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Living World

Why viruses deserve a better reputation

Sure they cause disease, but the microbes can be a help as well. Witness long-lasting pepper seeds, drought-resistant crop plants and even our own placentas.

Darwin’s finches fall prey to a blood-sucking parasite

An invasive fly could mean the loss of bird species on the Galápagos Islands. To save them, scientists may introduce another invasive insect.

E-cigarettes: A win or loss for public health?

They’re less toxic than traditional cigarettes but still addictive and not without their own health risks. Researchers disagree on whether vaping can help or harm efforts to reduce tobacco use.

A master teller of fish stories

First came fugu. Then he took a bite out of sharks. Now a pioneer in genome research helps lead the effort to sequence every lineage of vertebrates.

Making sense of many universes

The idea of a multiverse — multiple realms of space differing in basic properties of physics — bugs some scientists. Others find it a real possibility that should not be ignored.

Building planets, piece by piece

The theory of “pebble accretion” explains how infant worlds got so big so quickly

Invisibility aside, metamaterials are making waves

Materials that manipulate light and sound in ways not seen in nature may be ready for prime time, improving imaging and communications

The body electric

Batteries are the weak link for wearable and implantable devices. But what if you could harvest energy from the heat, sweat or vibrations of the wearer?

There goes the night

Artificial lights spell darker times for much of the planet’s wildlife — but it doesn’t have to be that way

Finland’s bold push to change the heart health of a nation

Beginning in its bleak borderlands, the country launched an official — and broadly influential — effort to improve food and lifestyle choices, using everything from cozy fireside chats and reality TV shows to laws and incentives.

Nudging grows up (and now has a government job)

Ten years after an influential book proposed ways to work with — not against — the irrationalities of human decision-making, practitioners have refined and broadened this gentle tool of persuasion

Unpersuasive: Why arguing about climate change often doesn't work

In the US, where political parties have increasingly staked claims on one side of the issue or the other, beliefs may be more about belonging than facts

The science of better beer

Advances in the lab are adding variety, efficiency and precision to age-old brewing traditions

The photosynthesis fix

As world food needs rise, so does the need for faster, more efficient plant growth. Bypassing an error-prone enzyme is one way to do it.

Tricks and traits that let insects take flight

The world’s earliest aeronauts possess a panoply of adaptations to help them navigate the skies.

Twilight of the eye

Our bodies and abilities deteriorate with age, and sight is no exception. Physical changes to the visual system cloud it in multiple ways.

Rebranding placebos

Harnessing the power of sham therapies for real healing might require a new lexicon

Alzheimer’s holds science at bay

A summary of “Update on Alzheimer’s Disease Therapy and Prevention Strategies” by W. Vallen Graham and coauthors, in the 2017 issue of the Annual Review of Medicine

Beating back peanut allergy, bit by bit

Once rare, sensitivity to the legume is now the most common cause of fatal allergic reactions to foods. New therapies might help.

Barista’s burden

The dark side of “service with a smile”