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Why real-life places still matter in the age of texting and Twitter

Interactions in physical spaces, whether around the watercooler or at the neighborhood bar, are crucial to forming social ties

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Out of the mouth of babes

Learning a language is child’s play, but linguists are still trying to understand how children do it so easily

Animal Weapons | Things to Know

VIDEO: How an evolutionary “arms race” leads to flashy horns, pincers and more across the animal kingdom

Robots designed to self-construct

Robot researcher Mark Yim offers a look inside the promising field of modular reconfigurable robotics — bots that can shift form to tackle an array of tasks

Locusts and Grasshoppers | Things to Know

VIDEO: What’s the difference between these two insects? And what triggers a swarm? 

Bent into shape: The rules of tree form

How do trees find their sense of direction as they grow? Researchers are getting to the root — and the branches — of how the grandest of plants develop.

Regeneration: The amphibian’s opus

Certain salamanders can regrow lost body parts. How do they do it? And could people someday do the same?

How do bodies position arms, legs, wings and organs?

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS: Embryos use a ruler, of sorts, so they can create the right structures at the right spots from head to tail.

How do body parts grow to their right sizes?

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS: Some cells seem to know what to do. Others apparently take their cues from outside. But really, “We don’t get it.”

How do bodies map out left and right?

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS: Early in development, an embryo must “break symmetry” to position organs and other parts correctly.

How does the embryo make all its parts at just the right moments?

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS: If events weren’t properly timed, pandemonium would ensue. Researchers are ferreting out the internal clocks that control developmental sequence and scheduling.

Will we ever fully know how a body gets built?

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS: Research has yielded a parts list of the genes and cell types involved in development. Now it’s time for the computationally intensive task of figuring out how they interact to form a living being. 

Detention nation

As locking up immigrants has become common in the US, scholars tackle ‘crimmigration’ and its complexities

Why green energy finally makes economic sense

Solar and wind generators have suddenly become just as cheap as other ways to produce electric power

Treating the growing trauma of family separation

War, disasters, trafficking and immigration are tearing millions of children from their parents all around the world. A psychologist explores how to help them recover.

The unexpected diversity of pain

It comes in many types that each require specialized treatment. Scientists are starting to learn how to diagnose the different varieties.

Singular science

“N of 1” studies aim to answer medical questions one person at a time

Physicists probe validity of Einstein’s gravity on cosmic scales

New tests could verify general theory of relativity, or find flaws

When courtroom science goes wrong — and how stats can fix it

COMIC: Bite marks, shoe prints, crime-scene fibers: Matches to suspects are often far shakier than courtroom experts claim. Better statistical methods — among them, a little beast known as the “likelihood ratio” — can cut down on wrong convictions.

The monarch’s stupendous migration, dissected

COMIC: The feisty orange-black butterfly uses a toolbox of biological tricks to find its way down to Mexico for winter and flap north again in spring. Here’s how scientists figured out those tricks — and what they don’t yet understand.

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

COMIC: 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 iron ocean

Through dust, not rust, the metal plays a complex, controversial role in Earth’s climate

Winding the body’s clock

Medicines and other small molecules may play a role in fixing rhythms gone awry

The workout drug

As researchers learn more about how exercise fights chronic ills like heart disease and diabetes, doctors may soon be able to treat physical activity as the powerful medicine it is