Vol. 179 No. #9

More Stories from the April 23, 2011 issue

  1. Life

    Brain chemical influences sexual preference in mice

    Males lacking the neurotransmitter serotonin court both sexes equally, researchers are surprised to find.

  2. Physics

    Diamond could store quantum information

    A new technique would use flaws in crystal structure to hold data.

  3. Humans

    A new glimpse at the earliest Americans

    Along a stream in central Texas, archaeologists have found a campsite occupied at the tail end of the Ice Age.

  4. Humans

    Go east, ancient tool makers

    New finds put African hand ax makers in India as early as 1.5 million years ago.

  5. Chemistry

    Silicene: It could be the new graphene

    Single-layer sheets of silicon might have electronic applications.

  6. Health & Medicine

    Obesity messes with the brain

    Excess weight may compromise memory and concentration, possibly by spurring inflammation that damages white matter.

  7. Humans

    Noise is what ails beaked whales

    Large-scale experiments reveal a sensitivity to sonar, apparently at lower levels than other species.

  8. Space

    Planets take shape in embryonic gas clouds

    A new theory of planetary formation may explain variety seen in extrasolar searches.

  9. Chemistry

    Japan nuke accident seen from Seattle

    Radioactive particles retrieved in the Pacific Northwest offer clues to events inside the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.

  10. Life

    DNA flaws can stack up as cancer grows

    Acute myeloid leukemia progresses by accumulating various mutations, according to an analysis of one man’s disease over time.

  11. Humans

    Climate meddling dates back 8,000 years

    Cutting down trees put lots of carbon into the atmosphere long before the industrial revolution began.

  12. Health & Medicine

    New brain cell growth restores function

    Regeneration in the hippocampus helps repair learning and memory after injury, mouse experiments suggest.

  13. Space

    First shot of Mercury from orbit

    MESSENGER has radioed to Earth a new look at the first rock from the sun.

  14. Health & Medicine

    Worms live longer with thioflavin T

    A dye commonly used by Alzheimer’s disease researchers to spot misshapen proteins gives lab nematodes longer lives, scientists say.

  15. Humans

    Just breathing in Iraq can be hazardous

    Poor air quality is an added danger for troops, testing indicates.

  16. Life

    Great-grandpa’s genes gone, effects stay

    Removing an obesity-preventing scrap of DNA from a mouse lineage doesn’t prevent descendants from reaping its slimming benefits for generations.

  17. Humans

    Rising seas made China’s ancient mariners

    Ancient environmental changes produced a maritime culture that colonized Taiwan 5,000 years ago, archaeologists contend.

  18. Paleontology

    Supersized superbunny

    Fossils reveal a non-hopping giant rabbit that lived on the island of Minorca 5 million years ago.

  19. Life

    Worries grow over monarch butterflies

    Migrants overwintering in Mexico rebounded somewhat this past winter, but still trending downward.

  20. Science Past from the issue of April 22, 1961

    RUSSIAN FIRST MAN IN SPACE — The Russians put the first man in orbit and returned him safely. A Soviet Air Force major, father of two, has circled the earth in 89.1 minutes, and come back, the official Russian news agency Tass reported. The height of the orbit varied from 110 to 188 miles. Maj. […]

  21. SN Online

    Highlights from recent online-only stories

  22. Seven Wonders of the Universe That You Probably Took for Granted by C. Renée James

    A lighthearted tour of everyday phenomena like light, time and gravity that also explores what makes Earth special and the evolution of life. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2011, 240 p., $25.    

  23. How Old is the Universe? by David A. Weintraub

    An astronomer outlines the research showing that the universe is 13.7 billion years old. Princeton Univ. Press, 2011, 370 p., $29.95.           

  24. Discoverers of the Universe: William and Caroline Herschel by Michael Hoskin

    An in-depth account of the lives of sibling astronomers William and Caroline Herschel, who discovered Uranus, comets galore and much more. Princeton Univ. Press, 2011, 237 p., $29.95.        

  25. Cosmic Challenge: The Ultimate Observing List for Amateurs by Philip S. Harrington

    This guide to observing the heavens beckons backyard astronomers to find 187 targets using instruments ranging from bi­noculars to monster scopes. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011, 469 p., $45.    

