What's up in

Biology

Simple line drawing of a beating human heart.
Abstractions blog

How Your Heart Influences What You Perceive and Fear

July 6, 2020

The heartbeat and other bodily processes play a surprising role in shaping perception and cognition.

Animated illustration showing vulnerable red shapes become “infected” and turn green, amid immune blue shapes.
Abstractions blog

The Tricky Math of Herd Immunity for COVID-19

June 30, 2020

Herd immunity differs from place to place, and many factors influence how it’s calculated.

A DNA double helix being struck by a cosmic ray.
Abstractions blog

Cosmic Rays May Explain Life’s Bias for Right-Handed DNA

June 29, 2020

Cosmic rays may have given right-handed genetic helixes an evolutionary edge at the beginning of life’s history.

People in India stand near a red van that serves as a mobile testing center for COVID-19 .
infectious disease

Why South Asia’s COVID-19 Numbers Are So Low (For Now)

June 23, 2020

Many theories have been offered for why the official COVID-19 toll on the Indian subcontinent has been surprisingly low. The best explanation may be the shortage of good, timely data.

Illustration of a flying albatross, a swimming basking shark and the Lévy walk paths they take.
behavior

Random Search Wired Into Animals May Help Them Hunt

The nervous systems of foraging and predatory animals may prompt them to move along a special kind of random path called a Lévy walk to find food efficiently when no clues are available.

The skeletons of a man and woman, showing the difference in their heights.
Abstractions blog

Males Are the Taller Sex. Estrogen, Not Fights for Mates, May Be Why.

June 8, 2020

To explain why men are on average taller than women, scientists theorized about competition for mates. But the effects of estrogen on bone growth may be answer enough.

Illustration of an extremely tired person, surrounded by empty coffee cups.
sleep

Why Sleep Deprivation Kills

June 4, 2020

Going without sleep for too long kills animals but scientists haven’t known why. Newly published work suggests that the answer lies in an unexpected part of the body.

A digital simulacrum of a protein.
abstractions blog

A Digital Locksmith Has Decoded Biology’s Molecular Keys

June 3, 2020

Neural networks have been taught to quickly read the surfaces of proteins — molecules critical to many biological processes.

Animated illustration of flashing, moving wavelengths and strobing lights surrounding a pair of eyes.
Quantized Columns

Spreading the Word on a Possible Alzheimer’s Treatment

May 27, 2020

Neuroscientists could use brain waves to spur immune cells into action against the disease — but the process is almost too fantastic to believe.