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  • Context

    Top 10 papers from Physical Review’s first 125 years

    No anniversary list is ever complete. Just last month, for instance, my Top 10 scientific anniversaries of 2018 omitted the publication two centuries ago of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It should have at least received honorable mention.

    Perhaps more egregious, though, was overlooking the 125th anniversary of the physics journal Physical Review. Since 1893, the Physical Review has...

    02/08/2018 - 11:00 History of Science
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Death: A Graveside Companion’ offers an outlet for your morbid curiosity

    Death: A Graveside CompanionJoanna Ebenstein (ed.)Thames & Hudson, $40

    Death: A Graveside Companion makes for an unusual coffee-table book, with its coppery etched Grim Reaper on the cover. Yet you may be surprised by how much fun it is to pore through the book’s lavish artwork of skulls, cadavers and fanciful imaginings of the afterlife.

    There is, after all, a reason for...

    02/04/2018 - 08:00 Science & Society, History of Science, Anthropology
  • Editor's Note

    Memory remains elusive, but the search continues

    In Theaetetus, Plato likened memory to a wax tablet, which would adopt the image of whatever was impressed upon it. Aristotle is said to have called memory “the scribe of the soul.” Others have viewed memory as a stomach, storehouse or switchboard, while acknowledging that it sometimes seems like a leaky bucket.

    St. Augustine and Robert Hooke also thought deeply about memory. But...

    01/24/2018 - 13:35 Science & Society, History of Science, Neuroscience
  • Context

    Speed of universe’s expansion remains elusive

    Unless you are a recent arrival from another universe, you’ve no doubt heard that this one is expanding. It’s getting bigger all the time. What’s more, its growth rate is accelerating. Every day, the universe expands a little bit faster than it did the day before.

    Those day-to-day differences are negligible, though, for astronomers trying to measure the universe’s expansion rate. They...

    01/16/2018 - 12:52 Astronomy, History of Science
  • Context

    2018’s Top 10 science anniversaries

    With each new year, science offers a fresh list of historical occasions ideally suited for a Top 10 list.

    Science’s rich history guarantees a never-ending supply of noteworthy anniversaries. Centennials of births, deaths or discoveries by prominent scientists (or popular centennial fractions or multiples) offer reminders of past achievements and context for appreciating science of the...

    01/05/2018 - 09:00 History of Science
  • Context

    First controlled nuclear chain reaction achieved 75 years ago

    Some scientific anniversaries celebrate events so momentous that they capture the attention of many nonscientists as well — or even the entire world.

    One such anniversary is upon us. December 2 marks the semisesquicentennial (75th anniversary) of the first controlled and sustained nuclear fission chain reaction. Only four years after German scientists discovered nuclear fission,...

    11/29/2017 - 07:00 History of Science
  • Film

    Actress Hedy Lamarr laid the groundwork for some of today’s wireless tech

    Once billed as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” actress Hedy Lamarr is often remembered for Golden Age Hollywood hits like Samson and Delilah. But Lamarr was gifted with more than just a face for film; she had a mind for science.

    A new documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, spotlights Lamarr’s lesser-known legacy as an inventor. The film explores how the pretty veneer...

    11/26/2017 - 08:00 History of Science, Technology, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    Climate foiled Europeans’ early exploration of North America

    A Cold WelcomeSam WhiteHarvard Univ., $29.95

    Many people may be fuzzy on the details of North America’s colonial history between Columbus’ arrival in 1492 and the Pilgrims’ landing on Plymouth Rock in 1620. But Europeans were actively attempting to colonize North America from the early 16th century onward, even though few colonies survived.

    As historian Sam White explains in A...

    11/25/2017 - 08:00 Climate, History of Science, Oceans
  • Exhibit

    A new map exhibit documents evolving views of Earth’s interior

    Much of what happens on the Earth’s surface is connected to activity far below. “Beneath Our Feet,” a temporary exhibit at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center in the Boston Public Library, explores the ways people have envisioned, explored and exploited what lies underground.

    “We’re trying to visualize those places that humans don’t naturally go to,” says associate curator Stephanie Cyr...

    11/19/2017 - 07:00 History of Science, Earth
  • Editor's Note

    In science, some big risks are worth the rewards

    At the end of my previous Editor’s Note (SN: 11/11/17, p. 2), I wrote about one of the great discoveries of the 1920s. By studying distant nebulae, Edwin Hubble found that our galaxy is not alone in the universe. Instead, it is one of an amazing multitude of “island universes.” When I wrote those words, I had no idea that just a couple of weeks later, I would get to visit the...
    11/15/2017 - 13:18 Science & Society, History of Science, Astronomy