Scientific American

New Revelations about the Biodiversity of Belly Buttons

When it comes to science, I have the patience of a rabid fox, trapped in a cage, in front of which a wounded rabbit is standing. My family, the folks in my lab and the need for sleep balance this nascent madness. But sometimes the caged fox of mania escapes; sometimes when everyone else sleeps […]

January 3rd, 2014|Scientific American|

A Wild Bet: Can Inoculating Newborns with Innocuous Strains of Bacteria Save Them from Deadly Ones?

Recently, one of Paul Cezanne’s missing paintings was rediscovered. The painting shows Paulin Paulet, a gardener on Cezanne’s family estate, looking at his poker cards. Cezanne painted Paulet as part of a series of paintings between 1890 and 1896. This particular painting is called A Card Player. It had not been seen since 1930; its whereabouts […]

January 3rd, 2014|Scientific American|

The Sieve Hypothesis: Clever Study Suggests an Alternate Explanation for the Function of the Human Stomach

You have a stomach. I have a stomach. It is one of our few universals. Humans, mate, sing, talk, and raise their children in many different ways, but we’ve all got stomachs. The question is why.

Stomachs help to digest food; they get the process rolling, boiling and grinding by coating our food in slime, enzymes […]

January 3rd, 2014|Scientific American|

How a Tiny Wasp May Save Your Life

Nature knows no real balance, just moments of apparent equilibrium before some rise or fall.

We are studying scale insects—a kind of immobile (scientists say “sessile”) animal that lives on plants and sucks at them until, in some cases, they die (and by we, I mostly mean one of my students, Emily Meineke, and her other […]

January 3rd, 2014|Articles, Scientific American|

Why Mosquitoes Like You and Not Me

The mosquito is so small it takes almost nothing to ruin it.–Mary Oliver

Mosquitoes devour some people and ignore others. If they like you, swat a dozen and a dozen more appear in their place, inserting their mouthparts into your capillaries and imbibing as quickly as they can. Why? We can consider this question in two ways. The […]

January 3rd, 2014|Scientific American|

What Is Wrong with Dissections?

Here is a story you might find a bit laughable. At the end of the dark ages in what is now Italy, when knowledge was being reborn, anatomists would read from an ancient Greek text while their assistants dissected a human body and pointed out its parts. If the body looked different from what was […]

January 3rd, 2014|Scientific American|

Science Reveals Why Calorie Counts Are All Wrong

At one particularly strange moment in my career, I found myself picking through giant conical piles of dung produced by emus—those goofy Australian kin to the ostrich. I was trying to figure out how often seeds pass all the way through the emu digestive system intact enough to germinate. My colleagues and I planted thousands […]

January 3rd, 2014|Scientific American|