually stunning attractions — the Grand Canyon or the pyramids of Giza, for example. Yet there’s more to life than meets the eye, as acoustic engineer Trevor Cox reveals in this international tour of aural amazements.

    Many of the...

    05/19/2014 - 09:00 Physics
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘The Amoeba in the Room’ uncloaks a hidden realm of tiny life

    The Amoeba in the Room: Lives of the MicrobesNicholas P. MoneyOxford Univ., $24.95

    Prochlorococcus is a little bacterium with a big job. Less than a micrometer in diameter, it’s the most abundant photosynthetic organism on Earth, taking up carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. If the octillion — that’s a 1 followed by 27 zeros — or more Prochlorococcus currently adrift in the world’s...

    05/18/2014 - 10:00 Fungi, Microbes
  • It's Alive

    For upside-down sloths, what goes down can’t come up

    A sloth can’t vomit. It has a one-way throat, handy for eating while dangling upside down by the toes. But the animal has to be careful not to poison itself by nibbling too many toxic leaves that it can’t easily purge.

    There are upsides and downsides to evolving a body that can hang toes-up for some four to six hours a day, as the three-fingered sloth does, says sloth biologist Rebecca...

    05/18/2014 - 08:00 Animals
  • Museums

    National Museum of Mathematics is antidote to math phobia

    Few equations confront a visitor to the National Museum of Mathematics on Manhattan’s East 26th Street. Instead, museumgoers find children — and adults — riding the Coaster Roller (below), a small platform that offers a surprisingly smooth ride over acorn-shaped balls. (The trick lies in the objects’ diameter, which is the same in every direction.)

    This physical, tactile, even...

    05/17/2014 - 10:00 Numbers
  • Letters to the Editor

    Feedback

    Building a better vaccine

    A whooping cough vaccine introduced in the 1990s has fewer side effects than its predecessor, but it may not protect against the disease as well, Nathan Seppa reported in “Whooping cough bounces back” (SN: 4/19/14, p. 22). The old vaccine used whole cells of the pertussis bacterium, while the new acellular vaccine uses only components of the disease-causing cells...

    05/16/2014 - 15:30 Health, Earth