Every once in a while, we publish a story and let the editorial team scientific american melt. When we reviewed illustrations of prairie vole pairings in “The Neurobiology of Love,” the most common response was “wow.” First of all, they are so cute. Unlike promiscuous species such as meadow voles, they pair for life, raising their young together and snuggling for comfort. For about 50 years, they’ve been the animal model of choice for studying attachment and relationships, and what looks like some rudimentary versions of love. Scientists Steven Phelps, Zoe Donaldson and Dev Manoli Explaining how we learned so much about commitment from prairie voles. SOME FREE ADVICE: Date all the meadow voles you like, but marry a prairie vole.
Our cover story of the month is about one of the most puzzling quests in science: trying to find life we don’t know about. (Science writer Sarah Scoles came up with the acronym “LAWDKI” for this search.) How do you find aliens so alien to Earthlings? Scientists are figuring out how to scan for life using different kinds of DNA or RNA, or no genetic sequences at all. Depending on how you define “life,” it may consist of completely different chemicals or self-assembling molecules than our own.
Astronomers worry that swarms of satellites are interfering with Earth observatories. A growing number of Starlink and other telecommunications satellites are zipping through low-Earth orbit, visible to the naked eye.So far, they have been exempt from environmental scrutiny, but a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office suggests they could subject to stricter regulationJournalist Rebecca Boyle cites an astronomer asking a “deeper cultural question” about how much power satellite companies should have: “Should Elon Musk Control What People See in the Night Sky?”
Actor Alan Alda was a great advocate for science communication, and he collaborated with Scientific American: From 1993 to 2007, he hosted a TV series with us called Frontiers of American ScienceNow, he’s generously sharing his own experiences with Parkinson’s disease to help others recognize what may be one of the earliest signs of the disease, called REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). People with this disorder act on their dreams, which can be dangerous for them and their partners.science writer diana kwon Showing how RBD predicts neurodegenerative disease And it could allow patients to start treatment or clinical trials earlier.
The term “positive feedback” sounds like it’s supposed to refer to something good, right? As climate evangelist Susan Joy Hassol puts it, the language scientists use to describe potentially catastrophic self-reinforcing loops (i.e., positive feedback) and other aspects of climate change can be misleading about the urgency of the crisis. She points out unexpected meanings of common terms and suggests more concise and clear alternatives. Enjoy the blackboard at the beginning of the article.
Some of the biggest contributors to the climate emergency are the production and use of cement and concrete, which account for about 9 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. It doesn’t have to be like this. Scientific AmericanSenior Sustainability Editor Mark Fischetti, Proposes a 12-point plan to improve manufacturing and minimize cement’s climate impact. Beautiful graphics by illustrator and designer Nick Bockelman will take you out of the dump trucks of your childhood. We need all the solutions we can get.