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Living World

The hidden strengths of freshwater mussels

The humble bivalves can clean polluted water and bump up diversity — but in dammed rivers and fouled watersheds, many species face extinction. With help, maybe they can save themselves.

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First, do harm

Studies that deliberately infect people with diseases are on the rise. They promise speedier vaccine development, but there’s a need to shore up informed consent.

How 3-D printing could help shape surgery

Technology is enabling increasingly lifelike models of organs to help doctors practice operations.

Life’s a blur — but we don’t see it that way

Our brains manage to construct stable images even as our eyes keep darting around. Here’s what we know about how that happens. 

The mighty Milky Way

Our galaxy is far bigger, brighter and more massive than most others

Sex strategies of the evolutionary kind

For women, a short-term fling may involve a quest for good genes or just a good time. It’s a puzzle for the researchers looking at how people choose mates.

Toward greener plastics

Researchers and companies are working on new kinds of biodegradable packaging, bottles and other products that break down like compost. 

If it pleases the Prosecution

The immense powers of prosecutors throughout the US mean that the scales are tipped against defendants — and justice itself, says a legal expert

As climate changes, so does life in the planet’s soils

To understand what might be lost, ecologist Janet K. Jansson taps molecular methods to explore Earth’s underground microbes, from the permafrost to the grasslands

Always look on the bright side of life

How a positive outlook may buffer us from stress and ward off health problems 

A middle path to sustainable farming

Agricultural economists are homing in on hybrid, low-input methods that will both safeguard the environment and feed the future billions

Will the food of the future be genetically engineered or organic? How about both?

Feeding the planet — now and tomorrow — is no small task. Plant biologist Pamela Ronald says sustainability means using every tool in the toolbox.

A blizzard of “sustainability” labels

Earth-friendly certifications and standards abound for products like coffee, chocolate and palm oil. But do the programs work?

A quantum origin for spacetime

Physicists find hints that entanglement explains Einstein’s equations for gravity

The body’s tiny cargo carriers

Scientists are finding that microscopic membranous bubbles called extracellular vesicles transmit messages from cells and do big jobs in many areas of biology — plus they might be useful for therapies.

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

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.

The dappled dilemma facing vitiligo science

Even as scientists celebrate progress in the lab, a stigma-busting movement asserts that those with the autoimmune skin condition are more in need of acceptance than medicine

Listening to ketamine

The fast-acting drug offers a new way to treat depression and fathom its origins. Recent approval of a nasal spray promises to expand access, but much remains unknown about long-term use and the potential for abuse.

Firenadoes and drifting embers: The secrets of extreme wildfires

Researchers probe the weather-like physics of deadly infernos

Grim relics

Archaeology of the Nazi era is about digging for truth through science. Reinhard Bernbeck discusses the origins and ethics of this approach.

Drink your beets

Among the plethora of supplements that promise athletes an advantage, a natural juice gains traction as an evidence-based boost

Nuclear goes retro — with a much greener outlook

Returning to designs abandoned in the 1970s, start-ups are developing a new kind of reactor that promises to be much safer and cleaner than current ones.