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Biology

Illustration of two strips of movie film coiled around each other in a double helix.
behavior

Inherited Learning? It Happens, but How Is Uncertain

October 16, 2019

Studies suggest that epigenetics allows some learned adaptive responses to be passed down to new generations. The question is how.

Climbing up the side of a high mountain peak.
Abstractions blog

Nobel Prize Awarded for Discoveries on How Cells Adapt to Oxygen

October 7, 2019

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine honored William Kaelin Jr., Peter Ratcliffe and Gregg Semenza for their work on elucidating how cells adjust to low oxygen levels.

Illustration of DNA that combines elements of mealybug and bacterial imagery.
evolution

Cell-Bacteria Mergers Offer Clues to How Organelles Evolved

October 3, 2019

Cells in symbiotic partnership, sometimes nested one within the other and functioning like organelles, can borrow from their host’s genes to complete their own metabolic pathways.

Scanning electron micrograph of a cluster of coccolithophores.
ecology

How Jurassic Plankton Stole Control of the Ocean’s Chemistry

October 1, 2019

Only 170 million years ago, new plankton evolved. Their demand for carbon and calcium permanently transformed the seas as homes for life.

An osprey flying low over a river holds a trout in its claws.
Abstractions blog

Your Brain Chooses What to Let You See

Beneath our awareness, the brain lets certain kinds of stimuli automatically capture our attention by lowering the priority of the rest.

The illustration shows ghostly hands partially obstructing a person’s sight and hearing.
neuroscience

To Pay Attention, the Brain Uses Filters, Not a Spotlight

September 24, 2019

A brain circuit that suppresses distracting sensory information holds important clues about attention and other cognitive processes.

An illustration that shows a fanciful view of cells in terms of electrical circuitry.
synthetic biology

Math Reveals the Secrets of Cells’ Feedback Circuitry

September 18, 2019

Maintaining perfect stability through negative feedback is a basic element of electrical circuitry, but it’s been a mystery how cells could do it — until now.

3D illustration of a complex atomic structure.
Abstractions blog

Origin-of-Life Study Points to Chemical Chimeras, Not RNA

September 16, 2019

Origin-of-life researchers have usually studied the potential of pure starting materials, but messy mixtures of chemicals may kick-start life more effectively.

Cichlid fish of diverse colors and shapes swim together.
evolution

New Hybrid Species Remix Old Genes Creatively

September 10, 2019

Clues from fish diversity suggest that interbreeding between species could be a major mechanism of fast speciation.