See below for exciting content in the May-June 2014 issue of
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In this issue of
American Scientist Update:
• On the Trail of the First Placental Mammals
• The Hidden Past of Invisible Ink
• The Fine Art of Decay
• War and Redemption in Gorongosa
On the Trail of the First Placental Mammals
Phenomic, genomic, and fossil evidence support the scientific account of how these animals exploded in diversity.
The traits related to gestation in mammals can show great variation, from the human placenta to the pouch of a kangaroo to the eggs of a platypus. At what point in evolution did our own subgroup of mammals begin to develop a placenta? Anatomist and paleontologist Maureen A. O’Leary describes the vast amount of information and software researchers use to uncover answers to such questions.
The Hidden Past of Invisible Ink
Secret writing has a long-forgotten past in stage magic and science demonstrations.
Although usually associated with international espionage, invisible ink can be traced to a rise in popular science in the 18th century, often in stage magic. Since then, the uses of invisible ink have shifted in intriguing ways. Science historian Kristie Macrakis uncovers the history and describes the chemistry behind invisible ink.
The Fine Art of Decay
A woodworker becomes a scientist by seeking out the perfect fungal pigments.
Scientist and woodworker Sara C. Robinson details her colorful journey from artist to scientist. Transforming the fungi in wood decay into masterful works of art ultimately led to her research into fungal biology. She not only gives her personal account, but also touches on the larger picture of woodworking history and wood science.
War and Redemption in Gorongosa
Mozambique's astonishingly diverse national park is recovering from devastating conflicts, with the aid of some tiny helpers.
In this personal account, renowned entomologist Edward O. Wilson describes the recovery of one of Africa’s most diverse wildlife reserves after years of civil war, as well as his suggestions for continuing to mend Gorongosa National Park’s ecosystems and for preserving wildlife around the world.
A detailed look into the vessel that carried Darwin on his famous voyage.
American Scientist revisits a classic 1975 article by natural history professor Keith Stewart Thomson about the H.M.S. Beagle, the ship that carried Charles Darwin on his voyage to the Galapagos Islands. This story is updated with new findings that have emerged since its original publication, and includes a look at a current project to reconstruct the Beagle.
associate editor Katie L. Burke talks about an invasive pest that threatens America’s orange groves and how early detection and genetic engineering may be the solution. Also, Matthew DeLisa tells senior editor Sandra J. Ackerman how he and his team at Cornell University developed a new form of antibody called a “ubiquibody” and what that discovery could mean.
column, Kevin Heng discusses scientific proof in the age of simulations. Computer models help scientists predict what they cannot otherwise see. What are the challenges and benefits to using this means of establishing scientific truth?
column, Scott Aaronson talks about the elusiveness of randomness and the impacts of numbers with no patterns on quantum mechanics, as well as on the stock market and data security.
column by Catherine Clabby dives down to imperiled coral reefs with a newly designed digital global survey. Underwater Earth developed a large and growing visual catalog of the world’s shallow reefs at a scale and resolution never before attempted.
column, Henry Petroski discusses the rise and fall of the common pocket protector. The goal of the pocket protector’s design is to keep shirts clean and tools handy for scientists and engineers alike. Although this invention has socially declined in the past, it is now rebounding as a symbol of nerd pride.
column, Brian Hayes describes how computer programs are being built with human perceptual skills such as seeing, hearing, and maybe even dreaming. Exposing these neural networks to different examples, such as the steps in identifying an individual’s face, trains them, allowing them to learn the techniques themselves.
column, neurologist Stephen D. Silberstein explores how the human mind experiences migraines and the interesting, mysterious artwork created by people suffering from the condition. These visual depictions of auras offer a peek into the sensory chaos.
section, you will find reviews of books about the evolution and future of human reproduction, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and its impacts on sea life, and the secret language of color, which may be said to exist only through the viewer’s perception of it.
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