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Biology

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.

cell biology

Bacterial Clones Show Surprising Individuality

September 4, 2019

Genetically identical bacteria should all be the same, but in fact, the cells are stubbornly varied individuals.

3D illustration of three human skulls, split into left and right halves and nested one inside the next.
evolution

Fossil DNA Reveals New Twists in Modern Human Origins

Modern humans and more ancient hominins interbred many times throughout Eurasia and Africa, and the genetic flow went both ways.

Root glowing green against black background. Small spheres and threadlike filaments surround it.
ecology

Soil’s Microbial Market Shows the Ruthless Side of Forests

August 27, 2019

In the “underground economy” for soil nutrients, fungi strike hard bargains and punish plants that won’t meet their price.

An illustration of eyeballs connected to many hands painting the Mona Lisa.
mathematical biology

A Mathematical Model Unlocks the Secrets of Vision

August 21, 2019

Mathematicians and neuroscientists have created the first anatomically accurate model that explains how vision is possible.

Abstractions blog

Can New Species Evolve From Cancers? Maybe. Here’s How.

August 19, 2019

Researchers agree it’s a long shot, but transmissible cancers could theoretically evolve into independent species. Certain weird parasites might be living proof.

An illustration of a machine with two mechanical arms sorts cells by size into processing lines marked “Asymmetric Division” and “Symmetric Division.”
developmental biology

For Embryo’s Cells, Size Can Determine Fate

August 12, 2019

Modeling suggests that many embryonic cells commit to a developmental fate when they become too small to divide unevenly anymore.