Parallel universes are a staple of science fiction, and it's no wonder. They allow us to explore the question, "what if?" in a way that lets us step completely outside of the world we know, rather than question how that world might have turned out differently. For cosmologists, the question isn't "what if the South won the Civil War?" but "what if the constants that make up the fundamental building blocks of physics were different?" Physicists argue that any slight change to the laws of physics would mean a disruption in the evolution of the universe, and thus our existence. Take gravity, for example: too strong and stars would burn through their fuel far more quickly. If the universe expanded too fast, matter would spread out too thin for galaxies to form. The list of examples goes on – to the point where the laws of physics might seem finely tuned to make our existence possible. Short of a supernatural or divine explanation, one possibility is that our universe isn't the only one. That's the idea explored in this eBook, Possibilities in Parallel: Seeking the Multiverse. In Section 1, we explore why scientists think other universes could exist. After that, we get a look at the implications. Is it possible to have life in a universe with different physical laws? It would seem so. In "Cracking Open a Window," George Musser discusses the possibility that our universe has more than three spatial dimensions – the others happen to be very small. Other articles, including "The Universe's Unseen Dimensions," analyze the idea that our universe is one of many "branes" – three-dimensional structures stretched out over a higher-dimensional space. The concept of a parallel universe also touches time travel, and then there's the question of what the term "parallel universe" actually means. It's a triumph of the sciences that the very question of why the universe looks as it does can be asked at all. There are currently several possibilities for a multiverse, if it exists. Time and a lot of scientific spadework will reveal which one is right – and get us closer to answering those metaphysical questions: what if, why us, why now?
"What time is it?" That simple question is probably asked more often in contemporary society than ever before. In our clock-studded world, the answer is never more than a glance away, and so we can blissfully partition our days into ever smaller increments for ever more tightly scheduled tasks. Modern scientific revelations about time, however, make the question endlessly frustrating. If we seek a precise knowledge of the time, the infinitesimal flash of now dissolves into a scattering flock of nanoseconds. Because we are bound by the speed of light and the velocity of nerve impulses, our perception of the "present" reflects the world as it occurred an instant ago – for all that human consciousness pretends otherwise, we can never catch up. Even in principle, perfect synchronicity escapes us. Relativity dictates that, like a strange syrup, time flows slower on moving trains than in the stations and faster in the mountains than in the valleys. The time for our wristwatch is not exactly the same as the time for our head. This eBook, A Question of Time, summarizes what science has discovered about how time permeates and guides both our physical world and our inner selves. That knowledge should enrich the imagination and provide practical advantages to anyone hoping to beat the clock, or at least to stay in step with it. Synchronize your watches...
Addiction is costly on many levels to the individuals affected, their families and society as a whole, but science may soon be able to offer treatment options to make the road to recovery a little smoother. In this eBook, From Abuse to Recovery: Understanding Addiction, we tackle the many facets of this complex issue. First, we investigate why and how people succumb to a veritable prison of the mind as Sections 1 and 2 delve respectively into the psychology and the neurochemistry behind addiction. In "Time-Warping Temptations," David Freedman posits how "temporal discounting" can lead us to give into immediate impulse gratification rather than consider the long-term consequences. Later, two articles by Eric Nestler, "The Addicted Brain" and "Hidden Switches in the Mind," break down how both reward and pleasure circuits become overactive and sensitized to our drug of choice. Subsequent sections break out addictive substances individually: recreational drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol and nicotine. In "Bad Combo," Melinda Wenner Moyer looks at the death of Whitney Houston, who overdosed in February 2010 on a deadly mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs. "Alcoholism and Our Genes" by John Nurnberger, Jr. and Laura Jean Beirut is a lengthy story exploring genetic association studies. Since smoking is one of the hardest habits to break, another article, "Hooked from the First Cigarette," by Joseph DiFranza discusses exactly why this is the case. Finally, Section 7 examines new avenues for overcoming addiction. Michelle Solis's piece, "A Lifeline for Addicts" describes addiction as an impairment in reversal learning and a consequence of rigid synapses – an impairment that studies show could potentially be treated, thus making the recovery process easier. While rehab centers, counseling and 12-step programs are effective for many substance abusers, they're also ingrained as the only way to overcome addiction. New research such as this advances our knowledge of the physical component, knowledge that could lead to a more complete protocol that treats both the psychological and physiological aspects of addiction.
In science fiction, artificial intelligence takes the shape of computers that can speak like people, think for themselves, and sometimes act against us. Sometimes the machines seem to know everything, and symbolize implacable and unknowable power, as in The Matrix. Such machines can also embody the limits of logic, and by extension our own powers of reason. In Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL was a computer of vast capability driven insane by the demands of his programming – to honestly and completely report information – when those instructions conflicted with orders to keep state secrets. Star Trek has given us the android, Lieutenant Commander Data, who strives to be more human. None of these visions came true in quite the way science fiction writers imagined, even though in many ways computers surpass their fictional counterparts. This eBook reviews work in the field and covers topics from chess-playing to quantum computing. The writers tackle how to make computers more powerful, how we define consciousness, what the hard problems are and even how computers might be built once the limits of silicon chips have been reached. Artificial intelligence also raises some thorny ethical questions, such as whether morality can be programmed. These are kinds of issues that make artificial intelligence and computing fascinating. Building an intelligent machine brings together the human desire to create and the question of what makes us what we are. If anyone ever builds a true thinking machine, that last question becomes much more complicated, not less. Data and HAL would probably agree.
