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A Zombie Gene Protects Elephants From Cancer

Elephants did not evolve to become huge animals until after they turned a bit of genetic junk into a unique defense against inevitable tumors.

origins of life

Life’s First Molecule Was Protein, Not RNA, New Model Suggests

Which mattered first at the dawn of life: proteins or nucleic acids? Proteins may have had the edge if a theorized process let them grow long enough to become self-replicating catalysts.

White stick figures incased in blue teardrops surround other stick figures on a blue background. They are surrounded by stick figures on a red background.
Quantized Columns

The Unforgiving Math That Stops Epidemics

If you didn’t get a flu shot, you are endangering more than just your own health. Calculations of herd immunity against common diseases don’t make exceptions.

The delicate specialized structure of the water strider genus Rhagovelia looks like a Japanese fan.

Insects Conquered a Watery Realm With Just Two New Genes

Minor genetic changes can have big evolutionary consequences. When a gene duplication gave some water striders a novel leg part, it opened up a new world for them.


Simple Bacteria Offer Clues to the Origins of Photosynthesis

Studies of the energy-harvesting proteins in primitive cells suggest that key features of photosynthesis might have evolved a billion years earlier than scientists thought.

Cryo-electron microscopy
Abstractions blog

Supercool Protein Imaging Gets the Nobel Prize

This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to researchers who made it possible to see proteins and other biomolecules at an atomic level of detail.

Abstractions blog

Nobel Prize Awarded for Biological Clock Discoveries

Three U.S. biologists share the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research into the molecular mechanism that drives circadian rhythm.

Selfish DNA
insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Are Genes Selfish or Cooperative?’

Puzzle solvers rediscovered a simple mathematical result of Mendelian genetics and weighed in on a Richard Dawkins metaphor.

Neuron drawings by Santiago Ramón y Cajal
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Why the First Drawings of Neurons Were Defaced

Every exquisite drawing by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the founder of modern neuroscience, is marred by a curious mark. Here is the little-known story behind it.