Reviews & Previews
Symphony in CRobert M. HazenW.W. Norton & Co., $26.95
Carbon is by no means the most abundant element in the cosmos, but it is undoubtedly the most important to life as we know it. For every 1,000 hydrogen atoms in the universe, there are only five or so carbon atoms. But every cell in the human body — indeed, every living cell on Earth — relies on carbon as the chemical...
Solar power from moon to Earth —06/07/2019 - 08:00 Astronomy, Technology, History of Science
An almost unlimited supply of electricity could be generated on the moon’s surface by huge arrays of solar cells and beamed to Earth by laser. Sunlight falling on a crater … could produce from 10,000 to 100,000 megawatts of power. By comparison, a large hydroelectric dam on Earth produces about 100 megawatts. Solar cells would be more efficient on...
After five years, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., is finally reopening its dinosaur hall on June 8. Visitors may come for fan favorites like Tyrannosaurus rex and Stegosaurus — and these fossils are gorgeously presented. But the new, permanent exhibition, the “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils — Deep Time,” has a much grander story to tell about the history...
The vast stretch of icy water that separates Antarctica from other continents is a dark mystery to most people. Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, one of the few who have been to the Southern Ocean, regarded its storm-wracked seas with fear and awe. After ice floes trapped and crushed the three-masted Endurance in 1915, Shackleton made an epic rescue attempt, sailing 1,300 kilometers to bring...
Letters to the Editor
Blast from the past05/29/2019 - 16:05 Astronomy, Robotics, Animals
Ice core and tree ring data indicate that nearly 3,000 years ago, Earth was blasted with one of the strongest solar storms ever to pummel the planet, Carolyn Gramling reported in “One of the strongest known solar storms blasted Earth in 660 B.C.” (SN: 4/13/19, p. 15).
Reddit user diffcalculus wondered what kind of damage such a storm would cause today.
Late last year, researchers reported a discovery from a 5,000-year-old mass grave in Sweden: DNA from the bacterium that causes plague. The people in that grave were probably felled by an epidemic that spread via trade routes from southeastern Europe and contributed to sharp population declines across the continent (SN: 1/19/19, p. 12), a precursor to the Black Death that wiped out up...05/29/2019 - 15:28 Health, Immune Science, Science & Society
Two ongoing outbreaks have dominated headlines in the past few months. Since the beginning of the year, measles has sickened at least 940 people in 26 U.S. states as of May 24. In Congo, Ebola has racked up 1,920 cases and killed 1,281 people since August 2018.
Those numbers are scary, but another number, or rather a range, illustrates the potential of these diseases to do damage. It’s...
The World Health Organization’s goal was lofty but achievable: eliminate measles from five of the world’s six regions by 2020. But recent outbreaks — even in places where elimination had been achieved — are making that goal a distant dream.
In the first four months of 2019, 179 countries reported 168,193 cases of measles. That’s almost 117,000 more cases reported during the same period...
The most iconic thing about measles is the rash — red, livid splotches that make infection painfully visible.
But that rash, and even the fever, coughing and watery, sore eyes, are all distractions from the virus’s real harm — an all-out attack on the immune system.
Measles silently wipes clean the immune system’s memory of past infections. In this way, the virus can cast a long...
About six years ago, Emily Adams, a mother of two in Lakewood, Colo., briefly counted herself among the vaccine hesitant. Her family had changed insurance plans, and while her older daughter was up-to-date on shots, her infant son fell behind.
“We were no longer on schedule, just because of life,” she says. Adams remembers mentioning her son’s situation to a friend, who suggested Adams...