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Abstractions blog

A row of skulls ending with homo sapiens, foreground, found at The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Human Origins.
Abstractions blog

Artificial Intelligence Finds Ancient ‘Ghosts’ in Modern DNA

February 7, 2019

With the help of deep learning techniques, paleoanthropologists find evidence of long-lost branches on the human family tree.

Photo of the female penis structure of the cave insect Neotrogla aurora.
Abstractions blog

Why Evolution Reversed These Insects’ Sex Organs

January 30, 2019

Among these cave insects, the females evolved to have penises — twice. The reasons challenge common assumptions about sex.

Abstractions blog

Gene Drives Work in Mice (if They’re Female)

January 23, 2019

Biologists have demonstrated for the first time that a controversial genetic engineering technology works, with caveats, in mammals.

Art for "How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals"
Abstractions blog

How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals

January 15, 2019

Subatomic particles called muons are thought to have streamed through the atmosphere and irradiated megafauna like the monster shark megalodon.

Abstractions blog

Jellyfish Genome Hints That Complexity Isn’t Genetically Complex

January 8, 2019

Jellyfish didn’t need novel genes to take an evolutionary leap in complexity.

Abstractions blog

Ancient Turing Pattern Builds Feathers, Hair — and Now, Shark Skin

January 2, 2019

A primordial developmental toolkit shared by all vertebrates, and described by a theory of the mathematician Alan Turing, sets the growth pattern for all types of skin structures.

Illustration of lock with polynomials surrounding it
Abstractions blog

Mathematicians Seal Back Door to Breaking RSA Encryption

December 17, 2018

Digital security depends on the difficulty of factoring large numbers. A new proof shows why one method for breaking digital encryption won’t work.

Abstractions blog

What a Newfound Kingdom Means for the Tree of Life

December 11, 2018

Neither animal, plant, fungus nor familiar protozoan, a strange microbe that sits in its own “supra-kingdom” of life foretells incredible biodiversity yet to be discovered by new sequencing technologies.

Abstractions blog

Why Black Hole Interiors Grow (Almost) Forever

December 6, 2018

The renowned physicist Leonard Susskind has identified a possible quantum origin for the ever-growing volume of black holes.