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...
In Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, Iris (played in the movie version by Glenn Close) tells Roy Hobbs that we all have two lives, “the life we learn with and the life we live with after that.”
Murray Gell-Mann, the Nobel laureate physicist who died Friday, May 24, at age 89, also lived two lives. But both were spent learning — about how the world works.
In his first life Gell-Mann...
Reviews & Previews
An Elegant DefenseMatt RichtelWilliam Morrow, $28.99
We like to think of the immune system as our own personal military, ready to attack foreign invaders. Slice your finger, and immune cells rush in to destroy rogue pathogens.
But it’s misleading to think of the immune system as solely a war machine. It must also keep the peace, assessing each threat and, in many cases,...
News in Brief
First it’s mammal bad breath. Then it’s babies pestering for piggyback rides. A near-death experience is tough on pea aphids.
When warm, moist breath signals that some cow or other giant is about to chomp into foliage, tiny green aphids feeding on that foliage drop toward the ground by the hundreds (SN Online: 8/10/10). “It literally rains aphids,” says ecologist Moshe Gish, who in 2010...
VANCOUVER — Adult female mosquitoes could be surfing air currents high above the West African Sahel. This traffic, at least 40 meters up, might be troubling news for efforts to control malaria.
Traps attached to balloons flown over villages in Mali caught close to 3,000 mosquitoes at heights between 40 and 290 meters above the ground, where winds might blow the insects long distances....
Michael Douglas, a new resident of southern Maryland, credits genetic testing for helping him find his heritage — and a family he knew very little about.
Douglas, 43, is adopted. He knew his birth mother’s name and had seen a birth certificate stating his birth name: Thomas Michael McCarthy. Over the years, Douglas had tried off and on to find his birth family, mostly by looking for his...
Science & the Public
As a physics reporter and lover of mathematics, I won’t be celebrating Pi Day this year. That’s because pi is wrong.
I don’t mean that the value is incorrect. Pi, known by the symbol π, is the number you get when you divide a circle’s circumference by its diameter: 3.14159… and so on without end. But, as some mathematicians have argued, the mathematical constant was poorly chosen, and...