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Staff Writer

Jennifer Cutraro

Jennifer Cutraro's Articles

  • How creativity powers science

    Ask most people to identify a creative person, and they'll probably describe an artist — Picasso, Shakespeare or even Lady Gaga.

    But what about a Nobel prize–winning chemist? Or a team of engineers that figures out how to make a car engine operate more efficiently?

    Creativity, it turns out, is not only the domain of painters, singers and playwrights, says Robert DeHaan, a retired Emory University cell biologist who now studies how to teach creative thinking.

    “Creativity is the creation of an idea or object that is both novel and useful,” he explains. “Creativity is a new idea that has value in solving a problem, or an object that is new or useful.”

  • Speedy sharkskin

    Slicing through the water at speeds exceeding 45 miles per hour (72 kph), the shortfin mako shark is one of the fastest fish in the sea. A team of Harvard biologists has made a surprising discovery about what feature gives the mako, like all other sharks, its incredible swiftness — its sandpapery skin.

  • Science fair as a family affair

    feeny

    As temperatures drop and days grow shorter, middle and high school students across the country begin gearing up for science fair season. While these competitions typically take place in the spring, the qualifying projects can take several weeks or even months to plan, carry out and summarize. That means late fall and early winter are an ideal time for students to start brainstorming project ideas.

  • Springing forward

    Lowell Cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts on May 30, 1868, and May 30, 2005.

    Lowell Cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts on May 30, 1868, and May 30, 2005.

    R. Primack, anonymous

    It's not just Daylight Savings Time that came early this year. All around the world, spring seems to be coming sooner than it used to. It hasn't moved up on the calendar — but many cycles in nature are telling us that spring just can't wait to be sprung.

  • Body clocks

    The human body is regulated by several internal clocks, which control sleeping and eating patterns among other things.

    The human body is regulated by several internal clocks, which control sleeping and eating patterns among other things.

    jodiecoston/iStockphoto

    Try this: For an entire day, forget about the clock. Eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired. What do you think will happen?

  • Explainer: What is a planet?

    The ancient Greeks first coined the name "planet," a word that means "wandering star," according to David Weintraub, an astronomer at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Aristotle, the Greek natural philosopher who lived over 2,000 years ago, identified seven "planets" in the sky — the objects that today we call the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It was a view of planets that held for the next 1,500 years, Weintraub says.

    "The seven planets according to the Greeks were the seven planets at the time of the Copernicus, and those seven included the sun and the moon," he says.

  • The trouble with Pluto

    Until recently, the solar system was made up of the sun (far left) and nine planets, including (from left to right) Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto -- so small in comparison that it is difficult to make out in this

    Until recently, the solar system was made up of the sun (far left) and nine planets, including (from left to right) Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto -- so small in comparison that it is difficult to make out in this

  • Pluto, plutoid: What's in a name?

    These images show the first plutoids. The blue blob is Pluto. The red one is Eris. Both objects lie far from Earth, beyond Neptune, and are large enough that gravity pulls them into spherical forms. Other bodies that are similar will one day be called plu

    These images show the first plutoids. The blue blob is Pluto. The red one is Eris. Both objects lie far from Earth, beyond Neptune, and are large enough that gravity pulls them into spherical forms. Other bodies that are similar will one day be called plu

  • Gut microbes and weight

    Health experts have long worried about the increasing rate of obesity in kids. It's an important concern: Being very overweight or obese during childhood can lead to serious problems normally seen in adults, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Poor diets and a lack of exercise are usually the culprits. But would you ever have imagined there might be a connection between the bacteria that lived in your gut when you were a baby and the chance that you would become overweight?

    Scientists in Finland recently found just such a link. In a recent study, they showed that as infants overweight children had different species of bacteria living in their guts, or intestines, than did normal-weight kids.

  • Salty, old and, perhaps, a sign of early life

    It's hard to believe today, but millions of years ago the dusty New Mexico desert was covered by a shimmering ocean. That ocean water evaporated long ago. But it left behind huge deposits of salt. Some of those salt deposits contain tiny pockets of trapped ancient ocean water—super salty time capsules of an era before dinosaurs ever walked on Earth.

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