Artificial Symbiosis, Ultrasound Treatments, Photoshopping the Universe, and More!
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American Scientist Update
Vol. 14 Issue 1 (January–February 2017)

In this issue of American Scientist Update

  • Blood, Guts, and Hope
  • The Prospects of Artificial Endosymbioses
  • Photoshopping the Universe
  • Ending the Crisis of Complacency in Science
  • Multimedia: Cancer Chemotherapy During Pregnancy; A New Form of Combustion
  • Books: Analysis of disasters, two views of the game Tetris

— and much more!


Blood, Guts, and Hope
Carl M. Schoellhammer, Robert Langer, C. Giovanni Traverso

Nearly 60,000 individuals each year are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, a chronic illness that affects almost 2 million individuals in the United States alone. Treatment of gastrointestinal tissue with ultrasound makes it more permeable to medications that can alleviate the disease.

The Prospects of Artificial Endosymbioses
Ryan Kerney, Zakiya Whatley, Sarah Rivera, David Hewitt

The use of beneficial microbes holds promise for public health and food production, but it has trade-offs that are not yet fully understood. Many marine invertebrates, such as this hydra, have coevolved with endosymbiotic algae that produce food for the host. As biologists better understand these relationships, the potential grows for moving endosymbionts between organisms to transfer or establish their benefits in a new association.

Photoshopping the Universe
Travis A. Rector, Kimberly Arcand, Megan Watzke

Astronomers produce beautiful images by manipulating raw telescope data. Such processing actually makes images more accurate, not misrepresentative of reality. For example, Pulsar B1509-58 was imaged using x-rays from Chandra (gold) and infrared from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (red and blue). Color choices for nonvisible wavelengths can be simply a matter of astronomers’ aesthetic preferences.


More science stories

Science Communication: Ending the Crisis of Complacency in Science
Matthew Nisbet
As president-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office, the scientific community faces the likelihood not only of unprecedented cuts in government funding for research, but also of bold new attacks on scientific expertise as a basis for policy making and decisions. To survive the Trump administration, scientists need to invest in a strategic vision that mobilizes social change.

Perspective: The Hand-in-Hand Spread of Mistrust and Misinformation in Flint
Siddhartha Roy
In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, countless Americans are asking: Can I trust my tap water? The water crisis not only left infrastructure and government agencies in need of cleaning up; the information landscape was also messy.

Spotlight: Neanderthals Reenvisioned
Sandra J. Ackerman
The public image of Neanderthals as low-browed, hulking brutes is due for a makeover. New techniques for determining the age of fossils and sediments are providing insights into human origins.

Spotlight: First Person: M. V. Ramana
Fenella Saunders
Since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011, the nuclear power industry has been in the spotlight worldwide. In this Q&A, physicist M. V. Ramana discusses the future prospects of nuclear power.

Engineering: Setbacks and Prospects for Autonomous Vehicles
Henry Petroski
In 2015, the future of self-driving, or autonomous, vehicles looked bright and virtually within reach. Self-driving cars seemed ready to keep going ahead, but some recent incidents have slowed their development.

Infographic: Moon Clock
The “2017 o’clock” Moon calendar is graphic designer Michael Paukner's visualization of the yearly calendar using inspiration from astronomy. The graphic depicts the year’s 52 weeks and 365 days on a clockwise annual trip around the Sun and shows the dates when the Moon is new, in its first quarter, in its second quarter, and full.

Sightings: Now In Color
Robert Frederick
Even though they are far smaller than the shortest wavelength of visible light, tiny biological objects can finally be imaged in multiple hues. Here, false colors reveal better than ever before the internal structure of two endosomes of a eukaryotic cell.

From the Editor: Science in the Post-Truth Era
Jamie L. Vernon
The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States represents a sea change for the scientific enterprise. Generally speaking, the aims of scientists and the public would appear to be compatible. And yet scientists are facing marginalization and suppression from incoming leadership. So what’s going on?



Podcast with Kembra Howdeshell of the U.S. National Toxicology Program, who led a team in consolidating data from a wide range of studies of pregnant patients who underwent chemotherapy as part of their cancer treatment. Pregnant women rarely get cancer. But when they do, they face tough choices for how to treat it. That’s because chemotherapy can affect the development of their fetus, especially if it is administered during the first trimester.

Podcast with Elaine Oran of the University of Maryland on a new form of combustion. Humankind has harnessed fire for millennia, so we’ve had plenty of time to burn things up, or burn things down. But the discovery of the blue whirl—an intense form of fire whirl, or “firenado” as they're known colloquially—only came about recently.


Scientists’ Nightstand
Daniel P. Aldrich, Jesse Schell
Our latest book reviews discuss the distinction between human-caused and natural disasters as well as the extent to which they are foreseeable (Love Canal and The Cure for Catastrophe), and the complex story behind the pioneering game Tetris, spanning the worlds of technology, psychology, entertainment, politics, and business (The Tetris Effect and Tetris).


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