Vol. 176 No. #6

More Stories from the September 12, 2009 issue

  1. Health & Medicine

    Neurons play Simon Says

    A new study finds evidence for mirror neurons in people.

  2. Health & Medicine

    Bone-preserving drug passes tests in men, women

    New drug limits bone fractures in elderly women and men fighting prostate cancer

  3. Earth

    Big Gulp, Asian style

    Satellite data reveals that increased irrigation pressure is rapidly depleting groundwater in northern India.

  4. Life

    A gene for a short night’s sleep

    Alterations in a gene called DEC2 lead to a shortened sleep period in people, mice and fruit flies.

  5. Archaeology

    Fire engineers of the Stone Age

    New evidence indicates that people used fires to heat stones in preparation for making cutting instruments at least 72,000 years ago in southern Africa.

  6. Physics

    Casper the Quantum Ghost

    Researchers find that a strange kind of imaging relies on quantum mechanics.

  7. Earth

    Rapid evolution may be reshaping forest birds’ wings

    Logging during the last century might have driven birds in mature boreal forests toward pointier wings while reforestation in New England led to rounder wings.

  8. Animals

    Vocal abilities lost, found and drowned out

    Reports from the meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union

  9. Health & Medicine

    Worm-inspired superglue

    Researchers create a material that may one day be used to paste together bones in the body.

  10. Health & Medicine

    Using estrogen to combat persistent breast cancer

    Estrogen therapy stymies breast cancer in some patients who have exhausted their other options, a new study finds.

  11. Astronomy

    Comet dust harbors life’s building blocks

    Samples collected from a comet’s halo suggest comets could have carried amino acids to the early Earth

  12. Life

    Bomb-tastic new worms

    Scientists find previously unknown deep-sea species that launch bioluminescent packets.

  13. Animals

    Back off, extinct moa

    A New Zealand tree’s peculiar leaves may have served as defenses against long-gone giant birds.

  14. Psychology

    How to walk in circles without really trying

    People walk in circles when landmarks and other directional cues are not available.

  15. Chemistry

    Styrofoam degrades in seawater

    Study suggests besides the visible plastic, smaller bits are fouling the waters

  16. Space

    Extrasolar planets at full tilt

    Violent interactions between planets may have played a key role in shaping the architecture of many extrasolar planet systems. The sun’s planetary system may have escaped or recovered from such a catastrophe.

  17. Science Future for September 12, 2009

    September 23–26 The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology marks Darwin’s bicentennial in Bristol, England. See www.vertpaleo.org/meetings October 11–17 Celebrate Earth Science Week with the American Geological Institute. Find local events at  www.earthsciweek.org October 31 Deadline to enter the National Engineers Week Future City Competition for students. Visit www.futurecity.org

  18. From Axons to Identity: Neurological Explorations of the Nature of the Self by Todd E. Feinberg

    A neuroscientist considers the intimate relationship between the brain and sense of self. W.W. Norton & Co., 2009, 304 p., $25.95. FROM AXONS TO IDENTITY: NEUROLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS OF THE NATURE OF THE SELF BY TODD E. FEINBERG

  19. The Spirit of Invention by Julie M. Fenster

    A historian explores the role of innovation in American history, illustrated with archival photos and news clippings. Smithsonian Books/Collins, 2009, 256 p., $29.99. THE SPIRIT OF INVENTION BY JULIE M. FENSTER

  20. Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorse, from Myth to Reality by Helen Scales

    A marine biologist distinguishes fact from fiction about these famous and elusive fish. Gotham Books, 2009, 254 p., $24. POSEIDON’S STEED: THE STORY OF SEAHORSE, FROM MYTH TO REALITY BY HELEN SCALES

  21. What Bluebirds Do by Pamela F. Kirby

    Young readers can learn basic facts about the life history and ecology of these familiar backyard birds. Boyds Mill Press, 2009, 48 p., $18.95. WHAT BLUEBIRDS DO BY PAMELA F. KIRBY

  22. Book Review: Science Under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience edited by Kendrick Frazier

    Scientific literacy has taken a hit. Facts are absent or distorted by spin doctors, leaving people to flounder when interpreting complex issues, writers argue in this new collection of essays. Edited by former Science News editor Kendrick Frazier (now editor of Skeptical Inquirer), these engaging, insightful and often surprising essays by researchers and journalists describe […]

  23. Book Review: Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA’s Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton with Henry Robert Schlesinger

    Most spy stories star a James Bond–like figure, but the tales of espionage in Spycraft feature behind-the-scenes technologists more akin to Q, Bond’s gadget guru. The authors describe how CIA scientists and engineers developed technologies that have shaped U.S. intelligence since the late 1950s. Drawing from interviews with spies and gadget engineers, the story moves […]

  24. A place removed from ‘the pressure of received ideas’

    Murray Gell-Mann, winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on elementary particles (see Page 24 in this issue), was one of the originators of the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary research center in New Mexico that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Gell-Mann recently addressed a group of about 150 […]

  25. Psychology

    Morality Play

    A 10-year-old Chinese boy listens intently as a visiting researcher tells him a story. It begins pleasantly enough: A boy named Xiaoming goes to a park and meets a child playing with a new ball. But after joining in the fun, Xiaoming decides that he wants to play with the ball alone. So he hits […]

  26. Little by Little

    Considering that food is full of foreign proteins, it makes sense that the intestine is the immune system’s version of Grand Central station. It’s the largest organ to regularly sweep up and annihilate molecules that don’t belong. And because food comes from outside, it’s no surprise that some people have allergies to it. The bigger […]

  27. Space

    The Status Quark

    When in the course of scientific events it becomes necessary to dissolve allegiances to established beliefs, you can expect to face a lot of flak. New scientific ideas, the German physicist Max Planck once observed, triumph not because of the power of reason, but because their opponents eventually die. It was perhaps a slight exaggeration. […]

  28. Letters

    Philosophers strike back As someone who has taught philosophy of science and history of science for 30 years, I must take exception with Tom Siegfried’s editorial, “Philosophers don’t know what scientists can’t do” (SN: 7/18/09, p. 2). Of course, they don’t! But neither do scientists! Immanuel Kant and Auguste Comte were just as wrong about […]

  29. Science Past from the issue of September 12, 1959

    Mushrooms aid mental ills — The mentally ill may be able to get peace and quiet with their steak and mushrooms, providing they eat some special mushrooms described at the 9th International Botanical Congress meeting in Montreal. The clue to the possible medical usefulness of these mushrooms was uncovered as a result of studies of […]

  30. Finding the Big Bang

    A collection of essays details the initial discovery of the cosmic background radiation and the development of cosmology. Cambridge Univ., 2009, 596 p., $72. FINDING THE BIG BANG, EDITED BY P. JAMES E. PEEBLES, LYMAN A. PAGE JR. AND R. BRUCE PARTRIDGE