News & Features

After the Oxbow

For reasons complex, historic, and muddy, the lower Mississippi River ecosystem now depends greatly on the slow-moving, seasonal backwaters that thread through the thin, riverside forests that persist between engineered levees. Those backwaters, a growing chorus of scientists say, are beginning to disappear.

Connecting the Dots

In one of his final acts in office, President Obama added an additional 48,000 acres of protected land to Oregon’s little-known Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Ranchers and loggers called it a tragedy, but scientists say it was a crucial victory for biodiversity and landscape connectivity.

The Measure of a Fog: Geoengineering

With the exception of rogue experiments, most geoengineering schemes — which aim to reverse climate change on a planetary scale — are still in the “what if” phase, and caution would seem to dictate that we go slowly. Still, with temperatures and emissions still rising, such ideas could gain new urgency.

A Prescription for Better Science

What’s wrong with science? Stanford University’s John Ioannidis has been asking this question for a long time – at least since his 2005 article, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” Seventeen years later, he and a slate of co-authors have some suggestions about how to solve the problem.

Before the Bridge Falls Down

Experts have said for decades that engineering schools should do more to prepare their students for the ethical challenges they’ll face in the industry, including powerful incentives to cut corners and hide mistakes. Some schools are making such ethics coursework mandatory, but critics say it’s not enough.

Flood-Risk Figures Get Friendlier

A new approach to assessing changes in U.S. flood risks in the past 30 years reveals a progressive rise in risk in the northern U.S. and a drop in much of the southern U.S. And the risk is expressed in elevation measures that make sense to non-scientists rather than in cubic meters per second.

Old Friends: The Promise of Parasitic Worms

A small group of dedicated researchers — along with a growing number of desperate, self-experimenting patients like author Leah Shaffer — are trying to understand the potential of parasitic worms, or helminths, to treat a range of autoimmune diseases. The path to commercialization, however, is far from clear.

The Slow Death of Ecology’s Birthplace

Brazil’s cerrado has many faces: arid tablelands, open grasslands, palm-dotted marshes — though most people see it only as a dry, unruly expanse of low, twisted shrubs. As a result, this unique ecosystem where a pioneering botanist once traced the evolution of plants is in danger of being lost forever.

Oil and Water

Over 70,000 miles of crude oil pipelines spread like vasculature across the United States. Some of it, like the contentious Dakota Access pipeline, is new and outfitted with the latest safety technologies. Nearly half is old and prone to problems. And all of it is necessary until our thirst for oil subsides.

How to Beat a Fingerprint Scanner

A delicate 3D-printed skin that slips over a user’s hand has been shown to trick fingerprint scanners. Although this technology could potentially be used to breach security systems, the presence of human safeguards in many systems provides a barrier to those looking to use it for criminal activity.

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