Updated 2017 Edition! For the fifth anniversary of one of the biggest discoveries in physics, we’ve updated this eBook to include our continuing analysis of the discovery, of the questions it answers and those it raises. As the old adage goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where there is effect, there must be cause. The planet Neptune was found in 1846 because the mathematics of Newton's laws, when applied to the orbit of Uranus, said some massive body had to be there. Astronomers eventually found it, using the best telescopes available to peer into the sky. This same logic is applied to the search for the Higgs boson. One consequence of the prevailing theory of physics, called the Standard Model, is that there has to be some field that gives particles their particular masses. With that there has to be a corresponding particle, made by creating waves in the field, and this is the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle. This eBook chronicles the search – and demonstrates the power of a good theory. Based on the Standard Model, physicists believed something had to be there, but it wasn't until the Large Hadron Collider was built that anyone could see evidence of the Higgs – and finally in July 2012, they did. A Higgs-like particle was found near the energies scientists expected to find it. Now, armed with better evidence and better questions, the scientific process continues. This eBook gathers the best reporting and analysis from Scientific American to explain that process – the theories, the search, the ongoing questions. In essence, everything you need to know to separate Higgs from hype.
Today, an infant born in the US will probably live to see his or her 78th birthday, a 20- year-plus increase over the average lifespan a century ago. While living well into the 80s and 90s is becoming more and more attainable, how many more years can humanity expect to gain? The two main barriers are accumulated damage to cells and organs that occurs over time and age-related illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Researchers are divided over where to pour their efforts, and in this eBook, Forever Young: The Science of Aging we take a look at what science knows—and what it's striving to learn—about the aging process.
Both genes and environment influence how long people live and how "well" they age, as discussed in Section 1, "A Matter of Time: The Aging Process." The eBook opens with "Why Can't We Live Forever," where author Thomas Kirkwood explains exactly why by way of his "disposable soma" theory. Other theories of how we age, including the role of telomeres, free radicals and caloric restriction, are discussed in subsequent sections. Recent studies have called into question long-held beliefs about the anti-aging benefits of antioxidants and reducing caloric intake. Though there are a number of age-related illnesses, few are so devastating as Alzheimer's disease, covered in its own section. While there's still no cure, a slew of clinical drug trials is underway. Finally, we examine the quest for longevity, featuring stories on both life-extension research and lifestyle choices. In particular, "Fit Body, Fit Mind?" looks at how to prevent age-related mental decline by staying physically fit and socially involved. So while there's no miracle pill on the horizon that will extend our lives to 150, we can certainly make the most of the years we do have.
With global population numbers projected to increase by 2 billion by 2050, a veritable food crisis is on the horizon. In this eBook, Can We Feed the World? The Future of Food, we examine some of the complex causative factors involved in the coming "food crisis" and the innovative ideas and technologies designed to increase food production sustainably. We also examine current industry methods to increase production and the controversies surrounding them, including not only hot-button issues like genetically modified (or GM) and processed foods, but also food safety and the physical effects of the modern diet. To start the discussion, Jonathan Foley throws down the gauntlet with the first article, "The Grand Challenge: Can We Feed the World and Sustain the Planet?" In it he takes a macroscopic look at the coming crisis and presents five solutions that could both double the world's food production by mid-century as well as decrease greenhouse gas emissions and curb environmental damage. Other articles discuss technologies ranging from more sustainable offshore fish farming to "vertical farms," and an entire section tackles GM crops. Hugely controversial, GM crops are either the magic bullet that will save millions from starvation or Frankenstein's monster. To that end, don't miss Sasha Nemecek's "The Pros and Cons of GM Foods," in which she interviews experts on both sides of this issue, as well as "Three Myths about Genetically Modified Crops," by Natasha Gilbert. Later, we delve into the processed food industry, taking a magnifying glass to fast food and high fructose corn syrup, as well as food safety issues, including monitoring sources of contamination as well as preventing food poisoning. With all the possibilities on the horizon—from GM crops to new technologies in farming and fishing—world hunger does not have to be inevitable, but we'll need to be resourceful in managing the food supply so that we can preserve the planet and ourselves.
Traditionally, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are war, famine, plague and death; but while classical authors were familiar with only four horsemen, modern ones could add events such as environmental devastation and nearby supernovas. In this eBook we look at several "end of the world" scenarios – or at least, things that could make human life really difficult. Each section discusses a different horseman, from plague, famine and war to cosmic events, extreme weather and environmental collapse. Some are apocalyptic, others less so, but they show that even if one doesn't take the Book of Revelation or the supposed Mayan prophecy as a template, thinking about our own end is fascinating – and sobering. Some endings only affect humans – mass starvation for us isn't likely to bother rats – whereas others eliminate all life on Earth. The good news is that the ability to map out the end also grants us the power to avert it, at least in some cases. Included in this book is a seminal piece outlining the possibility of "nuclear winter." Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has stated that such studies were a major impetus for him to seek to reduce tensions with the United States. As a species we've tackled ozone depletion, and there's no reason other environmental problems can't be dealt with as well. The question was never technical ability, only political will. So while much of this book might seem a gloomy exercise, there's an optimistic side too: we may not endure eternally, but stupidity or hubris doesn't have to end our world prematurely.
