What's up in

Biology

Illustration of a blue tiger.
Abstractions blog

How Neutral Theory Altered Ideas About Biodiversity

December 8, 2020

The simple insight that most changes are random had a profound effect on genetics, evolution and ecology.

Looping video that shows transformations between African cichlid species.
Abstractions blog

New Fish Data Reveal How Evolutionary Bursts Create Species

December 1, 2020

In three bursts of adaptive change, one species of cichlid fish in Lake Tanganyika gave rise to hundreds.

Electron micrograph showing a viral factory and new viral particles inside a cell.
evolution

Did Viruses Create the Nucleus? The Answer May Be Near.

November 25, 2020

An unorthodox symbiotic theory about the origin of eukaryotes’ defining characteristic may soon be put to the test.

Colorized micrograph of a cell’s nucleus, showing euchromatin and heterochromatin.
Abstractions blog

Scientists Find Vital Genes Evolving in Genome’s Junkyard

November 16, 2020

Even genes essential for life can be caught in an evolutionary arms race that forces them to change or be replaced.

Fluorescent cross-section of a mouse’s brain.
Abstractions blog

Brain Cell DNA Refolds Itself to Aid Memory Recall

November 2, 2020

Researchers see structural changes in genetic material that allow memories to strengthen when remembered.

Yarn models of a deep learning network and a brain.
neuroscience

Deep Neural Networks Help to Explain Living Brains

October 28, 2020

Deep neural networks, often criticized as “black boxes,” are helping neuroscientists understand the organization of living brains.

Illustration of red spools with strands of DNA as the thread, with a blue brain in the background.
Quantized Columns

The Epigenetic Secrets Behind Dopamine, Drug Addiction and Depression

October 27, 2020

New research links serotonin and dopamine not just to addiction and depression, but to the ability to control genes.

Harvard professor L. Mahadevan stands in a slightly cluttered office, holding an apple and a jar containing a miniature brain
Q&A

A Scientist Who Delights in the Mundane

October 26, 2020

From crumpled paper to termite mounds to three-sided coins, L. Mahadevan has turned the whole world into his laboratory.

ecology

A Physicist’s Approach to Biology Brings Ecological Insights

October 13, 2020

The physicist Jeff Gore tests theories about microbe communities experimentally and finds new rules governing ecological stability.