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A split level photo shows algae growing on rocks both above and below the surface of the water at a margin of a Welsh glacial lake.
Abstractions blog

Billion-Year-Old Algae and Newer Genes Hint at Land Plants’ Origin

March 26, 2020

A recently unearthed fossil and new genomic discoveries are filling important gaps in scientists’ understanding of how primitive green algae eventually evolved into land vegetation.

Paleontologist Pincelli Hull

A Rapid End Strikes the Dinosaur Extinction Debate

March 25, 2020

The paleontologist Pincelli Hull has nailed down the timing and speed of the extinction that killed off the dinosaurs — details that carry ominous warnings for today.

An artist’s conception of how sensory signals from the eye are map onto the brain in a slightly distorted way.
Quantized Columns

The Brain Reshapes Our Malleable Senses to Fit the World

March 24, 2020

How does experience alter our perceptions? This adapted book excerpt from We Know It When We See It describes how the brain’s visual system rewires itself to make the best use of its neural resources.

A mother armadillo, lying on her side, nurses four baby armadillos.
developmental biology

Nature Versus Nurture? Add ‘Noise’ to the Debate.

March 23, 2020

We give our genes and our environment all the credit for making us who we are. But random noise during development might be just as important.

An illustration in which a capsule-shaped drug imprinted with circuit-board diagrams blasts nearby bacteria.
artificial intelligence

Machine Learning Takes On Antibiotic Resistance

To combat resistant bacteria and refill the trickling antibiotic pipeline, scientists are getting help from deep learning networks.

A rock, a piece of paper and a pair of scissors, each formed from a mass of microbes, are arranged in a cycle.

Biodiversity May Thrive Through Games of Rock-Paper-Scissors

March 5, 2020

Recent findings add weight to the evidence that the intransitive competitions between species enrich the diversity of nature.

Illustration of a connection between a bat and a human, with a backdrop of coronaviruses.
Quantized Columns

The Animal Origins of Coronavirus and Flu

February 25, 2020

Zoonotic diseases like influenza and many coronaviruses start out in animals, but their biological machinery often enables them to jump to humans.

Two arrows that are intertwined for most of their length but then point in different directions.
Abstractions blog

In Brain Waves, Scientists See Neurons Juggle Possible Futures

February 24, 2020

Faced with a decision, the brain weighs its options by bundling them into rapidly alternating cycles of brain waves.

Illustration of an RNA sequence, with an arrow pointing from one end to the other, and a sequence of complementary nucleotides, with an arrow pointing the other way.
Abstractions blog

New Clues About ‘Ambigram’ Viruses With Strange Reversible Genes

February 12, 2020

For decades, scientists have been intrigued by tiny viruses whose genetic material can be read both forward and backward. New research begins to explain this puzzling property.