We humans are a strange bunch. We have self-awareness and yet often act on impulses that remain hidden. We were forged in adversity but live in a world of plenty. How did we get here? What is to become of us? To these age-old questions, science has in recent years brought powerful tools and reams of data, and in this eBook, Becoming Human: Our Past, Present and Future, we look at what these data have to tell us about who we are. We know, for instance, that three million years ago, a group of primates known as the australopithecines was walking capably on two legs—the better to navigate the African savanna—and yet still had long arms suited to life in the trees. In Section One, "Becoming Us," we search for how and why this and other transitions occurred. In "Lucy's Baby," author Kate Wong discusses what the oldest juvenile skeleton tells us about how early humans walked the Earth. Another article, "The Naked Truth," examines why humans lost their hair and how hairlessness was a key factor in developing other human traits. Section Two covers "The Secrets of our Success," and we see that human evolution and culture are often related. In "The Evolution of Grandparents," Rachel Caspari shows us that as humans started to live longer, grandparents played a role in family life, which in turn made possible more complex social behaviors. In Section Three, "Migration and Colonization," we look at how scientists are studying the minuscule bits of DNA that differ from one individual to another for clues to our origins and settlements. "The First Americans" illustrates the findings that have pushed back the date at which hunter-gatherers colonized the Americas. And in Section Four, "Vanished Humans," the discovery of "hobbits"—a human species of small stature—has turned the science of human origins on its ear. Where is evolution taking us? We present two points of view in Section Five, "Our Continuing Evolution." In "How We Are Evolving," Jonathan K. Pritchard argues that selection pressure typically acts over tens of thousands of years, which means we probably won't evolve much anytime soon. But stasis is only one possible future, says Peter Ward in "What May Become of Us." In adapting to new environments—say, a colony on Mars—our human species may eventually diverge into two or more. Or we could go the cyborg route and merge with machines. Whichever option you prefer, there is plenty to ponder.
Our nearest planetary neighbor has been the subject of endless fascination and wide-ranging theories throughout history. Is there life on Mars? Was there ever life on Mars? What was the atmosphere like thousands or millions of years ago? From Percival Lowell, who built his own observatory so he could dedicate himself to studying the red planet, to NASA landing the car-sized Opportunity rover in 2012, this eBook, Exploring Mars: Secrets of the Red Planet, traces Scientific American's coverage of the observation and exploration of Mars. The first section outlines early 20th century theories about Mars, including the possibility of an intricate canal system built by an intelligent species. Once the space probes enter the picture, most of those ideas were debunked, but even more questions arose. The second section covers current missions, which found evidence of ancient oceans and a thicker atmosphere that has since been lost. The third section raises even more exciting possibilities with ambitious plans for future missions. In this book, you'll follow these advances in astronomy and planetary science as better and better technology brings us incrementally closer to unlocking the secrets of Mars.
We don't often marvel at the process of remembering-that is, until we forget. What allows us to remember, and how do we forget? Most importantly, why do we remember certain things and not others? In this e-book, Remember When? The Science of Memory, we explore what science can tell us about memory, starting with an introductory section defining what memory is, including what makes something memorable and some common misconceptions about memory. A surprising piece by Gary Stix, "You Must Remember This ... Because You Have no Choice," explores why some people can remember what they had for lunch on a Tuesday 20 years ago while others can't. There's also a fascinating Q&A with Eric Kandel, neuroscientist and psychiatrist who won the Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work on how neurons fire together in order to store memories in the brain. Section 2 delves deeper, analyzing the anatomy of memory, from how memories are saved to how they're transferred from short-term storage in the hippocampus to long-term storage in the cortex. Other sections explore various aspects of memory from its role in learning to the effects of trauma and age. Joe Z. Tsien discusses his technique of genetically tweaking certain receptor proteins on neurons in "Building a Brainier Mouse." In "Erasing Painful Memories," long-time journalist Jerry Adler looks at research into both behavioral therapies and drugs that can help to alter painful or traumatic memories after the fact. Finally, the last section looks at ways to improve your memory. One story links dreaming to improved learning. In another, R. Douglas Fields summarizes the work behind the idea of a "smart pill," based on the relatively recent discovery that a specific protein kinase might boost memory and could be given in pill form to enhance that most mysterious process.
The Olympics are the world's most prestigious stage for athletic competition. Fans both casual and hardcore tune in religiously every few years to watch as men and women push themselves to the limits of human performance. But what makes a champion? Is it genetics? Hours of training? A psychological advantage? Of all the athletes who dedicate their lives - and bodies - to achieving that perfect moment of triumph, why will one person or team win out over another? Science has some compelling answers, and in this book, The Science of Sports: Winning in the Olympics, Scientific American explores this topic from various angles. Beginning with Section 1: The Psychology of Winning, the book opens with a look inside the mind of an elite athlete and tackles questions of how to face a rivalry or maintain a positive attitude in the face of defeat. Other sections discuss the sticky issues surrounding genetic advantages and physical prowess, drugs and doping, injury and recovery, and - finally - the latest scientific advice for the rest of us mere mortals to be fit and healthy. You'll find both inspiration and answers in this indispensable book from the editors of Scientific American, the leading authority on science, technology and innovation.
