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Biology

Illustration for "How Many Genes Do Cells Need? Maybe Almost All of Them"
genomics

How Many Genes Do Cells Need? Maybe Almost All of Them

An ambitious study in yeast shows that the health of cells depends on the highly intertwined effects of many genes, few of which can be deleted together without consequence.

Photo of ants holding larvae.
evolution

The Elusive Calculus of Insects’ Altruism and Kin Selection

How the ultra-cooperative behavior of ants, bees and other social insects could have evolved continues to challenge formal analysis. But a new theory about hedging bets against nature’s unpredictability may change the math and shift the debate.

Illustration for mapping the cortex
neuroscience

New Brain Maps With Unmatched Detail May Change Neuroscience

A technique based on genetic bar codes can easily map the connections of individual brain cells in unprecedented numbers. Unexpected complexity in the visual system is only the first secret it has revealed.

Illustration for brain computer interface
Abstractions blog

Brains Cling to Old Habits When Learning New Tricks

Using a brain-computer interface, scientists are beginning to learn why learning is hard.

Model of Peytoia
Abstractions blog

Complex Animals Led to More Oxygen, Says Maverick Theory

For decades, researchers have commonly assumed that higher oxygen levels led to the sudden diversification of animal life 540 million years ago. But one iconoclast argues the opposite: that new animal behaviors raised oxygen levels and remade the environment.

520px illustration for bioelectric signaling
developmental biology

Brainless Embryos Suggest Bioelectricity Guides Growth

Researchers are building a case that long before the nervous system works, the brain sends crucial bioelectric signals to guide the growth of embryonic tissues.

Illustration of life evolving to use oxygen
evolution

Oxygen and Stem Cells May Have Reshaped Early Complex Animals

An unlikely team offers a controversial hypothesis about what enabled animal life to get more complex during the Cambrian explosion.

Lede photo of a giant virus under a microscope
Abstractions blog

New Giant Viruses Further Blur the Definition of Life

A newfound pair of giant viruses have massive genomes and the most complete resources for building proteins ever seen in the viral world. They have refreshed the debate about the origins of these cellular parasites.

520px illustration for cell incubation time.
mathematical biology

Why Don’t Patients Get Sick in Sync? Modelers Find Statistical Clues

The long, variable times that some diseases incubate after infection defies simple explanation. An idealized model of tumor growth offers a statistical solution.