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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 marvels...

    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
  • Editor's Note

    One of the best ways for kids to learn science: by doing it

    A biodegradable Band-Aid. A low-cost, ultrasonic guide to parallel parking. A reinvention of the toilet. These were among the nearly 1,400 science fair projects on display at the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Science News’ parent organization, the Society for Science & the Public, has run the annual event since 1950. This year’s fair brought a record-breaking...

    05/16/2014 - 15:04 Science & Society
  • Feature

    The mysterious boundary

    A black hole’s event horizon is a one-way bridge to nowhere, a gateway to a netherworld cut off from the rest of the cosmos.

    Understanding what happens at that pivotal boundary could reveal the hidden influences that have molded the universe from the instant of the Big Bang.

    Today some of the best minds in physics are fixated on the event horizon, pondering what would happen to...

    05/16/2014 - 14:40 Cosmology, Astronomy
  • Feature

    Big babies: High birthweight may signal later health risks

    We all come into this world with sealed orders, said 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Although the great Dane lived at a time when much of science was still gauzy and life events were often ascribed to fate, the notion seems to hold true today. A quick scan of newborn babies snoozing in a maternity ward offers little hint of what their futures hold.

    But medical researchers are...

    05/16/2014 - 14:11 Human Development, Health
  • Science Stats

    Fly more, live longer

    Larger animals tend to live longer than smaller ones, but a new study finds some interesting exceptions to the rule. Some species live far longer than expected based on their size, and an examination of their lifestyles reveals that the most important factor linked to longer life is the ability to fly.

    Many birds and bats have long lives for their size, but the effect depends on what...

    05/16/2014 - 12:51 Animals, Physiology
  • Revamping the size of the universe

    SIZE OF UNIVERSE STUDIED — The universe is much bigger than scientists thought as little as 15 years ago, Dr. Ira S. Bowen, director of Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories, said. It is billions of light years in size as seen from the earth, exactly how big even astronomers can not yet say. The amount of space and matter the world’s largest telescope, the giant 200-inch atop Mt. Palomar, can...

    05/15/2014 - 16:49 Cosmology