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How to Understand COVID-19 Variants and Their Effects on Vaccines

February 25, 2021

Researchers are tracking the different strains of SARS-CoV-2 and studying how they spread through our population and our bodies.

Animation of a neuron that periodically alters its responses to stimuli when it is reset into a new state by another input.
neural networks

Artificial Neural Nets Finally Yield Clues to How Brains Learn

February 18, 2021

The learning algorithm that enables the runaway success of deep neural networks doesn’t work in biological brains, but researchers are finding alternatives that could.

An illustration of a human brain against “pink noise” static.
neuroscience

Brain’s ‘Background Noise’ May Hold Clues to Persistent Mysteries

February 8, 2021

By digging out signals hidden within the brain’s electrical chatter, scientists are getting new insights into sleep, aging and more.

A drawing of a piece of folded paper going back and forth between paper airplane and paper bird shapes.
Abstractions blog

Some Proteins Change Their Folds to Perform Different Jobs

February 3, 2021

Unusual proteins that can quickly fold into different shapes provide cells with a novel regulatory mechanism.

COVID-19

The Hard Lessons of Modeling the Coronavirus Pandemic

In the fight against COVID-19, disease modelers have struggled against misunderstanding and misuse of their work. They have also come to realize how unready the state of modeling was for this pandemic.

Looping video of chloroplasts moving within the walled cells of the pond plant Elodea.
Abstractions blog

Plant Cells of Different Species Can Swap Organelles

January 20, 2021

In grafted plants, shrunken chloroplasts can jump between species by slipping through unexpected gateways in cell walls.

Video artwork showing yellow blobs move, merge, split, shrink and enlarge inside a clear cube.
molecular biology

A Newfound Source of Cellular Order in the Chemistry of Life

January 7, 2021

Inside cells, droplets of biomolecules called condensates merge, divide and dissolve. Their dance may regulate vital processes.

2020 in Review

Our Favorite Comments of the Year

December 23, 2020

Online comment platforms can bring out the best — and the worst — in people. At the end of a tumultuous year, Quanta’s editors highlight some of our favorite things you had to say.

2020 in Review

The Year in Biology

December 23, 2020

While the study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was the most urgent priority, biologists also learned more about how brains process information, how to define individuality and why sleep deprivation kills.