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  • Editor's Note

    Lab tests aren’t the answer for every science question

    In the second half of the 17th century, the chemist and polymath Robert Boyle and philosopher Thomas Hobbes engaged in a divisive debate centered on a temperamental, mechanical contraption known as an air pump. In a series of famous experiments, Boyle used the air pump, which has been called “the cyclotron of its age,” to test basic scientific principles such as the relationship between a gas’...

    03/22/2017 - 12:15 Neuroscience, History of Science, Science & Society
  • Feature

    Smartphones may be changing the way we think

    Not too long ago, the internet was stationary. Most often, we’d browse the Web from a desktop computer in our living room or office. If we were feeling really adventurous, maybe we’d cart our laptop to a coffee shop. Looking back, those days seem quaint.

    Today, the internet moves through our lives with us. We hunt Pokémon as we shuffle down the sidewalk. We text at red lights. We tweet...

    03/17/2017 - 12:21 Neuroscience, Health
  • Feature

    Nudging people to make good choices can backfire

    Nudges are a growth industry. Inspired by a popular line of psychological research and introduced in a best-selling book a decade ago, these inexpensive behavior changers are currently on a roll.

    Policy makers throughout the world, guided by behavioral scientists, are devising ways to steer people toward decisions deemed to be in their best interests. These simple interventions don’t...

    03/08/2017 - 08:00 Psychology, Science & Society
  • Feature

    Virtual reality has a motion sickness problem

    Tech evangelists predicted that 2016 would be “the year of virtual reality.” And in some ways they were right. Several virtual reality headsets finally hit the commercial market, and millions of people bought one. But as people begin immersing themselves in new realities, a growing number of worrisome reports have surfaced: VR systems can make some users sick.

    Scientists are just...

    03/07/2017 - 06:00 Technology, Health, Science & Society
  • Science & the Public

    Transgender children are at greater risk of mental health problems

    Amid a flurry of cabinet appointments and immigration policies, the Trump administration has announced one thing it will not do: pursue policies that protect transgender children in public schools.The Feb. 22 announcement rescinds Obama administration guidelines that, among other protections, allow transgender kids to use bathrooms and participate in sports that correspond with their genders,...

    03/01/2017 - 07:00 Human Development, Science & Society, Health
  • Scicurious

    Scientists may work to prevent bias, but they don’t always say so

    For a scientist, conducting a scientific study is walking into a minefield of potential biases that could detonate all over the results. Are the mice in the study randomly distributed among treatment groups? Does the person evaluating an animal’s behavior know what treatment the mouse got — and thus have an expectation for the outcome? Are there enough subjects in each group to reduce the odds...

    02/28/2017 - 15:53 Science & Society
  • News

    Newly identified continent Zealandia faces a battle for recognition

    Lurking beneath New Zealand is a long-hidden continent called Zealandia, geologists say. But since nobody is in charge of officially designating a new continent, individual scientists will ultimately have to judge for themselves.

    A team of geologists pitches the scientific case for the new continent in the March/April issue of GSA Today, arguing that Zealandia is a continuous expanse of...

    02/24/2017 - 06:00 Earth
  • Reviews & Previews

    Physics greats of the 20th century mixed science and public service

    The 20th century will go down in history — it pretty much already has — as the century of the physicist. Physicists’ revolutionizing of the scientific world view with relativity and quantum mechanics might have been enough to warrant that conclusion. Future historians may emphasize even more, though, the role of physicists in war and government. Two such physicists, one born at the century’s...

    02/23/2017 - 06:00 History of Science, Science & Society, Physics
  • Editor's Note

    Science’s questions rarely have clear, easy answers

    There are few simple answers in science. Even seemingly straightforward questions, when probed by people in search of proof, lead to more questions. Those questions lead to nuances, layers of complexity and, more often than we might expect, conclusions that contradict initial intuition.

    In the 1990s, researchers asking “How do we fight oxygen-hungry cancer cells?” offered an obvious...

    02/22/2017 - 12:47 Science & Society
  • News

    Microbes survived inside giant cave crystals for up to 50,000 years

    BOSTON — Microbes found stowed inside giant crystals in caves in Chihuahua, Mexico, may have survived there for tens of thousands of years. The microorganisms, which appear to be vastly different from nearly all life-forms found on Earth, offer a good indication of how resilient life can be in extremely harsh environments, including those found on other planets.

    “These organisms are so...

    02/18/2017 - 12:55 Microbes, Genetics, Astrobiology