Can an Algorithm Help Solve Political Paralysis?

   Can an Algorithm Help Solve Political Paralysis? Dave Johnson refuses to eat fish farmed near Minneapolis. The retired construction worker, who lives in a rural area 150 miles north of the Twin Cities, claims “tourists’ garbage, salt runoff and fertilizer” make the metropolitan area’s farmed fish inedible. But for Johnson, the “divide between city … Read more

Earthquake Sounds Could Reveal How Quickly the Ocean Is Warming

   Earthquake Sounds Could Reveal How Quickly the Ocean Is Warming There may be a new way to take the oceans’ temperature: using sound. Like the atmosphere, they are warming because of climate change, and they have absorbed about 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases. This alteration contributes to sea-level rise, … Read more

Population Density Does Not Doom Cities to Pandemic Dangers

   Population Density Does Not Doom Cities to Pandemic Dangers In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, some U.S. leaders and pundits pointed to hard-hit cities such as New York, Milan and Wuhan as proof that population density was to blame for coronavirus hotspots. But simple density has not adequately predicted the disease’s course … Read more

Global Biodiversity Is in Free Fall

   Global Biodiversity Is in Free Fall Global efforts to address the steep, ongoing loss of biodiversity through a series of specified targets have failed, according to a dire assessment released by the United Nations today. The 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets were established under the U.N.’s Convention on Biological Diversity at a conference in Japan … Read more

How New Mexico Controlled the Spread of COVID-19

   How New Mexico Controlled the Spread of COVID-19 There is a joke in New Mexico that the rest of the country does not know the state is part of the U.S. This summer, as cases of COVID-19 surged in many parts of the nation, New Mexico really did seem to stand apart. While Arizona … Read more

Venus Might Host Life, New Discovery Suggests

   Venus Might Host Life, New Discovery Suggests There is something funky going on in the clouds of Venus. Telescopes have detected unusually high concentrations of the molecule phosphine—a stinky, flammable chemical typically associated with feces, farts and rotting microbial activity—in an atmospheric layer far above the planet’s scorching surface. The finding is curious because … Read more

Photos Show Massive Wildfires Devastating Oregon and California

   Photos Show Massive Wildfires Devastating Oregon and California From the Mexican border to the forests of Washington State, the West Coast is ablaze. Dozens of fires have roared to life across the western states, burning millions of acres of forest and grassland. California has borne the brunt of the onslaught, with more than 3.3 … Read more

Mail-Sorting Machines Are Crucial for the U.S. Postal Service

   Mail-Sorting Machines Are Crucial for the U.S. Postal Service This summer the American Postal Workers Union filed a grievance against the U.S. Postal Service over the agency’s plans to decommission 671 mail-sorting machines at facilities across the country. Although a few such machines are normally replaced each year because of wear and tear, this … Read more

Why Trump-Favoring Voters Ignored a Deadly Hurricane Warning

   Why Trump-Favoring Voters Ignored a Deadly Hurricane Warning People who live in the southern U.S. are used to evacuating when severe hurricanes are headed their way. Yet in the case of 2017’s Hurricane Irma—which was the costliest tropical cyclone ever to hit Florida and caused $50 billion in damages in the U.S.—the choice to … Read more

SpaceX’s Dark Satellites Are Still Too Bright for Astronomers

   SpaceX’s Dark Satellites Are Still Too Bright for Astronomers Starlink, a “megaconstellation” of hundreds of Internet satellites launched by the aerospace company SpaceX, has been causing headaches for astronomers by outshining celestial objects. Set to eventually include tens of thousands of spacecraft beaming high-speed Internet to the entire planet, Starlink has a downside for … Read more

Emotional Labor Is a Store Clerk Confronting a Maskless Customer

   Emotional Labor Is a Store Clerk Confronting a Maskless Customer Two men walked into a Trader Joe’s supermarket in Manhattan near closing time one day in July. When an employee asked them to put on masks, they allegedly proceeded to rip a mask from one worker’s face, hit another and pull the hair of … Read more

Blood and Silicon: New Electronics-Cooling System Mimics Human Capillaries

   Blood and Silicon: New Electronics-Cooling System Mimics Human Capillaries As electronics get steadily smaller and denser, they also get hotter. Their components do not function best at high temperatures, so dealing with the escalating heat that colliding electrons produce as they flow through the semiconductors in these shrinking items is a huge—and increasingly pressing—technological … Read more

First U.S. Small Nuclear Reactor Design Is Approved

   First U.S. Small Nuclear Reactor Design Is Approved The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved the design of a new kind of reactor, known as a small modular reactor (SMR). The design, from the Portland, Ore.–based company NuScale Power, is intended to speed construction, lower cost and improve safety over traditional nuclear reactors, … Read more

Smoking or Vaping May Increase the Risk of a Severe Coronavirus Infection

   Smoking or Vaping May Increase the Risk of a Severe Coronavirus Infection Editor’s Note (9/8/20): This article has been updated and republished in light of findings suggesting a higher rate of COVID-19 diagnoses among young adult e-cigarette users. Smoking or vaping could make you more vulnerable to a severe infection with the novel coronavirus, … Read more

Mountain Peaks Seem to Shape Personality Traits in the American West

   Mountain Peaks Seem to Shape Personality Traits in the American West The designation “mountain man” conjures an image of a rough, bearded, possibly grimy white man living ruggedly and adventurously amid trees, snow, deer and the occasional bear. Although most people who live in the U.S.’s mountain states today do not reflect this narrow, … Read more

Jupiter’s Ocean Moons Raise One Another’s Tides

   Jupiter’s Ocean Moons Raise One Another’s Tides Jupiter’s four largest moons may be conspiring to maintain their subsurface oceans. Long thought to arise from heat generated by the crust-flexing pull of Jupiter, these oceans may also owe their existence to immense subsurface tidal waves generated by gravitational interactions among the moons. Measuring such tides … Read more

Google’s Quantum Computer Achieves Chemistry Milestone

   Google’s Quantum Computer Achieves Chemistry Milestone When researchers at Google announced last fall that they had achieved “quantum superiority”—a point at which a quantum computer can perform a task beyond the reach of regular computers—some  people wondered what the big deal was. The program, which checked the output of a random number generator, was … Read more

How to Decide Who Should Get a COVID-19 Vaccine First

   How to Decide Who Should Get a COVID-19 Vaccine First If and when a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is available, what is the fairest way to distribute it? In a policy report published on Thursday in Science, 19 public health experts laid out an ethical framework called the Fair Priority Model. It is … Read more

Physicists Create City-Sized Ultrasecure Quantum Network

   Physicists Create City-Sized Ultrasecure Quantum Network Quantum cryptography promises a future in which computers communicate with one another over ultrasecure links using the razzle-dazzle of quantum physics. But scaling up the breakthroughs in research labs to networks with a large number of nodes has proved difficult. Now an international team of researchers has built … Read more

LIGO and Virgo Capture Their Most Massive Black Holes Yet

   LIGO and Virgo Capture Their Most Massive Black Holes Yet The alert caught Zsuzsanna Márka’s attention immediately. Whenever the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and its European counterpart Virgo detect a potential gravitational wave event, an automatic notice is quickly dispatched to members of the collaboration. Soon after receiving the notification for such … Read more

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