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June 2013 Briefing Memo



Every month, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN—the longest-running magazine in the U.S. and an authoritative voice in science, technology and innovation—provides insight into scientific topics that affect our daily lives and capture our imagination, establishing the vital bridge between science and public policy.

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CLIMATE SCIENCE
• New York City and the entire U.S. East Coast could face frequent devastation from storm surges unless the region takes drastic action. The only certain ways to protect coastal cities like New York are to build barriers and retreat from shorelines. Studies show that every $1 spent on protection measures can prevent $4 in poststorm repairs. Despite this, experts are unlikely to suggest the needed measures because they are too politically unpopular. See: Climate Science: Storm of the Century (Every Two Years)

MARIJUANA AND HEALTH
• Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. In Washington State and Colorado, recreational marijuana use has also been legalized. Although many physicians agree that marijuana is safe enough to temporarily alleviate the symptoms of certain medical conditions, these policies do not take into account the potential risks of marijuana use. See: The Science of Health: Going to Pot

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
The Internet is running close to capacity. To prevent a collapse, the network needs to radically change the way it handles information. According to Markus Hofmann, head of Bell Labs Research, the Internet and its underlying infrastructure must accommodate heavier data traffic generated by mobile devices and multimedia content. See: Information Technology: Edge of the Internet

CONSERVATION AND CLONING
Although we may soon have the biotechnology tools necessary to revive long-extinct species, such as woolly mammoths, we should focus more on efforts to save the 20,000 species now in grave danger of extinction, the Editors state in this month’s Science Agenda. Using cloning, sequencing and other biotechnology feats to re-create extinct species from their ancient DNA is not a viable option for conservation and risks selling the public false hope. See: Science Agenda: Do Not Reanimate

HEALTH
A clearer understanding of the barrier between the brain and the circulatory system may lead to better treatment options for diseases that affect the brain, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s. Previous theories that this blood-brain barrier was mostly impenetrable to cells or drugs have been proved to be only half-true: the barrier can be opened and closed. See: Neuroscience: Breaking the Brain Barrier

PSYCHOLOGY
• Even subtle reminders of the stereotypical prejudice against one’s sex, race or religion can hinder performance in school, work and athletics. Researchers are developing behavioral methods to combat these anxieties and negative self-associations. Studies have found that simple confidence-boosting exercises can help shrink academic achievement gaps for some of those stereotyped. See: Psychology: Armor against Prejudice

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