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  • The –est

    The incredible shrinking transistor just got smaller

    Carbon nanotubes may be the key to shrinking down transistors and squeezing more computer power into less space.

    Historically, the number of transistors that can be crammed onto a computer chip has doubled every two years or so, a trend known as Moore’s law. But that rule seems to be nearing its limit: Today's silicon transistors can’t get much smaller than they already are.

    Carbon...

    07/19/2017 - 07:00 Technology, Computing
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers intrigued by Mars' far-out birth

    Martian mysteries

    Mars may have formed out where the asteroid belt is now, far from its planetary neighbors, Thomas Sumner reported in “New proposal reimagines Mars’ origin” (SN: 5/27/17, p. 14).

    Readers online were fascinated by Mars’ origin story. “There seemed to be evidence of actual seas on early Mars,” stargene wrote. “How can this be finessed into the idea of Mars living out in...

    07/06/2017 - 12:30 Planetary Science, Genetics, Particle Physics
  • Feature

    DNA evidence is rewriting domestication origin stories

    One lab full of rats looks pretty much the same as another. But visiting a lab in Siberia, geneticist Alex Cagan can distinguish rats bred to be tame from those bred to be aggressive as soon as he opens the lab door.

    “It’s a completely different response immediately,” he says. All of the tame rats “come to the front of the cage very inquisitively.” The aggressive rats scurry to the backs...

    07/06/2017 - 12:00 Genetics, Animals
  • Feature

    Quantum computers are about to get real

    Although the term “quantum computer” might suggest a miniature, sleek device, the latest incarnations are a far cry from anything available in the Apple Store. In a laboratory just 60 kilometers north of New York City, scientists are running a fledgling quantum computer through its paces — and the whole package looks like something that might be found in a dark corner of a basement. The...

    06/29/2017 - 07:00 Quantum Physics, Computing
  • News in Brief

    Gecko-inspired robot grippers could grab hold of space junk

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    Get a grip. A new robotic gripping tool based on gecko feet can grab hold of floating objects in microgravity. The grippers could one day help robots move dangerous space junk to safer orbits or climb around the outside of space stations.

    Most strategies for sticking don’t work in space. Chemical adhesives can’t withstand the wide range of temperatures, and suction...

    06/28/2017 - 14:08 Robotics, Astronomy, Technology
  • News

    Scientists spy on the secret inner life of bacteria

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    On the surface, bacteria may appear bland. But there’s more going on inside than meets the eye, new research is revealing.

    For many years, scientists thought that bacteria didn’t have internal structures and were basically “bags of enzymes,” says structural and cell biologist Martin Warren of the University of Kent in England.

    Now, one group of researchers has...

    06/22/2017 - 14:00 Microbiology
  • News

    African farmers’ kids conquer the marshmallow test

    Children of Nso farmers in Cameroon know how to master the marshmallow test, which has tempted away the self-control of Western kids for decades.

    In a direct comparison on this delayed gratification task, Cameroonian youngsters leave middle-class German children in the dust when challenged to resist a reachable treat while waiting for another goodie, a new study finds.

    Of 76 Nso 4-...

    06/19/2017 - 07:00 Psychology, Human Development
  • Feature

    Life might have a shot on planets orbiting dim red stars

    Our corner of the galaxy teems with alien worlds. In the 25 years since the discovery of the first planets beyond our solar system, astronomers have found more than 3,600 worlds orbiting other stars. A select few have become tantalizing targets in the search for life despite orbiting stars that are much smaller, cooler — and in many ways harsher — than the sun.

    Just 39 light-years away,...

    06/14/2017 - 10:00 Exoplanets
  • News

    Einstein’s light-bending by single far-off star detected

    For the first time, astronomers have seen a star outside of the solar system bend the light from another star. The measurement, reported June 7 in Austin, Texas, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, vindicates both Einstein’s most famous theory and what goes on in the inner lives of stellar corpses.

    Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope watched as a white dwarf...

    06/07/2017 - 11:15 Astronomy
  • News

    Quantum tractor beam could tug atoms, molecules

    The wavelike properties of quantum matter could lead to a scaled-down version of Star Trek technology. A new kind of tractor beam could use a beam of particles to reel in atoms or molecules, physicists propose in the May 5 Physical Review Letters.

    Scientists have previously created tractor beams using light or sound waves, which can pull small particles a few millimeters or centimeters (...

    05/19/2017 - 07:00 Quantum Physics