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biology

520px image of Ed Boyden
Q&A

A Neurobiologist Thinks Big — and Small

By developing new tools for visualizing subcellular structure and activity in molecular detail, Ed Boyden advances on his goal of understanding how the brain works.

Aribidopsis thaliana inflorescence
Abstractions blog

With ‘Downsized’ DNA, Flowering Plants Took Over the World

Compact genomes and tiny cells gave flowering plants an edge over competing flora. This discovery hints at a broader evolutionary principle.

Illustration: altered DNA in bears
synthetic biology

Is a Bigger Genetic Code Better? Get Ready to Find Out

Evolution settled on a genetic code that uses four letters to name 20 amino acids. Synthetic biologists adding new bases to DNA will be free to improve on nature — if they can.

Crossword puzzle illustration
insights puzzle

Quanta’s Science and Math Crossword Puzzle

This holiday season, catch up on science and math news while solving our year-end crossword.

Photo of Corina Tarnita 520px
Q&A

A Mathematician Who Decodes the Patterns Stamped Out by Life

Corina Tarnita deciphers bizarre patterns in the soil created by competing life-forms.

RNA Peptide 520
origins of life

The End of the RNA World Is Near, Biochemists Argue

For decades, an origin-of-life story starring RNA has prevailed. New research may be shaking that theory’s hold on our understanding of life’s beginnings.

Short term VS Long term memory illustration
neuroscience

Light-Triggered Genes Reveal the Hidden Workings of Memory

Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa’s lab is overturning old assumptions about how memories form, how recall works and whether lost memories might be restored from “silent engrams.”

New finch species "Big Bird "(offspring)
Abstractions blog

New Bird Species Arises From Hybrids, as Scientists Watch

The rapid, unorthodox emergence of a new finch in the Galápagos hints that speciation isn’t rare. New hybrid species may quietly appear and disappear without anyone noticing.

Game Theory cake puzzle
insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Triumph or Cooperation in Game Theory and Evolution’

How well does the Nash equilibrium concept from game theory map to the real world?