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What's Not to Like About Butterflies?

Katie L. Burke

2015-05SpotlightBurkeF1.jpgClick to Enlarge Image A snippet of conversation as associate editor Katie L. Burke interviews Erik Aschehoug about what finds compelling and what others may find compelling about his work to conserve the rare, cryptic butterfly called the Saint Francis satyr. Photo at right by Daisy Aschehoug.

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And Then They Were Gone: Egypt’s Disappearing Wildlife

Katie-Leigh Corder, Tom Dunne, Katie L. Burke

YeakelAnimationUsing fossils and depictions in ancient art, Justin Yeakel and his colleagues reconstructed the food web of larger-bodies mammals over the past 11,000 years. As the climate became more arid and human population densities increased, the mammalian food web of Egypt lost its redundancy as more animals became locally extinct. Most notably, midsized herbivores—such as gazelles and antelope that link to the most carnivores—declined.

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Expanding with the Cosmos

Katie-Leigh Corder, Fenella Saunders, Corey S. Powell

KosowskyImage1Click to Enlarge Image

Using the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ATC), a 6.5-meter microwave collector in Chile, cosmologists are piecing together the early history of the known universe. In an exclusive American Scientist interview, Arthur Kosowsky—a member of the ATC team and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh—discusses how he is using ATC to reach back in time billions of years to search for gravitational waves that could verify inflation and reveal unprecedented details about how the cosmos was born.

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Exploring Beneath a Painting's Surface

Katie-Leigh Corder, Katie L. Burke

FischerImage2Click to Enlarge ImageUsing laser technology called nonlinear pump-probe microscopy, Fischer and his team can study the pigments and layers to help determine, for example, the age of historic paintings. Such analysis reveals the artist’s techniques and further information about the artwork. By crossing the threshold into the art world, Fischer and his team can expand their research into new fields and assist a broader section of society in unique and scientific ways.

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The Many Personalities of Animals

Katie-Leigh Corder, Fenella Saunders

AndySih

Have you ever wondered whether animals have personalities the way people do? Dr. Andy Sih, a professor of ecology at the University of California, Davis, researches animal personalities and shows that traits, such as an individual’s level of aggressiveness versus passivity, can impact an individual’s survival as well as the well-being of its surrounding group. Dr. Sih's work on insects even has implications for understanding how human behaviors are controlled by personality.

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The Promise and Peril of Drones

Katie-Leigh Corder, Katie L. Burke

CummingsDrones

The automation of tasks at work and at home is just around the corner, including driving cars, piloting planes, delivering packages, and transporting weapons. Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, are rapidly evolving to meet both society’s and the military’s needs in automation and better efficiency.

Dr. Missy Cummings, an associate professor at Duke University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and the director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab, is at the forefront of drone technologies. During her time as one of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy, Cummings observed that computers could take off and land a plane more precisely than humans. Because of this breakthrough and her fascination with this growing technology, she made a career change and began human–drone interaction research.


Photo from Duke University's Human and Autonomy Lab: hal.pratt.duke.edu/people

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From Balloons to Space Stations: Studying Cosmic Rays

Katie-Leigh Corder, Fenella Saunders

CREAM Inflating

Cosmic rays have mysterious qualities about them that scientists continue to research in order to better understand their origins and composition. Dr. Eun-Suk Seo, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, and her colleagues, fly enormous balloons as large as a football stadium and a volume of 40-million-cubic feet for extended periods over Antarctica to reach as close to the top of the atmosphere as possible. The instruments in the balloons can then record the particles coming from cosmic rays before they break up in the atmosphere. Dr. Seo further explains how her work can help humans understand the origins of cosmic rays and why they are so highly energetic.

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Behind the Porpoise's Echolocation

Katie-Leigh Corder, Lee Miller, Fenella Saunders, Jamie L. Vernon, Magnus Wahlberg

2015-01WahlbergF1.jpgClick to Enlarge ImagePorpoises navigate through their environment, find prey, and avoid potential dangers with biological sonar, or echolocation clicks. These clicks are one of the most high-pitched signals produced by any animal. The time between the released clicks and the returning echo tells the porpoise the distance and location of the nearby object. If this object is prey, the porpoise will close in on it. The closer the porpoise gets the more clicks it will release. The click rate increases to several hundred clicks-per-second right as the prey is captured.

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PODCASTS: Expanding With the Cosmos

Using the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ATC), a 6.5-meter microwave collector in Chile, cosmologists are piecing together the early history of the known universe. In an exclusive American Scientist interview, Arthur Kosowsky—a member of the ATC team and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh—discusses how he is using ATC to reach back in time billions of years to search for gravitational waves that could verify inflation and reveal unprecedented details about how the cosmos was born.

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