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Susan Gaidos

Susan Gaidos' Articles

  • Hubble Lives On

    NASA has scheduled the last servicing mission for the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. In May, astronauts will attempt to repair instruments in an effort to keep the space craft up and running until at least 2014.

    NASA has scheduled the last servicing mission for the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. In May, astronauts will attempt to repair instruments in an effort to keep the space craft up and running until at least 2014.

  • From dipping to fishing

    Chimpanzees not only share our ability to use tools. They also share our ability to create tools for a specific purpose. A group of Japanese scientists recently witnessed this inventiveness in action.

    The researchers watched a 5-year-old chimp named JJ use a long twig to capture ants in a new way. At first meeting with only limited success, the innovative chimp then refashioned his tool for better results.

    Tool use among chimpanzees is well documented. Chimps in some communities, for example, plunge long sticks into anthills and then eat the clumps of ants that cling to the sticks. This behavior is called ant-dipping.

  • Foul play?

    Drug testing in sports is a serious matter. Athletes train hard to build muscle and body strength. Some may even resort to cheating. They can do this by abusing drugs called steroids to build extra muscle. This practice is not only unhealthy, but it also gives an athlete an unfair advantage. That's why most professional sports test for it.

    Now, scientists say that to keep the game fair, teams may want to test athletes' genes, as well. Depending on what genes they have, some athletes can beat drug tests, even if they're cheating. Others who play fair might be unjustly accused of cheating.

  • Sugary survival skill

    Dehydration dooms most animals. Humans, for example, die if their bodies lose about 12 percent of their water. But some tough little critters can get through long periods of drought. One bug survives dry times by entering a dehydrated state. Now, scientists have discovered the sugary secret behind this feat.

    The larvae of an African fly known as Polypedilum vanderplanki live in the bottom of rain puddles in the African desert. When the dry season hits, and their habitats dry up, they can endure an almost complete loss of body water. They can persist in this dormant state, which is similar to a very deep sleep, for up to 17 years.

  • Galaxies on the go

    Galaxy clusters (white spots) are shown on a map of the cosmic microwave background, or CMB. The clusters appear to move, on average, in one direction (toward the purple spot).

    Galaxy clusters (white spots) are shown on a map of the cosmic microwave background, or CMB. The clusters appear to move, on average, in one direction (toward the purple spot).

  • Antarctica warms, which threatens penguins

    Since the 1950s, some portions of Antarctica have cooled (as denoted in faint blue tones), but many areas, including West Antarctica, have warmed substantially (red tones). The stronger the tone, the larger the warming or cooling.

    Since the 1950s, some portions of Antarctica have cooled (as denoted in faint blue tones), but many areas, including West Antarctica, have warmed substantially (red tones). The stronger the tone, the larger the warming or cooling.

  • Math and our number sense

    Not all math skills are learned in the classroom. Some of them come naturally. Consider the split-second calculations you make when you estimate the number of empty seats on the school bus or gauge the number of cookies in a cookie jar.

    These ballpark estimates can often be done without counting. That’s because humans are born with the ability to approximate, or closely guess, the number of items in a group. Researchers refer to this trait as a person’s “number sense.”

  • Puberty gone wild

    For most mammals, puberty is marked by an increase in aggression. As animals reach reproductive age, they often have to establish themselves in their herd or social group. In species where males compete for access to females, signs of aggressive behavior

    For most mammals, puberty is marked by an increase in aggression. As animals reach reproductive age, they often have to establish themselves in their herd or social group. In species where males compete for access to females, signs of aggressive behavior

  • Sugar-pill medicine

    Fake medicine, such as a pill filled with sugar, can sometimes make the people taking it feel better.

    Fake medicine, such as a pill filled with sugar, can sometimes make the people taking it feel better.

    Rapideye / iStockphoto

    Feeling sick? You wouldn’t want to take fake medicine for an earache or major illness. But in some cases, the fake stuff can help.

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