Consciousness is an enigmatic beast. It's more than mere awareness – it's how we experience the world, how our subjective experience relates to the objective universe around us. And therein lies the rub, in that tiny little word "how." These kinds of questions were once the province of philosophy, religion or perhaps fantasy, but within the last few decades, neuroscientists have added a scientific voice to the discussion, using available medical technology to explore just what separates so-called "mind" from brain. How do the neural and chemical workings of our brains create our minds, our total experience of the world, our thoughts and feelings, and that sense of self that distinguishes the individual from everyone else? In this eBook, The Secrets of Consciousness, we look at what science has to say about one of humankind's most fundamental, existential mysteries. We begin at the beginning, as they say, with Section 1 on the very nature of consciousness and move on to discuss theories of neural development. In one article, author David Chalmers calls this the "hard problem," requiring an entirely new theory that places consciousness itself as a fundamental component akin to the forces of physics. In another, leading neuroscientists Christof Koch and Susan Greenfield debate exactly how the neurons and circuits in the brain create conscious awareness. Later sections go deeper into the rabbit hole and examine what we can learn from altered states such as hypnosis or anesthesia as well as the use of formerly blacklisted hallucinogens such as LSD as healing drugs. Gary Stix discusses one study on the possible therapeutic effects of LSD on the intense anxiety experienced by patients with life-threatening disease, such as cancer. Finally, Section 6 explores "The Enigma of Spirituality." David Biello takes on the search in his article, "God in the Brain," highlighting studies searching for specific neurological centers of spirituality. It's been said before, but the brain is the final frontier. Just how that brain creates not only awareness, but also integrates that awareness into creating experiences, memories, and an enduring sense of self—well, it might take overhauling not only how we study ourselves, but how we define our reality in the process of looking.
Sometimes All You Need Is Love; sometimes Love Is a Battlefield. Whether Love Hurts, Bites, Will Keep Us Together, Will Tear Us Apart or Is a Four-Letter Word, it seems we Want To Know What Love Is. Love – in both the abstract and the up-close-and-personal – has always provided limitless inspiration for artists, writers and musicians, but scientists are just as fascinated by these affairs of the heart, though they seldom sing about it. In this eBook, Disarming Cupid: Love, Sex and Science, our editors take a step back, analyzing romance using tools like fMRI studies instead of a paint brush or guitar. The writers examine a variety of topics, starting with the perceived sex differences between men and women discussed in Section 1 – are we really as different as Mars and Venus? As our opening story shows, few other questions can get at the heart of this debate like "Can heterosexual men and women ever be ‘just friends'?" (Spoiler alert: new research suggests that the answer is no.)
Subsequent sections tackle other facets of love, including the implications of the drastic rise in online dating, how we choose our romantic partners and what happens in our brains when we're in love. In particular "All You Need Is Love" finds – or, perhaps for some, verifies – that romantic love stimulates the same pathways as an addictive drug. Section 5 focuses on issues of gender and sexuality. "Do Gays Have a Choice?" analyzes a wealth of scientific evidence and shows that sexual orientation is determined more by both genes and environment, rather than being a choice. We also don't shy away from darker aspects of love, such as the psychology of prostitution and sex appeal of narcissists, because to ignore these aspects of love is to trivialize it. Besides, love's paradoxes are one of the reasons why it is The Topic for cultural discourse. As Pascal said, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing." Hopefully this eBook will change the "nothing" to "at least something."
Since the Industrial Revolution our civilization has depended on fossil fuels to generate energy – first it was coal; then petroleum. But there are two problems: the first is that petroleum isn't an infinite resource; and the second is that burning coal and oil puts billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping heat. Temperatures have risen by about 0.6 degrees Celsius over the last 100 years, which may not sound like much, but even that small increase is showing some large effects. For one, records have been set for the seasonal loss of arctic ice. If business as usual continues, we are looking at a world where sea levels will be high enough to submerge many coastal cities and extreme weather events like 2012's Hurricane Sandy are the new normal. In this eBook, The Future of Energy: Earth, Wind and Fire, we review the energy problem and analyze the options from the mundane to the far out, beginning in Section One with an overview of issues and solutions, including the comprehensive "A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030" and "7 Radical Energy Solutions." As these authors show, a multitude of possibilities exist. Renewable energy is more than photovoltaic cells and wind turbines – though these are viable options – and subsequent sections look at various sources, including solar power, hydropower, geothermal power, nuclear power and yes, wind power. For example, Section 4's "Can Nuclear Power Compete" examines the possibilities for nuclear rebirth and Section 5's "Turning the Tide" and "Moving Parts" discuss how tides could power coastal cities. Meanwhile we need to power transportation, and Section 7 reviews the search for biofuels that do not negatively impact the environment. Of course, all technologies have drawbacks that must be addressed, and not every idea will succeed. That isn't the point. There's no choice but to change the way we power our lives. The question is how and when. The longer we wait, the more painful the transition will be.
