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The Last Soviet Citizen

Interesting reflection on the collapse of the USSR, from the vantage point of a cosmonaut who returned to a completely different world. After blasting off from Baikonur, Krikalev wouldn’t inhale earthly air for 312 days. In that time, the soft-spoken cosmonaut would watch his country crumble from 200 miles up. Presidents would change. His hometown of Leningrad would become St. Petersburg. And one communist superpower would splinter into 15 nations.…

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English Is the Language of Science. That Isn’t Always a Good Thing

English speakers tend to assume that all the important research is published in English. More than half of the non-English papers observed in this study had no English title, abstract or keywords, making them all but invisible to most scientists doing database searches in English. […] This problem is a two-way street Not only does the larger scientific community miss out on research published in non-English languages. But the dominance of…

Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins

Ancient cultures from Africa to Asia to the Mediterranean share core myths such as the animal pursued by a hunter who is transformed into a constellation, or a sculptor falling in love with a statute that comes to life, or a clever hunter outwitting a monster who keeps animals in a cave. This Scientific American article describes a method to trace the origin of stories through waves of human migration…

STEM Education Is Vital–But Not at the Expense of the Humanities

Promoting science and technology education to the exclusion of the humanities may seem like a good idea, but it is deeply misguided. Scientific American has always been an ardent supporter of teaching STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But studying the interaction of genes or engaging in a graduate-level project to develop software for self-driving cars should not edge out majoring in the classics or art history. The need to…

Why Are Babies So Dumb If Humans Are So Smart?

Fascinating theory. The hard work of raising helpless babies is part of the natural selection process that made us as a species so intelligent. Natural selection favors humans with large brains, because those humans tend to be smarter. This may create evolutionary incentives for babies that are born at an even earlier developmental stage, which require more intelligence to raise. This creates the dynamic: over time, helpless babies make parents…

NASA Just Found a Lost Spacecraft

If movies about space have taught us anything, it’s that no one can hear you scream. If you get lost in space, nobody’s going to find you. Unless you’re a spacecraft with a direct link to NASA. Then, there is hope for you yet. STEREO-B, from the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory mission, went missing on October 1, 2014 after losing contact with the team back on Earth. However, on Sunday…

U.S. Public Wary of Biomedical Technologies to ‘Enhance’ Human Abilities

Americans are more worried than enthusiastic about using gene editing, brain chip implants and synthetic blood to change human capabilities. Majorities of U.S. adults say they would be “very” or “somewhat” worried about gene editing (68%), brain chips (69%) and synthetic blood (63%), while no more than half say they would be enthusiastic about each of these developments. Some people say they would be both enthusiastic and worried, but, overall,…