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Senate Debates Uncertain Future of U.S. Spaceflight

The risk of collisions in space, the fate of the United States in orbit after the space station retires and continuing debates over NASA’s path back to the moon dominated a two-hour hearing on Thursday (Oct. 21) held by a Senate committee focused on space and science. The wide-ranging conversation came as the Senate and […]

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Fossil Fuel Development to Exceed Global Climate Targets

Fossil fuel-producing nations are on track to blow by their Paris Agreement pledges by developing coal, oil and natural gas through 2030 at levels that would fail to avoid dangerous temperature increases, according to new research. The so-called production gap between planned fossil fuel output and the goal of stopping temperature rise at 1.5 degrees […]

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Meteorite Crashes into Woman’s Bed in Canada

A woman in Canada narrowly missed being struck by a meteorite that crashed through her roof and landed on her pillow. Ruth Hamilton, a resident of Golden, British Columbia, was asleep in her bed on the night of Oct. 3 when she was jolted awake by an explosive bang, as something plummeted through the roof […]

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World Leaders Meet to Address Biodiversity Crisis, But U.S. Stays on Sidelines

World leaders moved forward this week with a global framework to stem the loss of biodiversity, but missing from the conversation was a critical potential partner—the United States. For three decades, the United States has failed to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity, a global treaty to tackle threats to the world’s plants, animals and […]

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The NFL’s Racist ‘Race Norming’ Is an Afterlife of Slavery

Editor’s Note (10/12/21): This story from July on the use of “race norming” in the National Football League (NFL) is being republished following the resignation of Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. Reports published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times indicated that Gruden used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language in […]

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Poem: ‘Earth’s Accidents (Over Wadi Qumran)’

Science in meter and verse Credit: Jean-Pierre Bouchard Getty Images Advertisement Edited by Dava Sobel The Dead Sea scrolls were mostly saved by bribe and threat: unmindful finders re-interred the rest in hopes of gain. It vanished or decayed. A trooper in the Greek campaign blown by Wehrmacht mortars down a limestone chute, glimpsed there […]

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Why the Physics Nobel Honored Climate Science and Complex Systems

It is an underappreciated irony that talking about complex systems is difficult. “There is no clear definition of complex systems,” says Kunihiko Kaneko, a physicist at the University of Tokyo. “But roughly speaking, there are many interacting elements, and they often show chaotic or dynamic behavior.” This year, for the first time, the Nobel Prize […]

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What Chili Peppers Can Teach Us about Pain

Editor’s Note (10/4/21): David Julius, interviewed in this story from September 2019, is the co-recipient of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries related to how the human body senses temperature and touch. David Julius knows pain. The professor of physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine has […]

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Microbes, Natural Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence

If the Perseverance rover finds evidence for microbes on Mars, our self-esteem will not be affected since it is obvious that we are more intelligent than they are. But if the rover bumps into the wreckage of a spacecraft far more advanced than we ever produced, our ego will be challenged. Illusory superiority and unjustified […]

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An Unsung Female Pioneer of Computer Simulation

In 1952, at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, theoretical physicists Enrico Fermi, John Pasta and Stanislaw Ulam brainstormed ways to use the MANIAC, one of the world’s first supercomputers, to solve scientific problems. At the time, problems were solved by performing either laboratory experiments or mathematical calculations by hand. Fermi, Pasta and Ulam wanted to use […]