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On the Cover

March-April 2008 Volume 96, Number 2

Although it's called a bean, coffee is actually the seed of a berry, usually with two housed per fruit. From humble origins in the Ethiopian region of Africa to the modern worldwide morning ritual of grinding and brewing, coffee's journey spans several centuries and was rife with misunderstanding and misrepresentation in early scientific illustration. ...


FEATURE ARTICLES

Bird Song and the Problem of Honest Communication *

William A. Searcy, Stephen Nowicki

How is the honesty of animal signals maintained when exaggeration and bluff are so tempting?


Safer Vehicles for People and the Planet

Thomas P. Wenzel, Marc Ross

Motor vehicles contribute to climate change and petroleum dependence. Improving their fuel economy by making them lighter need not compromise safety


Tectonic Plates Come Apart at the Seams *

J. Brendan Murphy, Gabriel Gutiérrez-Alonso, R. Damian Nance, Javier Fernández-Suárez, J. Duncan Keppie, Cecilio Quesada, Rob A. Strachan, Jaroslav Dostal

The scars of ancient collisions are the very places where continents rip again


The Rise of Coffee

Fernando E. Vega

From humble origins in Africa, this plant's flavorful seeds started as a botanical curiosity and expanded to a worldwide staple


Mesa Verde Migrations *

Timothy A. Kohler, Mark D. Varien, Aaron Wright, Kristin A. Kuckelman

New archaeological research and computer simulation suggest why Ancestral Puebloans deserted the northern Southwest United States


* access restricted to members and subscribers


SCIENTISTS’ BOOKSHELF

Nature's Awful Beauty

J. Scott Turner

A review of Built by Animals: The Natural History of Animal Architecture, by Mike Hansell. After surveying which animals build things and which do not, Hansell explores several interesting themes, including the role that appreciation of craft and beauty might have played in the evolution of these behaviors

See all book reviews for this issue.


DEPARTMENTS

COMPUTING SCIENCE

Computational Photography

New cameras don't just capture photons; they compute pictures

Brian Hayes

SIGHTINGS

Informed Decisions

Frankel explores the process of visualizing ideas and structures, which she calls "transformative"

Felice Frankel

MARGINALIA

For a Few Atoms More

When the game becomes less of a game

Roald Hoffmann

ENGINEERING

Thomas Telford*

One of Great Britain's foremost engineers built both to carry water and to cross it

Henry Petroski

SCIENCE OBSERVER

Edison's Final Revenge

The system of DC power generation and local distribution that the great inventor championed is set for a comeback

David Schneider

In the Zone

A new method promises to reveal extrasolar planets orbiting in their suns' habitable zones

Katherine J. Mack

Bioplastics Boom

From the dizzying array of new plant-based plastics, some innovative winners emerge

Anna Lena Phillips

Touching the Listener

Stretching people's facial skin can bias what words they hear

Fenella Saunders

In the News

LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

Whence Larvae

SIGMA XI TODAY (PDF)


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