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Biology

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Arrows of Time

May 4, 2020

The human mind has long grappled with the elusive nature of time: what it is, how to record it, how it regulates life, and whether it exists as a fundamental building block of the universe.

Quantized Columns

What Other Coronaviruses Tell Us About SARS-CoV-2

April 29, 2020

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, our extensive knowledge of other coronaviruses informs our understanding.

Video of two slipper-shaped paramecia engaged in a sexual process called conjugation.
evolution

Why Sex? Biologists Find New Explanations.

April 23, 2020

Why did sex evolve? Theories usually focus on the diversity of future generations, but some researchers find compelling explanations in the immediate benefits to individuals.

An illustration that represents the big differences in size and diversity in the microbiomes of six species.
microbiology

Some Animals Have No Microbiome. Here’s What That Tells Us.

April 14, 2020

To stay healthy, humans and some other animals rely on a complex community of bacteria in their guts. But research is starting to show that those partnerships might be more the exception than the rule.

genomics

Where Do New Genes Come From?

April 9, 2020

In their search for sources of genetic novelty, researchers find that some “orphan genes” with no obvious ancestors evolve out of junk DNA, contrary to old assumptions.

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
Q&A

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.