Jordana Cepelewicz

Staff Writer

origins of life

Life’s First Molecule Was Protein, Not RNA, New Model Suggests

Which mattered first at the dawn of life: proteins or nucleic acids? Proteins may have had the edge if a theorized process let them grow long enough to become self-replicating catalysts.


Simple Bacteria Offer Clues to the Origins of Photosynthesis

Studies of the energy-harvesting proteins in primitive cells suggest that key features of photosynthesis might have evolved a billion years earlier than scientists thought.

Cryo-electron microscopy
Abstractions blog

Supercool Protein Imaging Gets the Nobel Prize

This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to researchers who made it possible to see proteins and other biomolecules at an atomic level of detail.

Abstractions blog

Nobel Prize Awarded for Biological Clock Discoveries

Three U.S. biologists share the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research into the molecular mechanism that drives circadian rhythm.

Modern humans (at left) and Neanderthals (right)

Genetics Spills Secrets From Neanderthals’ Lost History

How many Neanderthals were there? Archaeology and genetics have given very different answers. A new study reconciles them and reveals the lost history of these ancient people — including an early brush with extinction.

Nigel Goldenfeld

Seeing Emergent Physics Behind Evolution

Nigel Goldenfeld applies the physics of condensed matter to understand how evolution sprinted for the earliest life — and then slowed down.

Neurons and astrocytes
Abstractions blog

The Oldest Mini-Brains Have Lifelike Young Cells

“Organoid” brain tissue models grown in a lab for two years can help scientists study a critical period of development just before and after birth.

Lion, leopard, tiger

Interspecies Hybrids Play a Vital Role in Evolution

Hybrids, once treated as biological misfits, play a vital role in the evolution of many animal species. Now conservationists are trying to reconcile that truth with policies.

Evolving bird

Beating the Odds for Lucky Mutations

If DNA repair makes useful mutations more likely, it could accelerate cells’ adaptations to harsh environments.