Updated Edition. This eBook has been updated to include content from two special reports on education. Scientific American's popular "Learning in the Digital Age," is included almost in its entirety as the new Section 7 and analyzes the positive and negative effects of the digital revolution on education. In addition, two new articles from Scientific American Mind's report "The Science of Better Learning" are included in Section 2: "For the Love of Math" and "The Science of Handwriting." The first examines the benefits of guided-discovery programs like JUMP in teaching math, and the second discusses research that shows forming words by hand rather than typing may lead to longer-term memories. These and the rest of the articles in this collection explore how learning is a scientific process and offer the latest theories of education. Section 1, "The Lesson Plan," begins with how children learn and includes an eye-opening piece by Scientific American Editor Ingrid Wickelgren on how honing certain psychological skills not only enhances learning but also helps kids fight frustration and ward off stress. Other sections cover teaching the three Rs, the unique requirements of gifted children, controversies of class size, roles of parents and teachers and the imperative to improve science teaching. Individual articles delve into specific issues such as how a focus on intellect over effort can negatively affect potential, the role that errors play in retention, how physical activity boosts academic achievement, the effects of parents versus peer groups on behavior and much more. In this anthology, Scientific American has gathered some of its best reporting on the challenges, successes and the execution of a scientific approach to education. Together, they help construct a path for success for the next generation.
Cyberspace has certainly transformed the world. From media and communications to banking, an increasing number of daily activities is performed online. We are living digital lifestyles. While this transformation has opened up exciting new frontiers, it also opens the door to security threats undreamed of in previous generations. In this eBook, we peer behind the cyber curtain. First, we look at the hackers—Section 1 discusses who they are, how they work, their motivations and methods. The opening article examines hardware—specifically microprocessors and why they are vulnerable to tampering. Then we turn to the internal attacks, the worms and viruses whose resulting damage ranges from merely inconvenient and attention-getting to expensive and dangerous. In the latter category falls the Stuxnet virus, which attacked Iran's nuclear facilities and is discussed in "Hacking the Lights Out." Section 2 takes a broad look at issues of privacy and the technology used to gather and track personal information. The first article, "The End of Privacy?", analyzes how the definition of privacy has changed, often along generational lines, in the cyber age. With so much personal information volunteered on social networking and other sites, how much privacy can people expect? Most of us leave a trail of data wherever we go, and subsequent articles in this section look at how. On a positive note, Section 3 covers innovative technologies used to secure cyber networks and safeguard information. In particular, "Beyond Fingerprinting" discusses replacing identifiers like user names and passwords with biometrics—behavioral or anatomical markers including but not limited to fingerprints. This, like other technology, is becoming more widespread as inexpensive sensors and microprocessors become available, and the race between the hackers and information security professionals continues.
The term "autism" first appeared in the early 1900s and comes from the Greek word "autos," meaning self, used to describe conditions of social withdrawal – or the isolated self. Today, autism is one of three diagnoses that the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) includes in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While our understanding of this condition has grown exponentially, research has been fraught with controversy. Autism appears to be on the rise, depending on how you define it, and its causes more complex than imagined. In this eBook, Understanding Autism: The Search for Answers, Scientific American's editors have gathered the most current information on autism, including how it's diagnosed, risk factors, treatments and therapies. Section 1 begins with the symptoms, or traits, of ASD, which include three main disabilities: lack of social skills, lack of communication skills, and repetitive behaviors. Also in this section, "The Hidden Potential of Autistic Kids" discusses the flip side of the equation – instead of focusing on the condition's limitations, what unique capabilities might people possess – a thread that continues in the remarkable stories of Section 2, "Autistic Savants. Subsequent sections examine the complicated genetic and environmental causes, the nature of the autism "epidemic" as well as the most current therapies. Changes to the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5 caused understandable concern and are reviewed in two important stories by Ferris Jabr. Finally, in discussing available therapies, two companion pieces by Nancy Shute take us on a journey through the minds of parents, many of whom are desperate to help their autistic kids lead easier, productive and more fulfilling lives. While science rushes to offer better options, this eBook gives a synopsis of the state of the union - what we know and what we don't know about this challenging condition.
Advances in technology often concur with times of war—the nuclear bomb is perhaps the most iconic example. The then-new knowledge of nuclear physics and the fear that the Nazis might develop a weapon pushed some of the greatest minds in physics and chemistry to solve one of the most complex technical problems of the day. Their success ushered in a new age; the rules of warfare had to change when a reckless act might end human civilization. In this eBook, The Changing Face of War, we examine the technologies being developed or adapted for war and defense—and what these innovations mean for the way nations (and non-state antagonists) conduct military or security operations. From drones to computer systems to biological and chemical weapons, each advance demands a re-thinking of where the vulnerabilities lie and how severe any collateral damage would be. In Section 1, "Death from the Sky: Drones," author Larry Greenemeier looks at the length and breadth of drone usage while John Villasenor tackles the questions raised about national security and privacy. Vulnerability takes on new meaning in Section 3, "The Cyberwars," as David Nicol illustrates how the Stuxnet worm put a serious dent in Iran's program to enrich uranium in "Hacking the Lights Out." Sections 6 and 7, "Nuclear Weapons" and "Star Wars: Attack from Orbit," respectively, delve more closely into the consequences of collateral damage. In her article "Space War," Theresa Hitchens outlines the downside of nations taking the "high ground" in space, where even testing such weapons could create so much wreckage as to damage or destroy any craft in Earth's orbit. But these questions aren't new. We have powers to destroy that would have awed the ancient conquerors. With luck, we will keep that power under control.
