View the video08/26/2014 - 16:15 Technology, Computing
One Kilobot is not very smart. Each quarter-sized bot scuffles along on three rigid legs and can communicate only with its neighbors. Yet by instructing more than 1,000 Kilobots to follow a few simple rules, computer scientist Radhika Nagpal and her team at Harvard can get the crude bots to assemble into multiple shapes — including a wrench (left), a star and the...
The sound of the world’s largest parrot fish swimming toward him, says Douglas McCauley, is not some watery swish, swish. It’s crunch, crunch. “You can hear a school of them before you see it,” he says.
Bumphead parrot fish (Bolbometopon muricatum) grow to “about the size of a junior high school kid” as McCauley puts it. And feeding is a noisy business because they eat — and loudly...
A newly discovered virus may already be living in your intestines. As many as three-quarters of people carry this virus, yet it has gone unnoticed until now.
“We haven’t been able to capture the little bugger on a plate and take a picture of it,” says computational biologist Robert Edwards of San Diego State University, who led the study. Instead, the researchers found the new virus by...
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Enlightening SymbolsJoseph MazurPrinceton Univ., $29.9508/24/2014 - 16:00 History of Science, Numbers
As the semanticist S.I. Hayakawa stressed in his classic book Language in Thought and Action, words are not the things they represent. Words are symbols. It’s the manipulation of those symbols that makes communication possible.
In very much the same way, it’s the manipulation of symbols of a different type that makes...
In some quarters, vaccines have become victims of their own success. Having suppressed the diseases they target, vaccines have left room for people to worry more about the shot than the illness. In response, the TV series NOVA offers an engrossing, evenhanded documentary, one that would never have been made 55 years ago, when people were happily lining up around the block to get polio shots....
Letters to the Editor
The art of science08/22/2014 - 15:30 Microbiology, Pollution, Health
Dazzling images of life on a cellular level now greet travelers flying into the U.S. capital, as Tina Hesman Saey reported in “Microscapes take off at D.C.’s Dulles airport” (SN: 7/26/14, p. 28). The exhibit, called “Life: Magnified,” offers viewers a glimpse of cells, microorganisms and other microscopic details at larger-than-life size.
A few fortunate Science...
People tend to notice jellyfish only when they are a bother (stinging beachgoers or showing up in massive blooms) or a beauty (tamed in an aquarium case). Surprisingly little has been known about their wild lives, as Susan Milius describes in her feature "Seeing past the jellyfish sting," largely because they are difficult to study.
Now research is revealing aspects of their lives that...
Like every other project, Jänschwalde failed.
In 2008, it was set to become the world’s largest demonstration of just how cleanly coal could be burned to generate electricity. The revamping of an aging power plant in Germany, Jänschwalde was to become a paragon of a technology that can slash up to 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuel–burning power plants — the single...
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Robots that hunt down and exterminate jellyfish: Good or bad idea? Discuss.
A 2013 video from robotics designers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology shows three jelly-killer prototypes gliding as a metallic fleet over gently rippling water. An underwater video demonstrates the cunning plan. Pale jellyfish bells drift into view, and a...
Odd-ball quasars may be closer than they seem — The odd-ball heavenly objects called quasars may be much closer to the earth’s own Milky Way galaxy than astronomers have thought. ... They have been regarded as the brightest and most distant objects known. However, they may not be so distant after all. Dr. James Terrell … believes quasars could be within two billion billion miles of earth...