John Rennie

Deputy Editor

Biology - abstract illustration
2018 in Review

The Year in Biology

Biologists gained new insights into life’s genomically tumultuous past, viruses as crucial components of life, the hidden talents of complex cells and basic aspects of cognition and memory.

In Theory

How Complex Wholes Emerge From Simple Parts

Throughout nature, throngs of relatively simple elements can self-organize into behaviors that seem unexpectedly complex. Scientists are beginning to understand why and how these phenomena emerge without a central organizing entity.

Art for "Three Biochemists Win Chemistry Nobel for Directing Evolution"
Abstractions blog

Three Biochemists Win Chemistry Nobel for Directing Evolution

By using the power of evolution to solve practical problems, three researchers opened new avenues to chemical discovery.

Art for "Nobel Prize Awarded for Cancer Immunotherapy"
Abstractions blog

Nobel Prize Awarded for Cancer Immunotherapy

James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for developing ways to unleash the immune system more effectively against cancers.

Illustration for "Mathematics Shows How to Ensure Evolution"
mathematical biology

Mathematics Shows How to Ensure Evolution

New results emerging from graph theory prove that the way a population is organized can guarantee the eventual triumph of natural selection — or permanently thwart it.

Photo of Emmanuelle Charpentier, Virginijus Šikšnys, Jennifer Doudna
Abstractions blog

CRISPR Gene-Editing Pioneers Win Kavli Prize for Nanoscience

The inventors of a “Swiss army knife” for genome editing received prestigious honors, as did pioneering scientists in astrophysics and neuroscience.

Image of feathers
Abstractions blog

How Brain Waves Surf Sound Waves to Process Speech

By paying more attention to behaviors, and not just the activity of neurons, two researchers critical of most neuroscience learned how brains make sense of spoken language.

Art for "Artificial Neural Nets Grow Brainlike Navigation Cells"
Abstractions blog

Artificial Neural Nets Grow Brainlike Navigation Cells

Faced with a navigational challenge, neural networks spontaneously evolved units resembling the grid cells that help living animals find their way.

Illustration for brain computer interface
Abstractions blog

Brains Cling to Old Habits When Learning New Tricks

Using a brain-computer interface, scientists are beginning to learn why learning is hard.

About the author

John Rennie joined Quanta Magazine as deputy editor in 2017. Previously, he spent 20 years at Scientific American, where he served as editor in chief between 1994 and 2009. He created and hosted Hacking the Planet, an original 2013 TV series for The Weather Channel, and has appeared frequently on television and radio on programs such as PBS’s Newshour, ABC’s World News Now, NPR’s Science Friday, the History Channel special Clash of the Cavemen and the Science Channel series Space’s Deepest Secrets. John has also been an adjunct professor of science writing at New York University since 2009. Most recently, he was editorial director of McGraw-Hill Education’s online science encyclopedia AccessScience.