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The Pandemic Shows Why America Must Invest in Public Research

In the weeks to come, we’re about to relearn that old truth: necessity is the mother of invention. Researchers will work around-the-clock because of the world’s need for a cure for COVID-19. But it’s worth keeping a corollary thought in all of our minds: necessity may be the mother of invention, but curiosity and imagination […]

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Why Do White Men and Scientists Tend to Downplay the Risks of Technology?

Scientific American April 2020 The naive answer is that white men and scientists are coldly rational—but that’s not the whole story Scientists often complain that people are irrational in their opposition to technologies such as nuclear power and genetically modified (GM) crops. From a statistical perspective, these are very safe, and so (it is argued) […]

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Life as We Don’t Know It

In 1985, when I was a baby journalist writing my first college newspaper story, I covered a symposium at Harvard inaugurating the Megachannel Extraterrestrial Assay (META), a computer system designed by physicist Paul Horowitz to sift through millions of narrow radio channels for signals from other civilizations. Carl Sagan was on hand that weekend to […]

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The Problem with Telling Children They’re Better Than Others

When parents ask, “What grade did you get?” there is a common follow-up question: “So who got the highest grade?” The practice of making such social comparisons is popular in all corners of the world, research shows. Many educators select and publicly announce the “best student” in a class or school. Adults praise children for […]

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Coronavirus Can Infect Cats – Scientific American

The COVID-19 pandemic has a lot of people stuck at home with their cats. Which raises some obvious questions: can cats catch the new coronavirus from their owners? Can cats spread the disease to each other? And can people get infected by their cats? Scientists have been so busy studying human-to-human transmission of the virus […]

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Inside the Global Race to Fight COVID-19 Using the World’s Fastest Supercomputers

As the director of a global research organization, I feel obligated to use all the resources of cutting-edge science and technology at our disposal to fight this scourge. As a father, I want a lasting solution, one that serves not just in this crisis, but the next. And, as an American and a Spaniard, with […]

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5 Ways the Economic Upheaval of Coronavirus May Impact CO2 Emissions

Recessions are often accompanied by a drop in carbon dioxide emissions. Then comes the rebound. In 2009, the Great Recession pushed global emissions down almost 1%. The next year CO2 levels rose by roughly 5%, as governments around the world enacted stimulus measures to prop up their economies. The economic devastation wrought by the novel […]

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Why Social Media Is Crucial for Frontline Physicians in the Fight against COVID-19

The first wave of patients in Brooklyn were what we call the worried well, who arrived at the emergency room with cough, fever and flulike symptoms, concerned they had coronavirus. We would perform a nasal swab, or not, depending on whether we had COVID-19 tests available that day, and send them home with isolation precautions […]

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Congress Needs More Scientific Expertise to Fight COVID-19

As lawmakers in the United States turn their focus to fighting the scourge of COVID-19, they will need to come up to speed quickly on the science behind the virus that causes it; the ongoing challenges around testing; and the dynamics of spread. That is going to be difficult, because lawmakers and their staff tend […]

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COVID-19 Shutdown May Obscure Mysteries of Cracked Interstellar Comet

About four months ago, in December 2019, the interstellar comet known as 2I/Borisov made its closest approach to our sun. After its initial discovery by Crimean amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov in August 2019, astronomers raced to observe the object—only the second known visitor from another star since the asteroidlike ‘Oumuamua in 2017—before it drifted out […]