I guess everybody, even the smartest people who ever lived, have days when they feel dumb — really, really dumb. Oct. 1, 1861, was that kind of day for Charles Darwin.
In a letter to his friend Charles Lyell, Darwin says, "I am very poorly today," and then — and I want you to see this exactly as he wrote it, so you know this isn't a fake; it comes from the library of the American Philosophical Society, courtesy of their librarian Charles Greifenstein. Can you read it?
A Chinese scientist recently suggested that prehistoric humans ate pandas. The evidence, based on cut marks on panda bones, strikes me as thin, but the report led me to a thought experiment.
How would people in the modern world react if the some population or subculture today made panda-foraging a goal? I imagine most of us would be horrified, and not only because the panda is an endangered species. The panda has become a symbol of cuteness, an animal we love to love.
Scientists say they have detected the nearest planet outside of our solar system, an alien world about the size of Earth that's orbiting a star called Alpha Centauri B.
Imaginary planets in the Alpha Centauri star system have been a staple of science fiction for decades. That's because the three stars in this system—Alpha Centauri A, B, and C—are only about four light years from our Sun. That's far away, but it's still closer than everything else beyond our solar system, so Alpha Centauri has long been a tempting destination for storytellers who dream of interstellar travel.
Think you're part of the food-literati? True or false: 13 million more acres of farmland would be required to produce enough fruit and vegetables for the daily diets of all Americans to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition guidelines.
Scientists view climate change as one of the world's most pressing long-term problems. But the issue has barely surfaced in the U.S. presidential race. President Obama has taken steps to address climate change during his time in office. Republican challenger Mitt Romney would not make it a priority in his administration.
In fact, as Romney stood on the stage to accept his nomination at the Republican National Convention, he used global warming as a laugh line.
This year's Nobel Prize for physics was given to Serge Haroche of Collège de France and Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France, and to David Wineland from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Both have pioneered methods to manipulate quantum systems, that is, entities living in the world of atoms, electrons and other particles.
Adolescent brains have gotten a bad rap, according to neuroscientists.
It's true that teenage brains can be impulsive, scientists reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans. But adolescent brains are also vulnerable, dynamic and highly responsive to positive feedback, they say.
As the election nears, energy policy remains a regular topic on the campaign trail. Controversial subjects like arctic drilling and hydraulic fracturing continue making headlines as the political class debate our nation's changing energy mix. But let's not deceive ourselves, or the public at large, about a president's real role and reach.