By Yisong Yue | October 15th 2009 08:27 PM | Print | E-mail
Computers pound users over the head with countless options, enormous amounts of data, and small query boxes that turn keyword searches into ten lousy results. But computers are powerful; shouldn't they be able to tell us only what we need or want to know?
By Zuleikha Kurji | October 15th 2009 05:02 PM | Print | E-mail
Most people think that nearsightedness and farsightedness can be easily diagnosed, measured and corrected. All you need is an optometrist, an eye test and then a pair of glasses, right? But what if there were only one optometrist for every million people in your country? What if that optometrist was located in the city, and you lived in the countryside? What if a pair of glasses cost as much as you earned in two months?
By Jamil Zaki | October 15th 2009 04:01 PM | Print | E-mail
A few years ago, the artist Wafaa Bilal decided to see how many people, given the chance, would shoot him.  He rigged a paintball gun and web camera so that people could log on to his website, chat with him online, and—if they wished to—aim and fire at Bilal from anywhere in the world. He then shut himself and the whirring, rotating gun in a room for 30 days.  Over the course of the month, people from around the world began shooting, and then kept on shooting, with increasing enthusiasm as time went on.  By the experiment’s end, Bilal had been shot at 60,000 times. 
By Holly Moeller | October 15th 2009 03:38 PM | Print | E-mail
Ever surrendered an argument because it wasn’t that important to you? Put down a book because it wasn't worth the time? Debated donating to a nonprofit group but found better uses for the money? Every day, we make small-scale personal-value decisions that take little time and seem of little significance. But these small choices trickle up in a big way, setting the trends for how legislators handle (or ignore) major decisions about the environment.
By Robert Cooper | October 15th 2009 02:28 PM | Print | E-mail
Recently, during the much-needed period of recovery and imbibing after a long day of talks at a scientific conference, I found myself in the midst of a friendly – if only slightly heated – debate over climate science.  Two aspects of this realization surprised me greatly.  First, the conference had nothing whatsoever to do with climate change.  Second, my verbal adversary who seemed to be denying the science so thoroughly laid out in the IPCC reports, was a fellow scientist whom I would have thought able to see where the science was clearly pointing.  Intrigued and always up for a good debate, I dove in eager to learn what thought processes could have led him to dou
By Robert Cooper | October 15th 2009 02:27 PM | Print | E-mail
    Recently, during the much-needed period of recovery and imbibing after a long day of talks at a scientific conference, I found myself in the midst of a friendly – if only slightly heated – debate over climate science.  Two aspects of this realization surprised me greatly.  First, the conference had nothing whatsoever to do with climate change.  Second, my verbal adversary who seemed to be denying the science so thoroughly laid out in the IPCC reports, was a fellow scientist whom I would have thought able to see where the science was clearly pointing.  Intrigued and always up for a good debate, I dove in eager to learn what thou
By Dan Gillick | October 15th 2009 12:20 PM | Print | E-mail
My fourth grade teacher Mr. Davids was best known for an exercise called “peanut butter and jelly”. He would arrange the customary tools and ingredients on his desk, assume a strangely convincing joints-locked robotic stance, do this funny thing with his eyebrows, and await our instructions. “Spread the peanut butter on the bread.” Robot Davids rubbed the jar of peanut butter across the loaf of bread. Laughter. “Get the peanut butter out first!” Robot Davids plunged his hand into the jar. More Laughter. After half an hour, the desk was strewn with mangled sandwiches and Mr. Davids was unusually sticky.
By Evans Boney | October 15th 2009 08:18 AM | Print | E-mail

I've heard the complaint from time to time that science just isn't what it used to be.  The good old days were full of scientists with an incredible ability to innovate that just isn't matched anymore.  People have become lazier with the advent of computers.  Where are the out of the box theories?  Where are the crazy experiments advancing science in leaps and bounds? 

While I've heard some of that from my fellow graduate students, who may just idolize some of their favorite experimenters, it's a concern echoed by the general public.  As people hear less and less about science from the mainstream media, our research is derided more and more publicly as wasteful spending (everything from Palin's dismissal of fruit fly
By Sonia Buckley | October 15th 2009 02:16 AM | Print | E-mail
I recently went home to visit my family in Limerick, Ireland. I had the usual slog through New York, JFK on the way to Shannon airport, where I was met by my parents. On the ride home from the airport, I was surprised to discover that my father’s driving style had changed markedly. He was slowing down to a crawl before traffic lights, and leaving huge gaps in front of him in traffic. I was worried.

It turned out however, to be another of my father’s little ideas. Call it a new hobby. He is turning our 1990 Mercedes-Benz (with one cylinder misfiring) into a hybrid vehicle.
By Noel Benedetti | October 14th 2009 02:31 PM | Print | E-mail
Caped superheroes in spandex underwear are hard to take seriously. So are flying amorphous monsters and cyborg aliens sent from the future. However, all of this is fair game in the realm of the comic book.

It may come as no surprise, then, that comic books have been branded as children’s play, largely due to their fantastic content. Although there was a slight movement to embrace comics in the 1940s, academics have largely turned their collective nose up at the idea of studying comics. Today, however, social scientists are beginning to realize the wealth of information stored in these pictorial narratives.