Did NASA really spend millions creating a pen that would write in space? Is chocolate poisonous to dogs? Does stress cause gray hair? These questions are just a sample of the urban lore investigated in this eBook, Fact or Fiction: Science Tackles 58 Popular Myths. Drawing from Scientific American's "Fact or Fiction" and "Strange But True" columns, we've selected 58 of the most surprising, fascinating, useful and just plain wacky topics confronted by our writers over the years. Each brief article uncovers the truth behind everyday mythology, starting with Section One, "In the Animal Kingdom," where we examine some of the more outlandish claims about our fellow earthly inhabitants, such as whether elephants really remember everything and whether a cockroach can live without its head. Other sections cover reproduction, the environment, technology and personal and mental health. While the answers to some questions, such as whether toilets really do flush in the opposite direction south of the Equator, may only serve to raise your Trivial Pursuit knowledge, others, such as whether to pee on a jellyfish sting or wake a sleepwalker, may come in handy. Although this eBook represents a fraction of circulating folk wisdom and urban mythology, we hope that it's an enjoyable fraction and that it encourages you to do some debunking yourself.
On June 5, 1981, the scientific community received a wake-up call from the CDC regarding a terrible and mysterious new illness that caused immune system failure. A year passed before it had a name: AIDS. Reported infections skyrocketed while science raced to understand a virus that hid among our own cells and mutated quickly. Three decades later, remarkable progress has been made but much more remains to be understood and to be done. In this book, HIV and AIDS: A Global Health Pandemic, Scientific American chronicles the war against the disease from its discovery by Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier to the most current research on gene editing and potential drug targets. These articles explore where the disease came from, how it works, how it spreads, the search for a vaccine, and cultural and sociological factors. In this book, you'll find not only a record of crisis and unprecedented response, but also an essential source to understand the scientific struggle against HIV/AIDS.
While many of us strive to live healthy lives, the task can be daunting and the information overwhelming. Should we be more concerned with our diet or with keeping our weight down? How important is exercise? What kinds of diseases should we really be worried about getting—or preventing? In this eBook, "Eat, Move, Think: Living Healthy," we've assembled a number of stories on what we think sums up a healthy lifestyle, as well as some of the common obstacles faced in trying to achieve it. Some would argue that diet is the cornerstone of healthy living. To that end the first section, "Diet for Health," opens with a story by nutritionist Marion Nestle, who sums up what it means to eat right in "Eating Made Simple." Subsequent sections look at the efficacy of vitamins and supplements, the benefits of exercise and the importance of coping with mental stress. Because obesity cannot be ignored—it is increasing at epidemic rates worldwide—Section 3 covers "The Obesity Epidemic." While lifestyle can be a component of many diseases, including cancer and heart disease, we chose to include a section on diabetes because, like obesity, it too is increasing rapidly. The key to living healthfully is making informed choices, whether those involve the food you eat, where to live, your ideal weight or how to stave off depression. Armed with the right knowledge, everyone can live a healthier life—and that means a happier life.
Hurricanes. Blizzards. Flooding. Drought. If extreme events like these seem to be on the rise, it's for apparent reason. The first three-quarters of 2012 brought the worst European winter in 25 years; massive flooding in Australia, Brazil and China; a deepening drought affecting over 50% of the US; and Hurricane Sandy inflicted massive damage on the Northeast US. The likelihood of these extreme weather events are increasingly being tied to anthropogenic—or manmade, mostly through overproduction of carbon dioxide—global warming. It's no longer an abstract idea; it's being felt locally, on every level.
This eBook, Storm Warnings: Climate Change and Extreme Weather, gives you the tools to better understand what's behind climate change, what might be in store during the coming decades and how we can begin to reverse the detrimental effects mankind has had on the atmosphere. The first half of the book focuses on those unprecedented weather events and the science behind them, from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy to the collapse of glacial ice shelves in the Antarctic. Chapter 5 delves into greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on global warming, including an excellent piece by leading expert James Hansen, who exposes the main culprits of climate change. The last chapters focus on addressing and reducing the problems of climate change at both the public policy and local levels. In particular, Scientific American Editor David Biello lays out 10 solutions that include small changes we all can make in our daily lives—practical, but effective, consumer choices that add up. It might be a drop in the bucket, but every drop counts.
