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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...
From 1863 to 1890, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka made more than 10,000 sea creatures out of glass. There were anemones with tapered tentacles and pearled undersides, translucent jellyfish trailing the most delicate threads and feather stars more than worthy of their name despite their rigid composition. The intricate invertebrates, crafted by the father-son team at their studio in Dresden,...
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In a 1967 episode of Star Trek, Captain Kirk and crew investigated the mysterious murders of miners on the planet Janus VI. The killer, it turned out, was a rock monster called the Horta. But the Enterprise’s sensors hadn’t registered any signs of life in the creature. The Horta was a silicon-based life-form, rather than carbon-based like living things on Earth.
Forensic biologist Silvana Tridico was puzzled by pubic hair.
Specifically, pubic hair samples donated by two volunteers.
She had just finished analyzing the bacteria stuck to the hair of seven people. If each hair sample carried unique mixes of bacteria, Tridico reasoned, investigators might have a new tool to help identify crime suspects. Hair bacteria, like fingerprints, could...
The little spiders I find hiding in the corners of a room or hanging out among the plants outside my front door are usually fascinating little creatures — and nothing to be frightened of. Those spiders are usually insectivores and not interested in anything with a backbone, let alone a full-grown human.
But insect eaters aren’t the only kinds of spiders out in the wild. There’s a whole...
The risks attached to giving birth in the home, even with a midwife present, are greater than in the hospital, an analysis of U.S. birth records suggests. Babies born at home are 10 times more likely to lack a pulse and be unresponsive when they are five minutes old.
Despite the increase, the overall risk of such a dire condition was low regardless of birth location, researchers report...
Picture sitting at a baseball park, leisurely watching a game. Your mind wanders, torn between a box of Cracker Jack and the conversation drifting down from the row behind you. Suddenly the crack of a bat snaps you to attention, and you scan the field for the ball. Physicist Alan Nathan would say your attention is piqued because well-hit balls make a different noise than weak pop-ups do....
The same fungal species wiping out hibernating American bats also strikes their European kin — although it doesn’t kill them. But that’s not because the European strain of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome is less virulent, a new study finds.
“The European version is even nastier than the North American one,” says Craig Willis, a wildlife biologist at the University of...
A 1 million-year-old fire lit by human ancestors has flickered back to life in a South Africa cave.
Microscopic plant ashes and burned bone bits in Wonderwerk Cave come from soil that previously yielded several dozen stone tools, say archaeologist Francesco Berna of Boston University and his colleagues. A member of the Homo genus, perhaps Homo erectus, made a fire that produced...
50 Years Ago
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January 1, 1927 | Vol. 11 | No. 299
Three-inch pieces of light
A method of cutting off three-inch pieces from a beam of light, like a meat cutter slicing a bologna sausage, though the light moves at 186,000 miles a...