American Scientist Update, Vol. 11 No. 1

In this issue of American Scientist Update:

• The Dilemma of Space Debris
• Flights of Fancy in Avian Evolution
• How to Fight Back Against Antibiotic Resistance
• The Visual Trickery of Obscured Animals
• Ocean Acidification: The Other Climate Change Issue

See below for more about the exciting content in the January 2014 American Scientist.

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The Dilemma of Space Debris

Accidents could happen no matter what we do.
Hundreds of thousands of bits of junk circle the Earth, posing a deadly risk for astronauts and satellites alike. In this feature article, David Finkleman writes about the junk's origins, possible solutions for managing or removing it, and asks the remaining questions to keep space debris from becoming an ever more costly and disruptive problem.

Flights of Fancy in Avian Evolution

There has been a remarkable diversity of avian species over the past 150 million years.
Take a tour through the fascinating fossil record of avian evolution. In this photoessay, Daniel T. Ksepka highlights some notable and wacky birds of the past, along with the birds that diversified into the common forms we see today.

How to Fight Back Against Antibiotic Resistance

Mapping gene transfer in pathogens can help manage drug-resistant strains.
Faster than pharmaceutical companies can develop new drugs, bacterial pathogens develop resistance to them. As a result, treatment options dwindle and mortality rates rise. In this feature article, Gautam Dantas and Morten O. A. Sommer argue that the key to keeping ahead of pathogenic disease requires further research into the resistome—the set of genes that turn a bacteria into a superbug.

The Visual Trickery of Obscured Animals

Stripes and splotches of concealing coloration provide a crucial edge in survival.
Camouflage works because certain patterns and colors promote concealment throughout the animal kingdom. In this feature article, Judy Diamond and Alan B. Bond discuss the clever experiments that helped us understand camouflage as an evolutionary, psychological, and physiological phenomenon.

Ocean Acidification: The Other Climate Change Issue

Atmospheric carbon dioxide reacting with coastal water threatens marine life.
Among the most vulnerable creatures to the delicate balance of chemistry in our oceans, populations of the tiniest animals are waning because of ocean acidification. In this feature article, Ashanti Johnson and Natasha White review the causes and discuss the effects of ocean acidification, particularly to our food web.

Also:

In our debut Spotlight column, American Scientist associate editor Katie Burke asks whose responsibility is it to curate aging scientific data sets. In a Q&A, chemist Yi Lu discusses his innovative use of DNA for sensing and cryptography applications with American Scientist managing editor Fenella Saunders.

Physicist Tony Rothman launches our Perspectives column by entreating readers to remember that what we now consider mundane—such as turning on a light switch—was once a revelation, so in looking to pursue the next great adventure in science, follow your curiosity.

In our Engineering column, Henry Petroski reflects on the material culture of scholarship and the shift from physical to digital as bookshelves, offices, and libraries shrink physically but expand digitally.

This issue’s Sightings column tells the story of an interdisciplinary quest that led to a new way to look at the world:  Through the creation of a laser-based ablation imaging technique, researchers at Penn State are capturing more detail than a computerized tomography (CT) scan.

In ourComputing Science column, Brian Hayes discusses the ahead-of-the-art quantum-computer languages developed even before there is a quantum computer on which to code.

In ourArts Lab column, Robert Louis Chianese asks if nature photography is too beautiful, and suggests a "truth in labeling" effort would bring photographic arts more in line with ecological science.

In our Scientists’ Nightstand section, you’ll find brief reviews of books on topics including an astronaut's guide to life on Earth, thinking like Sherlock Holmes, and passion for mathematics.

Sign up for the Scientists’ Nightstand eNewsletter to receive an email listing noteworthy reviews of books about science and mathematics from a variety of venues, as well as other news from the world of science books.


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