American Scientist

Articles from Vol. 101, No. 6, November/December

Even Birdbrains Learn from Experience
Cockatoos open a complex series of locks to achieve a distant goal.Figaro was only a birdbrain: a captive cockatoo (Cacatúa goffini). But when Alice Auersperg, cognitive biologist at the University of Vienna, spied him wielding 10 tools he had spontaneously...
Evolution's Other Narrative
Why science would benefit from a symbiosis-driven history of spéciation.During a recent meal with a friend who happens to be a successful engineer, I found myself drawn, as usual, into debate. Although our theological and political views diverge, he...
Extinction Spillover
Mammalian carnivore declines can affect public health.When the American black-footed ferret nearly went extinct in the 1970s, it did not go down alone. Largely unnoticed, the parasites that live off the ferret found themselves deprived of a key host....
Falling through the Screen
Vintage literature for children reveals the authors'prescient hopes and fears about digital technology.As a kid in the 1980s, I spent hours playing the computer game Oregon Trail on a friend's computer, which displayed only bright green characters on...
From the President
let's Blog!Dr. John Marburger, Science Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from 2001 to 2009, was a member and a great fan of Sigma Xi. One role he thought especially promising for Sigma Xi was...
Gridding Gotham
Gridding Gotham THE MEASURE OF MANHATTAN: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor. Marguerite Holloway, xii + 372 pp. W. W. Norton, 2013. $26.95 cloth, $16.95 paper.John Randel Jr.'s farm maps...
How to Best the Beast Within
How to Best the Beast Within THE BOOK OF BARELY IMAGINED BEINGS: A 21st Century Bestiary. Caspar Henderson. xix + 427 pp. The University of Chicago Press, 2013. $29.00 cloth, $18.00 e-book.Caspar Henderson experienced his epiphany while reading Argentine...
In the News
In this roundup, Katie Burke summarizes notable recent items about scientific research, selected from news reports compiled in the free electronic newsletter Sigma Xi SmartBrief. Online: https://www.smartbrief.com/ sigmaxi/index.jspWater under Moon's...
Kathryn D. Sullivan Nominated to Lead NOAA
We are pleased to announce that on August 1, Sigma Xi Sustaining Member Kathryn D. Sullivan (SX 1989) was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administrator and undersecretary of commerce...
Letters
Stellar MoleculesTo the Editors:I enjoyed Roald Hoffmann's Marginalia. column "The Thermodynamic Sinks of this World" in your July-August issue. It was a different take on abiogenesis- the origin of life-and the far-fromequilibrium state in which we...
Meet Your Fellow Companion: Craig Streu
Dr. Craig Streu is an assistant professor of biochemistry at St Mary's College of Maryland and the former recipient of a National Institute of Health fellowship in biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. His interdisciplinary work...
One Family's Search to Explain a Fatal Neurological Disorder
With their help, researchers are advancing the 70-year effort to understand-and treat-hereditary ataxia.Ten-year-old Henry Schut noticed that his father was having increasing difficulties with his daily chores on their farm in rural Minnesota in the...
On the Trail of Monster Black Holes
Collapsed objects weighing millions or billions of times as much as the Sun lie at the heart of nearly all galaxies. New images are finally stripping the mystery from these spheres of warped space.Across the universe there are trillions of black holes-objects...
Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients
We are excited to announce that three of this year's 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom are Sigma Xi Members. The year 2013 also marked the 50th anniversary of this award, first instituted by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, as the...
Sigma XI Distinguished Lecturers Series
One of the most outstanding and timeless programs in Sigma Xi's 126-year history has been the Distinguished Lecturers Series. Our participants for the 2013-2014 year are no less exceptional, and it is our sincere hope that you and your chapter or institution...
Slipping Past Cancer's Barriers
Targeted capsules can find the disease even when it hides in biological bunkers.Long gone are the days when cancer was believed to be a single disease, perhaps with varied manifestations in different body organs but otherwise fundamentally the same....
The Great Unknown
It's perhaps not surprising that science fiction often compares the exploration of outer space to seafaring. Both space and the oceans are deep, vast domains impenetrable to the naked eye and hostile to human survival-dark, frigid expanses of seemingly...
The Organ of Reality
The Organ of Reality TOUCHING A NERVE: The Self as Brain. Patricia S. Churchland. 304 pp. W. W. Norton, 2013. $26.95.We are what we are because our brains are what they are. That connection between self and brain-obvious yet endlessly elusive-lies at...
The Robot Ocean Network
Automated underwater vehicles go where people cannot, filling in crucial details about weather, ecosystems, and Earth's changing climate.In the frigid waters off Antarctica, a team of our colleagues deploy a waterborne robot and conduct final wireless...
The Science of Seaweeds
Marine macroalgae benefit people culturally, industrially, nutritionally, and ecologically.Macroalgae are, loosely speaking, those that can be seen with the naked eye. Most of them are classified as benthic, which is to say that they fasten themselves...
The Secret "Seaweed People" of London's Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is located in South Kensington, a fashionable area of London, just a short walk from Harrods department store. One approaches the building, which is set above street level and is accessed by an imposing staircase leading to...
Ultimate Resolution
Imaging specialists such as Richard Parton at the University of Oxford are breaking through the diffraction limit to get a better view of biology.Until recently the resolution of optical microscopy was limited by something considered insurmountable:...
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