Year in Review
One of the top stories of 2016 quietly exited much of the public’s consciousness in 2017. But it’s still a hot topic among scientists and for good reasons. After Zika emerged in the Western Hemisphere, it shook the Americas, as reports of infections and devastating birth defects swept through Brazil and Colombia, eventually reaching the United States. In a welcome turn, the number of Zika...
Nomadic herders living on western Asia’s hilly grasslands made a couple of big moves east and west around 5,000 years ago. These were not typical, back-and-forth treks from one seasonal grazing spot to another. These people blazed new trails.
A technological revolution had transformed travel for ancient herders around that time. Of course they couldn’t make online hotel reservations....
Immanuel Kant was famous for writing critiques.
He earned his status as the premier philosopher of modern times with such works as Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason and Critique of Judgment. It might have been helpful for medical science if he had also written a critique of evidence.
Scientific research supposedly provides reliable evidence for physicians to...
The funniest thing I’ve ever said to any botanist was, “What is a species?” Well, it certainly got the most spontaneous laugh. I don’t think Barbara Ertter, who doesn’t remember the long-ago moment, was being mean. Her laugh was more of a “where do I even start” response to an almost impossible question.
At first glance, “species” is a basic vocabulary word schoolchildren can ace on a...
Reviews & Previews
SpinelessJuli BerwaldRiverhead Books, $27
Jellyfish have gotten a bad rap. In recent years, concerns about rising jellyfish populations in some parts of the world have mushroomed into headlines like “Meet your new jellyfish overlords.” These floating menaces are taking over the world’s oceans thanks to climate change and ocean acidification, the thinking goes, and soon waters will...
Less than a year after the World Health Organization declared Zika is no longer a public health emergency, the virus seems to have fallen from public consciousness, at least outside of heavily affected areas. The mosquito-borne virus staged a massive assault on the Western Hemisphere in 2015 and 2016 (SN: 12/24/16, p. 19), but this year, Zika appears to be in retreat....
To the residents of Donora, Pa., a mill town in a crook of the Monongahela River, the daily haze from nearby zinc and steel plants was the price of keeping their families fed. But on October 27, 1948, the city awoke to an unusually sooty sky, even for Donora. The next day, the high school quarterbacks couldn’t see their teammates well enough to complete a single pass.
The town was...
You’ve probably encountered at least one machine-learning algorithm today. These clever computer codes sort search engine results, weed spam e-mails from inboxes and optimize navigation routes in real time. People entrust these programs with increasingly complex — and sometimes life-changing — decisions, such as diagnosing diseases and predicting criminal activity.
Science & the Public
A couple of weeks ago, an article in New York magazine laid out a horrific scenario of global warming. The photo at the top summed up the tone: A fossilized human skull, jaw gaping beneath aviator sunglasses, hovered over a caption warning that people could be “cooked to death from both inside and out” in a hotter climate.
If that’s not doom and gloom, I don’t know what is. Yet despite...
A newly discovered glass frog from Ecuador’s Amazon lowlands is giving researchers a window into its heart.
Hyalinobatrachium yaku has a belly so transparent that the heart, kidneys and urine bladder are clearly visible, an international team of researchers reports May 12 in ZooKeys. Researchers identified H. yaku as a new species using field observations, recordings of its distinct call...