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Abstractions blog

Why Nature Prefers Couples, Even for Yeast

Some species have the equivalent of many more than two sexes, but most do not. A new model suggests the reason depends on how often they mate.

Art for "To Make Sense of the Present, Brains May Predict the Future"

To Make Sense of the Present, Brains May Predict the Future

A controversial theory suggests that perception, motor control, memory and other brain functions all depend on comparisons between ongoing actual experiences and the brain’s modeled expectations.

Photo of Physarum Polycephalum
cognitive science

Slime Molds Remember — but Do They Learn?

Evidence mounts that organisms without nervous systems can in some sense learn and solve problems, but researchers disagree about whether this is “primitive cognition.”

Photo of an axolotl
developmental biology

Salamander’s Genome Guards Secrets of Limb Regrowth

With a fully sequenced genome in hand, scientists hope they are finally poised to learn how axolotls regenerate lost body parts.

Illustration for "Mathematics Shows How to Ensure Evolution"
mathematical biology

Mathematics Shows How to Ensure Evolution

New results emerging from graph theory prove that the way a population is organized can guarantee the eventual triumph of natural selection — or permanently thwart it.

Illustration for "Theory Suggests That All Genes Affect Every Complex Trait"

Theory Suggests That All Genes Affect Every Complex Trait

The more closely geneticists look at complex traits and diseases, the harder it gets to find active genes that don’t play some part in them.

Photo of Carina Curto

Her Key to Modeling Brains: Ignore the Right Details

Being able to think like a physicist helps Carina Curto, a mathematician-turned-neuroscientist, pull insights about the human brain out of theoretical models.

Illustration for "Brains May Teeter Near Their Tipping Point"

Brains May Teeter Near Their Tipping Point

In a renewed attempt at a grand unified theory of brain function, physicists now argue that brains optimize performance by staying near — though not exactly at — the critical point between two phases.

Photo of a grasshopper poised to jump.

Too Small for Big Muscles, Tiny Animals Use Springs

Elastic springs help tiny animals stay fast and strong. New work is finding what size critters must be to benefit from the springs.