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Photo of green leafy plants in close-up.
Abstractions blog

Why Are Plants Green? To Reduce the Noise in Photosynthesis.

July 30, 2020

Plants ignore the most energy-rich part of sunlight because stability matters more than efficiency, according to a new model of photosynthesis.

Abstractions blog

Do Brains Operate at a Tipping Point? New Clues and Complications

June 10, 2019

New experimental results simultaneously advance and challenge the theory that the brain’s network of neurons balances on the knife-edge between two phases.

Art for "The Math That Tells Cells What They Are"
mathematical biology

The Math That Tells Cells What They Are

March 13, 2019

During development, cells seem to decode their fate through optimal information processing, which could hint at a more general principle of life.

Art for "‘Lava-Lamp’ Proteins Inside Cells May Protect and Regulate"
cell biology

‘Lava-Lamp’ Proteins May Help Cells Cheat Death

November 26, 2018

With proteins that reversibly self-assemble into droplets, cells may control their metabolism — and harden themselves against harsh conditions.

Abstractions blog

‘Traffic Jams’ of Cells Help to Sculpt Embryos

September 27, 2018

By measuring mechanical forces inside an embryo for the first time, researchers have shown how a physical “jamming” mechanism assists development.

Art for "A Math Theory for Why People Hallucinate"

A Math Theory for Why People Hallucinate

July 30, 2018

Psychedelic drugs can trigger characteristic hallucinations, which have long been thought to hold clues about the brain’s circuitry. After nearly a century of study, a possible explanation is crystallizing.

Photo of Escherichia coli under a microscope
Abstractions blog

Swarming Bacteria Create an ‘Impossible’ Superfluid

July 26, 2018

Researchers explore a loophole that extracts useful energy from a fluid’s seemingly random motion. The secret? Sugar and asymmetry.

Illustration for "Brains May Teeter Near Their Tipping Point"

Brains May Teeter Near Their Tipping Point

June 14, 2018

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

June 13, 2018

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