On the New Horizons mission home page, the days, hours, minutes and seconds count down as you watch. The distance the spacecraft still has to travel to reach Pluto updates every minute, to within the nearest kilometer. Next month, the interplanetary journey, which has taken more than nine years and nearly 5 billion kilometers, will end in a relatively fleeting flyby. New Horizons is...06/17/2015 - 08:39 Astronomy
Letters to the Editor
Water from space06/17/2015 - 08:39 Planetary Science, Earth
A barrage of icy asteroids might have brought water to Earth. In “Water, water everywhere” (SN: 5/16/15, p. 18), Christopher Crockett described how planetary scientists are piecing together the origin story for Earth’s abundant H2O.
To figure out where Earth’s water came from, researchers looked at the ratio of hydrogen to a heavy form of hydrogen called deuterium in...
Nudity, mind-altering drugs and encounter groups bring out the worst in psychopaths behind bars. That’s not a pitch for a new reality television show — not yet, at least. It’s an evidence-based conclusion. An infamous experimental treatment program for violent criminals, conducted mainly from 1968 to 1978 in a Canadian maximum security psychiatric facility 90 miles north of Toronto, tried...
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Surprisingly gently. That’s how Odontomachus ants use their trap jaws to move soft, wriggly larvae around the nest. When ants hunt, though, those same jaws can smack shut at speeds exceeding 200 kilometers an hour.
“The poor prey are smashed. Sometimes they stick to the teeth; sometimes they bounce away,” says Fredrick Larabee of the University of Illinois at Urbana-...
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Fibers composed of a protein called actin are responsible for human cells’ ability to tell right from left, researchers report in the April Nature Cell Biology. These twisty fibers (below, in yellow; cell’s nucleus in magenta) are part of a cell’s internal scaffolding known as the cytoskeleton. Among other functions, the fibers help cells migrate from one part of a...
Reviews & Previews
Lesser BeastsMark EssigBasic Books, $27.50
If humans have a counterpart in the rest of the animal world, it is surely the pig.
As historian Mark Essig writes in Lesser Beasts, perhaps no other animal’s history more closely mirrors that of humans. From the appearance of semi-tame Sus scrofa living with hunter-gatherers 11,000 years ago in Turkey to the role of swine in the rise...
Reviews & Previews
PlanckBrandon R. BrownOxford Univ., $29.95
Scientists are products of their times and their culture. Some see beyond those constraints. Some are trapped within them. Max Planck was trapped, as physicist Brandon Brown relates, and therefore could not escape from the turmoil of Germany’s wars.
In an unusual approach to a scientific biography, each chapter heading of Planck...
Tiny, far-flung Pluto is about to have a visitor — at least for a few hours.
On July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will reach the dwarf planet and try to learn all it can about Pluto and its five known moons. Then the probe will leave Pluto behind, vanishing into the frigid darkness beyond the planets.
In its wake, New Horizons will introduce Earth to the...
Invasion of classroom by gadgets foreseen — Machines that may teach the students of the future are attracting both industrialists and educators. One gadget enables each student in the classroom to take tests that are corrected as they are given, with the student “talking back” to the teacher. Typewriters operated by the student will admonish and inform the learner when a wrong answer to a...
One of the biggest mysteries of modern climate science may never have really existed, updated climate analyses suggest.
Following decades of warming and a hot 1998, Earth’s average surface temperature seemingly plateaued. This warming hiatus, as it came to be known, had climate researchers scrambling for an explanation. Now measurements and analysis by the National Oceanic and...