Reviews & Previews
Black Hole Marcia BartusiakYale Univ., $27.50
Almost a century before Einstein was born, the English polymath John Michell speculated that a star of immense mass could exert enough gravitational force to imprison light. Michell’s insight marked the origin of an idea that was demonstrated in reality only in the 20th century, in the astrophysical offspring of Einstein’s general...
I blame my love for science fiction mostly on my mother, although my older brother Nathaniel probably should also take some of the heat. Both were voracious readers, leaving piles of books around the house, most of them sci-fi, that I couldn’t avoid escaping into.05/06/2015 - 12:02 Science & Society
Fans of science fiction will find a few items in this issue sure to trip the imagination. First, Tina Hesman Saey...
Letters to the Editor
Free-range planets05/06/2015 - 12:02 Exoplanets, Archaeology, Climate
Astronomers are puzzling over some space oddities: planets that don’t orbit stars. In “Wandering worlds” (SN: 4/4/15, p. 22), Ashley Yeager explored how these lonely rogues may alter the definition of a planet.
Tim Geho wanted to know more about how scientists locate homeless worlds. “Where does the light come from that allows rogue planets to be seen, either...
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Earth — a planet of oceans, rivers and rainforests — grew up in an interplanetary desert.
When the solar system formed about 4.6 billion years ago, shards of calcium- and aluminum-rich minerals stuck together, building ever-larger pebbles and boulders that smashed together and assembled the rocky planets, including Earth.
But Earth’s signature ingredient was...
The 18-year-old had stabbed himself four times in the neck and chest with a pair of scissors. Alone in his dorm room, he had suddenly felt trapped, convinced that the only way to get out was to kill himself.
When he woke up hours later in a pool of blood, the psychedelic trip that had gripped him was waning. Horrified, he managed to call an ambulance. As he recovered, the college student...
Budding interplanetary explorers can satisfy their wanderlust with Vesta Trek, a web-based application that lets users explore the asteroid Vesta.
The app uses data from the Dawn spacecraft, which orbited the asteroid from July 2011 to September 2012. Users can overlay maps of geology, mineralogy and abundances of various elements on the second-largest rock in the asteroid belt. The...
A mouse’s optic nerve glows in a rainbow of colors in the micrograph above.The image is made using Brainbow, a technique developed in 2007 that inserts genes for fluorescent proteins into animals. When activated, the proteins illuminate some cells in a range of colors. While most researchers use Brainbow to visualize connections between nerve cells in the brain, Alain Chédotal...
Reviews & Previews
Fraud in science gets a lot of attention and condemnation — as it should. But fraud is relatively infrequent. And it isn’t terribly interesting, says Alex Reinhart in Statistics Done Wrong, “at least, not compared to all the errors that scientists commit unintentionally.”
Most of those inadvertent errors, it seems...
The Turing test features prominently in Alex Garland’s new film Ex Machina, but this is no meditation on computer science. It’s not even, ultimately, about artificial intelligence. The movie instead explores humans: the Frankenstein-like hubris involved in creating artificial beings; the power relationships between employee and boss, parent and child, tester and testee; the moral...
The secret behind the world’s largest seed and its sexually extravagant plant is good gutters.
A prodigy among those seeds can weigh as much as 18 kilograms, about the weight of a 4-year-old boy. Yet the plant that outdoes the rest of the botanical world in the heft of its seed manages with below-poverty nutrition. Coco-de-mer palms (Lodoicea maldivica) are native to two islands in the...