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  • News

    A long handshake can spread your DNA to objects you didn’t touch

    BALTIMORE — A 10-second handshake could transfer a person’s DNA to an object that the person never touched.

    In handshaking experiments, people who never picked up a knife became the major source of DNA on the handle about 7 percent of the time, forensic scientist Cynthia Cale reported February 21 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. That DNA was transferred...

    02/26/2019 - 14:53 Genetics, Science & Society
  • Editor's Note

    Scientists set sail for the elusive island of stability

    On March 6, 1869, Dmitrii Mendeleev’s periodic table was unveiled, and we’ve launched a yearlong celebration of the 150th anniversary of his iconic work. In this issue, we’re looking ahead to imagine the periodic table of the future, as scientists strive to create bizarre new elements. And we also set ourselves a science visualization challenge: charting the half-lives of all the...
    02/26/2019 - 06:15 Science & Society, Chemistry, Physics
  • Soapbox

    Why a data scientist warns against always trusting AI’s scientific discoveries

    WASHINGTON — We live in a golden age of scientific data, with larger stockpiles of genetic information, medical images and astronomical observations than ever before. Artificial intelligence can pore over these troves to uncover potential new scientific discoveries much quicker than people ever could. But we should not blindly trust AI’s scientific insights, argues data scientist Genevera...

    02/20/2019 - 13:28 Artificial Intelligence, Technology, Science & Society
  • News

    Tidal floods driven by climate change may hurt small businesses

    WASHINGTON — Sea level rise, driven by climate change, is causing increased flooding during high tides along much of the U.S. coastline. Though such floods are usually minor, a new study suggests that car traffic patterns could help reveal how floods harm an area’s business revenues.

    Tidal flooding events “are not one in a hundred years or one in a thousand years. They’re once a week,”...

    02/19/2019 - 06:00 Climate, Oceans, Science & Society
  • Feature

    Robots are becoming classroom tutors. But will they make the grade?

    Pondering a tablet screen displaying a town scene, a pre-K student tilts her head to the side and taps her lip thoughtfully.

    “What are we trying to find?” asks the plush, red and blue robot called Tega that’s perched on the desk beside the girl. The bot resembles a teddy bear–sized Furby.

    “We are trying to find lavender-colored stuff,” the girl explains. Lavender is a new...

    02/12/2019 - 06:00 Robotics, Technology, Science & Society
  • News

    Evolutionarily, grandmas are good for grandkids — up to a point

    Grandmothers are great — generally speaking. But evolutionarily speaking, it’s puzzling why women past their reproductive years live so long.

    Grandma’s age and how close she lives to her grandchildren can affect those children’s survival, suggest two new studies published February 7 in Current Biology.  One found that, among Finnish families in the 1700s–1800s, the survival rate of young...

    02/07/2019 - 11:00 Evolution, Science & Society, Anthropology
  • It's Alive

    Shutdown aside, Joshua trees live an odd life

    A year when vandals trashed a Joshua tree in a national park during a U.S. government shutdown is a good time to talk about what’s so unusual about these iconic plants.

    The trees’ chubby branches ending in rosettes of pointy green leaves add a touch of Dr. Seuss to the Mojave Desert in the U.S. Southwest. Its two species belong to the same family as agave and, believe it or not,...

    02/06/2019 - 08:00 Plants, Conservation, Science & Society