The Week: Most Recent Science Posts recent posts.en-usWed, 17 Dec 2014 08:58:00 -0500http://theweek.com Recent Science Posts from THE WEEKWed, 17 Dec 2014 08:58:00 -0500Curiosity catches a whiff of methane on Mars -- and a possibility of past life<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>NASA has revealed that a whiff of methane has been detected twice in the last couple of years at the Martian surface by the Curiosity Rover.</p><p>The source of the methane is uncertain. It is not even clear if the methane originated on Mars or arrived there by way of a meteorite that landed on the surface of the red planet, but this is the strongest evidence yet of possible life in its ancient past.</p><p>"We have full confidence that there is methane in the atmosphere of Mars," announced John Grotzinger of CalTech, a Curiosity project scientist, on December 16. "Life is one of the few hypotheses for...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Simon RedfernWed, 17 Dec 2014 08:58:00 -0500How science can improve interrogation<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>The release of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program documents the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) against terrorism suspects detained by the agency.</p><p>The report concludes that the CIA program was more widespread and egregious than the American public &mdash; and Congressional oversight committees &mdash; had been led to believe. Not surprisingly, key findings in the report also call into question the claimed efficacy of EITs in eliciting reliable intelligence information.</p><p>As a research psychologist...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Christian MeissnerSat, 13 Dec 2014 09:00:00 -0500There will never be another space race<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p class="normal">Ellen Stofan, NASA's chief scientist, saw her first rocket launch at age 4. Her father worked at NASA as an engineer, and the thrill of space exploration captured her imagination from an early age. But at a Future Tense film screening of <em>The Dish</em> in Washington D.C. last week, Stofan acknowledged that for many people she meets, what first sparked a space obsession was the Apollo program &mdash; President John F. Kennedy's audacious commitment in 1961 to putting Americans on the moon before the end of the decade.</p><p class="normal">Today, NASA's goal to put astronauts on Mars by the 2030s could be a similarly unifying...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Ariel BogleFri, 12 Dec 2014 08:52:00 -0500The next mass extinction is coming. Can zoos save the world?<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Today, many zoos promote the protection of biodiversity as a significant part of their mission. As conservation "arks" for endangered species and, increasingly, as leaders in field conservation projects such as the reintroduction of captive-born animals to the wild, zoos are preparing to play an even more significant role in the effort to save species in this century.</p><p>It's a task that's never been more urgent. The recent Living Planet Index report authored by the World Wildlife Fund and the London Zoological Society paints a disturbing picture: Globally, on average, vertebrate species populations...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Ben A. MinteerThu, 11 Dec 2014 16:14:00 -05008 animal plagues wreaking havoc right now<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>When we talk about studying, controlling, or just plain worrying about pandemics, we usually think of our own, human diseases. But many other species face existential threats as well. In the wild and on the farm, through climate change, human agency, and other causes, deadly diseases and conditions are ravaging specific animal communities. Here are eight of the scariest diseases plaguing the animal kingdom today.</p><p><strong>Plague: White-nose syndrome</strong><br /><strong>Target: Bats</strong></p><p>This disease is named for the characteristic fuzzy white bloom found on the muzzles (as well as the wings and ears) of hibernating bats infected...</p> <a href="">More</a>By World Science Festival StaffWed, 10 Dec 2014 08:32:00 -0500A trip into bipolar brains<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>While people with Type I and the less-severe Type II bipolar disorder share some of the same symptoms, there are significant differences in the physical structure of their brains. Type I sufferers have somewhat smaller brain volume, researchers report in the <em>Journal of Affective Disorders</em>, while those with Type II appear to have less robust white matter.</p><p>As brain imaging technologies have advanced and matured over the past few decades, there's been considerable interest in understanding whether and how there are differences between the brains of people with mental illness and those without....</p> <a href="">More</a>By Nathan CollinsTue, 09 Dec 2014 09:17:00 -0500How to beat a polygraph<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Judging by Doug Williams' business website, it doesn't look like he thought he had anything to hide. On, Williams, a former officer with the Oklahoma City Police Department turned anti-polygraph activist, promises to teach you how to prepare for (read: beat) a polygraph test &mdash; through his how-to manual, DVD, and personal training sessions. He frames his pitch as selling to a very nervous truth-teller, rather than to a liar, writing on his site: "Remember, just telling the truth only works about 50 percent of the time &mdash; so to protect yourself from being falsely accused...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Lauren KirchnerMon, 08 Dec 2014 16:24:00 -05005 great scientists who never won a Nobel Prize<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>The Nobel Prizes can be as controversial as they are prestigious. It's very uncommon for a scientist to make a discovery entirely on his or her own: Researchers collaborate, compete, and construct new theories based on the work of others. Inevitably, choosing just up to three living scientists to take credit for a pivotal find means some researchers are, arguably, unfairly left out of the spotlight.</p><p>Some Nobel snubs were the product of personal grudges or general biases, particularly against women scientists. Others were matters of bad timing; Rosalind Franklin, whose work was essential to the...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Lillian Steenblik HwangMon, 08 Dec 2014 08:40:00 -0500The unexpected beauty of carbon nanotubes and graphene<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>The Conversation<br /></p><p>We all know engineering is useful, functional, even ingenious. But the engineering photography competition we hold each year provides us a chance to wander outside its merely utilitarian aspects into dimensions such as beauty, humor, and even humanity to find unexpected connections and poetic resonance.</p><p>As one of the judges, one quality I look for in the images is some added dimension, a richness, the capacity to trigger a cascade of unrelated ideas. Quite by accident this year a few of the photos shared an unplanned underwater theme.</p><p>The winner (above) appeared to be a starfish. There was...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Allan McRobieSat, 06 Dec 2014 12:00:00 -0500The sugary secrets of candy-making chemistry<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>There's a real art to making candy &mdash; and a lot of science, too. Even the simplest sugary treat is shaped by complex chemistry. Here's some of the inventive science that goes on behind the scenes of making some of your favorite sweet treats:</p><p ><br />(<em></em>)</p><p><strong>Atomic fireballs get their burn from the same stuff as hot peppers</strong></p><p>Atomic Fireballs take cinnamon flavors over the edge into mouth-searing spiciness. To add some heat to their sweets, the makers of Atomic Fireballs, the Ferrara Candy Company, add a bit of a chemical called capsaicin, a little molecule that also gives hot peppers their...</p> <a href="">More</a>By World Science Festival StaffFri, 05 Dec 2014 09:35:00 -0500