Most of us have probably had those discussions, either in a classroom setting or otherwise, where a hypothetical situation is given and you're asked to choose between two or more unsatisfying options. If you follow option A, five people die; if you follow option B, one person dies. What do you do? Option B looks like the lesser of the evils, but then there's a wrinkle. Option B requires you to actively murder the one person to save five. Now what do you do? Making ethical decisions involves more than listening to an inner moral compass, a feeling in the gut of what's right and wrong; and questions of ethics in science are becoming increasingly complex, especially as technology encroaches upon even our most private cellular spaces. In this eBook, Doing the Right Thing: Ethics in Science, we cover a wide range of areas in science and medicine where complicated ethical questions come to bear, beginning with the first section, "Genomics." In "Are Personal Genome Scans Medically Useless," Sally Lehrman examines the value, or lack thereof, in the information obtained from direct-to-consumer genotyping tests, a field that exploded in the '00s. The middle sections are devoted to ethics in research, where informed—and ethically sound—choices are the basis of many scientific studies. Sections 2, 3 and 4 analyze the challenges unique to three areas, respectively: medical, pharmaceutical and basic research. Medical studies often reveal more information than researchers are looking for, and two articles, "The Ethics of Scan and Tell" and "Reporting Unrelated Findings in Study Subjects," examine questions of responsibility toward study subjects. Later, Charles Seife ferrets out doctors' financial ties to pharmaceutical companies in "Is Drug Research Trustworthy?" and Katherine Harmon calculates "The Cost of Misconduct" to the taxpayer. Finally Section 6, "Ethics and the Mind," analyzes the process of how we resolve moral conflicts when we make decisions. The interaction between reasoning and emotion is poorly understood, as seen in both "Anguish and Ethics" and "When Morality Is Hard to Like," but studies show that the emotional and memory regions of the brain are more active when confronted with difficult moral questions. These decisions are usually made after great inner struggle – think again of option B. What would you do?
The extreme drought in the US Southwest has brought the issues of water use and management to the forefront of media attention. Historically, arguments over water rights have plagued this area since the days of John Wesley Powell, and disputes mark the relations between states, city-dwellers, farmers, and environmentalists to this day. Add to that the challenges of climate change, which is altering rainfall patterns the world over, and the imperative to rethink water management policies becomes acute. This eBook, Battling Drought: The Science of Water Management, takes a long look at the situation in the American Southwest from the early engineering projects, such as building the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams, which were designed to tame the rivers, to the recycling and restoration efforts of today. Projects like the recycling of wastewater in Santa Rosa, CA, and the restoration of the Aral Sea in Central Asia offer both optimism and lessons for change. However, the story of the Himba in Africa – who have, so far, successfully blocked building a dam on a nearby river – illustrates that changing attitudes is often like trying to change the flow of a river. It's an upstream battle. While successful projects like these move us toward that goal, new technologies, methods and crops are still needed to combat diminishing water supplies. A common saying is that someone "spends money like water." Over the last century we've learned that water might be the more precious of the two.
The onset of cold weather brings out the boots, coats, gloves – and the block-lettered, stoplight-red "Flu Shots Available Here" signs in drugstore windows. And with good reason. For many scientists and public health specialists alike, flu season has become a little like Russian Roulette. The likelihood of a deadly pandemic outbreak of influenza is not far from reality considering the nature of some of the different viral strains. In this eBook, we delve into the science of the flu, starting with past pandemics and what we can learn from them. The book opens with a story on how scientists were able to analyze the viral strain that caused the 1918 pandemic, known as the "Spanish flu," which was so shocking in symptoms and virulence that physicians first thought they were dealing with a new infection. The next sections examine the sources, transmission and surveillance of the virus, including how and why zoonoses – infectious diseases that originate from animals – are vaulting to the top of health officials' risk lists. A universal vaccine is the Holy Grail of defense against the quickly mutating virus, and two expert interviews discuss the ongoing quest. However, with research comes controversy. Recent studies into the dreaded bird flu, or H5N1, raised serious questions about access to information versus the threat of bioterrorism. Is it possible to practice both good science, which thrives on the free flow of information, and good defense, which thrives on the opposite? While there are no definitive answers to this and other issues, these pages analyze the science behind the controversy, providing an essential resource to understanding this potentially deadly virus.
Politics makes strange bedfellows, and that becomes even more apparent when trying to analyze the science of politics. Pulling from an array of disciplines including social science, behavioral science and mathematics, Scientific American does just that in this timely eBook, Playing Politics: The Science of Elections. This anthology offers analyses of key factors in the process of electing a leader: from dissecting those qualities considered to be ideal, to how potential leaders are portrayed, to voter behavior, to the voting process - casting, collecting and counting the votes. In recent years especially, science has increasingly been at the center of controversies over voting methods, a voter's motivation, the geography of presidential elections -- including the introduction by the media of the terms red states and blue states -- even questions about the veracity and abilities of candidates. Of particular importance is the analysis of how the electoral process really works and whether it truly represents the majority's intentions of how the country should run. In addition to providing the tools to analyze the process, this ebook also addresses the top science issues of Election 2012. Scientific American partnered with ScienceDebate.org, an independent citizen's initiative, to engage the current presidential candidates – Barack Obama and Mitt Romney – to answer where they stand on 14 key science and technology policy questions facing the United States today. This thoughtful debate, which includes questions on climate change, sustainable energy, the economy and education, caps off an essential read for concerned voters.