  26. Book Review: The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks

    In his new book, New York Times columnist Brooks describes human nature as shaped by a search for mates and other relationships, guided by unconscious feelings about oneself and others that develop early in life. Fair enough. That idea has plenty of scientific supporters and dates back more than a century, even if it ignores […]

  27. Book Review: The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

    Anyone with a passing interest in cosmology knows by now that the universe isn’t what it used to be. In fact, it isn’t even the universe anymore. A century ago, the “universe” was supposedly everything that existed, mainly just the Milky Way galaxy and some fuzzy nebulae at an unknown distance. But soon Edwin Hubble, […]

  28. Better risk assessments through molecular biology

    As director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s NexGen Program, toxicologist Ila Cote leads a collaboration that brings together data, methods, skills and brains from diverse fields to better understand how chemicals interact with living things and the environment. In doing so, scientists hope to answer questions about potential risks from chemical exposure more quickly […]

  29. Strung together

    Physics is really two sciences. There’s quantum mechanics, the weird tumultuous world where particles pop into and out of nothingness and cats can be simultaneously living and dead. And there’s general relativity, Einstein’s majestic vision of massive objects bending space and time. Caption (opener, p26): Superstring theory attempts to unify gravity with quantum mechanics by […]

  30. Special cosmic edition: PDF download page

    All files are saved as PDFs.  Please download Adobe’s Acrobat Reader to view these files. Cosmic questions, answers pending: Complete packagePDF 2.61MB Mission: reveal the secrets of the universePDF 555KB Pre-Bang branes and bubbles | By Ron Cowen PDF 546KB In the dark | By Alexandra Witze PDF 328KB Strung together | By Matt Crenson […]

  31. Out of the fabric

    Of all the mysteries of life and the universe, none resist the sleuthing of science’s best private eyes more obstinately than the ultimate nature of space and time. Every several centuries or so, profound insights do occur, immortalizing the names of the investigators who achieved them: Euclid (who cataloged the insights preceding him), Galileo, Newton, […]

  32. Hanging in the balance

    The fate of the universe was supposed to be sealed by the turn of the millennium. In one end-time scenario, the entire universe — from galaxies down to atoms — would rip apart at its seams. Nicolle Rager Fuller COSMIC ARMAGEDDON | The discovery of dark energy made the fate of the universe much more […]

  33. Cosmic questions, answers pending

    Throughout human history, great missions of exploration have been inspired by curiosity, the desire to find out about unknown realms. Such missions have taken explorers across wide oceans and far below their surfaces, deep into jungles, high onto mountain peaks and over vast stretches of ice to the Earth’s polar extremities. Today’s greatest exploratory mission […]

  34. Pre-Bang branes and bubbles

    Cosmologists Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok liken the early history of the universe to a play in which the protagonists — matter and radiation — move across the stage according to the laws of physics. Astronomers are actors who arrived on the scene 13.7 billion years too late to know what happened. If the universe […]

  35. In the dark

    In ancient times, listing the ingredients of the universe was simple: earth, air, fire and water. Today, scientists know that naming all of that, plus everything else familiar in everyday life, leaves out 95 percent of the cosmos’s contents. Without an as-yet-unidentified material called dark matter, clusters of galaxies wouldn’t hold together. Nicolle Rager Fuller […]

  36. Letters

    Science not in the zone It makes no sense to analyze basketball shooting streaks (“In the zone,” SN: 2/12/11, p. 26) as though they were similar to slot machines or video games, which are supposed to be random. Basketball shooting, and other sports activities, are definitely not random events.Walt Gray, Richland, Wash. I was very […]

  37. Science Future for April 23, 2011

    May 6 Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks before dawn. Go to earthsky.org/tonight for info. May 6 The first female “private space explorer” speaks at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Awards. See www.carnegiesciencecenter.org May 15 Deadline to submit photos of “chemistry in our drinks” to the Colors of Chemistry calendar competition. Find out more at colorsofchemistry.org

  38. Meteorites by Caroline Smith, Sara Russell and Gretchen Benedix

    A well-illustrated overview of the science and (literal) impacts of these space rocks. Firefly Books, 2011, 112 p., $19.95.