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From Balloons to Space Stations: Studying Cosmic Rays

Katie-Leigh Corder, Fenella Saunders

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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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Compounds Treat Substance Abuse and Parkinson's Disease

Katie L. Burke, Katie-Leigh Corder

CarrollPodcastF. Ivy Carroll is a distinguished fellow for medicinal chemistry at the Research Triangle Institute, where he is the director of their Center for Organic and Medicinal Chemistry. Carroll has spent more than 30 years studying potential treatments for substance abuse. Among them are two compounds, RTI-336 and JDTic, that he and colleagues studied as potential treatments for cocaine abuse, as well as a potential diagnostic agent for Parkinson’s disease, called Iodine-123 RTI-55.

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From Biology to Military History: Patterns in Animal Weaponry

Katie-Leigh Corder, Katie L. Burke, Sandra J. Ackerman

EmlenBookCoverWhat are the parallels between an ancient war ship and a dung beetle? More than you would think, actually! Douglas J. Emlen, PhD, a professor in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Montana, has a unique perspective on animal weaponry.

When he started to examine how humans engaged in warfare throughout time, Dr. Emlen discovered a consistent pattern that connects all the way back to animal weaponry. The pattern is so striking that he has made it the focus of his new book, Animal Weaponry: The Evolution of Battle.

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Through the Theoretical Glass

Katie L. Burke


It’s difficult to envision what dimensions beyond 3D are, and why physicists, chemists, and mathematicians want to study them. Duke University chemist Patrick Charbonneau studies the theory behind the formation of glass, tackling questions about an area of research called the glass problem. His research has helped progress this field to a new paradigm. American Scientist associate editor Katie L. Burke interviewed him in September 2013.

Photo credit: Les Todd/Duke Photography.

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Revealing the Logic Behind Candy Crush

Katie-Leigh Corder, Fenella Saunders, Toby Walsh

2014-11WalshF2.jpgClick to Enlarge Image In this animation, Candy Crush is turned into a model electrical circuit, which can be used to structure the equivalent of a logic puzzle. Besides justifying Candy Crush addictions, this information could be used to harness the player power of this game for bigger concerns, including computer security. Watch the behind-the-scenes movements and how it is truly a logic puzzle.

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Hydrangea Colors: It’s All in the Soil

Katie-Leigh Corder, Fenella Saunders, Henry Schreiber

The Hydrangea macrophylla (big-leafed hydrangea) plant is the only known plant that can 'detect' the pH level in HydrangeaAnimationsurrounding soil!

One of the world’s most popular ornamental flowers, it conceals a bouquet of biological and biochemical surprises.  The iconic “snowball” shaped hydrangea blooms are a common staple of backyard gardens.

Hydrangea colors ultimately depend on the availability of aluminum ions(Al3+) within the soil.

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Citizen Scientists Aid Researchers in Studying Camel Crickets

Katie-Leigh Corder

MJEpps CricketsThey may bounce really high and look strange, but don't worry, they are harmless...they even scavenge for crumbs off of your floor! A continental-scale citizen science campaign was launched in order to study the spread and frequency of native and nonnative camel crickets in human homes across North America.

Mary Jane Epps, PhD, an author of the paper, went into more detail about the study and significance of citizen scientists in an interview with Katie-Leigh Corder, web managing editor.

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VIDEO: How Hair Ice Grows

In 2013, American Scientist featured an article on odd ice formations on plant stems, including these curling ribbons of ice. One of the types of ice discussed in the article was hair ice—long, thin strands of ice that grow under quite specific conditions. The only problem is that a new study shows the theory put forth at the time—that gas pressure pushes the water out—isn’t correct... (click the link above to read more).

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