Math is boring, says the mathematician and comedian Matt Parker. Part of the problem may be the way the subject is taught, but it's also true that we all, to a greater or lesser extent, find math difficult and counterintuitive. This counterintuitiveness is actually part of the point, argues Parker: the extraordinary thing about math is that it allows us to access logic and ideas beyond what our brains can instinctively do—through its logical tools we are able to reach beyond our innate abilities and grasp more and more abstract concepts.
In the absorbing and exhilarating Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension, Parker sets out to convince his readers to revisit the very math that put them off the subject as fourteen-year-olds. Starting with the foundations of math familiar from school (numbers, geometry, and algebra), he reveals how it is possible to climb all the way up to the topology and to four-dimensional shapes, and from there to infinity—and slightly beyond.
Both playful and sophisticated, Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension is filled with captivating games and puzzles, a buffet of optional hands-on activities that entices us to take pleasure in math that is normally only available to those studying at a university level. Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension invites us to re-learn much of what we missed in school and, this time, to be utterly enthralled by it.
Part of the reason for the book's success is its marvelously varied assortment of brainteasers ranging from simple "catch" riddles to difficult problems (none, however, requiring advanced mathematics). Many of the puzzles will be new to Western readers, while some familiar problems have been clothed in new forms. Often the puzzles are presented in the form of charming stories that provide non-Russian readers with valuable insights into contemporary Russian life and customs. In addition, Martin Gardner, former editor of the Mathematical Games Department, Scientific American, has clarified and simplified the book to make it as easy as possible for an English-reading public to understand and enjoy. He has been careful, moreover, to retain nearly all the freshness, warmth, and humor of the original.
Lavishly illustrated with over 400 clear diagrams and amusing sketches, this inexpensive edition of the first English translation will offer weeks or even months of stimulating entertainment. It belongs in the library of every puzzlist or lover of recreational mathematics.
In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman travels to the very threshold of our understanding about the nature of complexity, and challenges you yourself to discover the solution to this captivating mathematical problem.
Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.
The two-part selection of puzzles and paradoxes begins with examinations of the nature of infinity and some curious systems related to Gödel's theorem. The first three chapters of Part II contain generalized Gödel theorems. Symbolic logic is deferred until the last three chapters, which give explanations and examples of first-order arithmetic, Peano arithmetic, and a complete proof of Gödel's celebrated result involving statements that cannot be proved or disproved. The book also includes a lively look at decision theory, better known as recursion theory, which plays a vital role in computer science.
Is it possible that the answer to becoming a more efficient and effective thinker is learning how to forget? Yes! Mike Byster will show you how mastering this extraordinary technique—forgetting unnecessary information, sifting through brain clutter, and focusing on only important nuggets of data—will change the quality of your work and life balance forever.
Using the six tools in The Power of Forgetting, you’ll learn how to be a more agile thinker and productive individual. You will overcome the staggering volume of daily distractions that lead to to brain fog, an inability to concentrate, lack of creativity, stress, anxiety, nervousness, angst, worry, dread, and even depression. By training your brain with Byster’s exclusive quizzes and games, you’ll develop the critical skills to become more successful in all that you do, each and every day.
Lawrence Weinstein and John Adam present an eclectic array of estimation problems that range from devilishly simple to quite sophisticated and from serious real-world concerns to downright silly ones. How long would it take a running faucet to fill the inverted dome of the Capitol? What is the total length of all the pickles consumed in the US in one year? What are the relative merits of internal-combustion and electric cars, of coal and nuclear energy? The problems are marvelously diverse, yet the skills to solve them are the same. The authors show how easy it is to derive useful ballpark estimates by breaking complex problems into simpler, more manageable ones--and how there can be many paths to the right answer. The book is written in a question-and-answer format with lots of hints along the way. It includes a handy appendix summarizing the few formulas and basic science concepts needed, and its small size and French-fold design make it conveniently portable. Illustrated with humorous pen-and-ink sketches, Guesstimation will delight popular-math enthusiasts and is ideal for the classroom.
This classroom-tested book covers the main subjects of a standard undergraduate probability course, including basic probability rules, standard models for describing collections of data, and the laws of large numbers. It also discusses several more advanced topics, such as the ballot theorem, the arcsine law, and random walks, as well as some specialized poker issues, such as the quantification of luck and skill in Texas Hold’em. Homework problems are provided at the end of each chapter.
The author includes examples of actual hands of Texas Hold’em from the World Series of Poker and other major tournaments and televised games. He also explains how to use R to simulate Texas Hold’em tournaments for student projects. R functions for running the tournaments are freely available from CRAN (in a package called holdem).
See Professor Schoenberg discuss the book.
Throughout history, scientists have come up with theories and ideas that just don't seem to make sense. These we call paradoxes. The paradoxes Al-Khalili offers are drawn chiefly from physics and astronomy and represent those that have stumped some of the finest minds. For example, how can a cat be both dead and alive at the same time? Why will Achilles never beat a tortoise in a race, no matter how fast he runs? And how can a person be ten years older than his twin?
With elegant explanations that bring the reader inside the mind of those who've developed them, Al-Khalili helps us to see that, in fact, paradoxes can be solved if seen from the right angle. Just as surely as Al-Khalili narrates the enduring fascination of these classic paradoxes, he reveals their underlying logic. In doing so, he brings to life a select group of the most exciting concepts in human knowledge. Paradox is mind-expanding fun.