Ebola’s end: History’s lessons

Ebola’s end: History’s lessons
As Ebola ravages West Africa, we seek answers in past epidemics. How did cholera, plague, smallpox end? Lacking drugs or a vaccine, how can deadly Ebola be controlled? More »

Making spears

Making spears

Spears helped our ancestors eat and defend themselves. Spearmaking required ingenuity, experiments and communication. Symmetrical stone tools with damage at the tip indicate that spears were being used in South Africa half a million years ago, according to a new study. More »

Patent wars!

Patent wars!

How do patents work? What is “new, non-obvious and useful”? What will happen after the biggest change in patent law in 60 years? More »

Calendars: A fix needed?

Calendars: A fix needed?

A “permanent” calendar could finally answer the annual, “Uh, what day is New Year’s eve this year?” question. This calendar would place each date on a specific day every year, and simplify life for schedulers. But would a permanent calendar be accepted? More »

Bookin’ science: Best of the batch.

If (gasp!) the subject is too big for a Whyfile, hit the books. Here, we review four great science books, on evolution, environment, fighting nature, and discovering motherly love.

The importance of being Einstein

Black and white photo: closeup of Einstein's face with blackboard in background

Experiment finds Earth “dragging” spacetime, as Einstein predicted. Einstein knew his physics. Bending light, gravity lenses, shifting spacetime, spinning neutron stars: he called them all. More »

Peopling the Americas — New evidence

stone tool points

A report that people were in Texas 15,500 years ago settles a long dispute: The Americans who made Clovis-style spear-points were not the first Americans — despite heavy archeological skepticism. Pre-Clovis rules! But who were the pre-Clovis people, and why are scientists so dismissive of contrary evidence? More »

Happy tax day: Meet bureaucracy’s roots!

Happy tax day: Meet bureaucracy's roots!
Which came first: The empire or the administration? Conventional wisdom says the demands of empire led to the rise of bureaucracy. But a new study of six early states suggests that the specialization of power and function we call bureaucracy arises at the same time as the territorial expansion that leads to empire. More »

Economic stimulus = just pouring concrete?

Economic stimulus = just pouring concrete?

Obama decides that current and new grant applications at the National Institutes of Health are an effective economic stimulus. People get jobs. Inventions get invented. What’s not to like? More »

Life during the “other” Big Bang!

Did the arrival of 4,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons of space junk start the formation of organic molecules roughly 4 billion years ago? “Could be,” says a new study from Japan… More »

Ancient cities: A new plan for sprawl?

Archeologists thought Middle-Eastern cities grew through remote “daughter” villages. But a new study of a big city in ancient Syria, shows that new settlements formed closer to town.
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Lovable Loot: Vaunted Vase Heads “Home”

Art, like fossils, can be stolen. What’s at the story on looting art, antiques, and fossils? Does it make sense for big museums to keep artifacts, or should it all go back to source countries? More »

Nuclear Wizard Dies

Edward Teller helped invent the hydrogen bomb, then pushed missile defense. By public advocacy and secret research, he changed the 20th century. More »

Writing Invented: When, Why and How?

Who invented writing? And for what purpose? A tale of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China and the Maya. What happens when pictograms are not enough… More »