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Physical World

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

Marine wildlife is starting to suffocate

Global warming and agricultural runoff have driven the loss of oxygen in oceans around the world, with looming ecological consequences.

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

What makes a tree a tree?

Despite numerous studies and 30-plus genomes under their belts, scientists are still struggling to nail down the defining traits of these tall, long-lived, woody plants

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.

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

The marks of extinction

The mass die-offs of Earth’s past may hold clues to our future

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.

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

Tricks and traits that let insects take flight

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

Hacking the immune system

How the body’s own defense cells can be turned into tiny, programmable assassins to battle cancers and other disorders

Peering into the meditating mind

Some people swear by it, but studies of mindfulness have a long way to go

Microbes in the medical bag

Genetically engineered gut bacteria hold promise for safe, targeted therapies

Thar she blows: The what, why and where of geysers

Scientists make progress in mapping the hidden force behind the watery eruptions

Snot what you think: The unknown toll of chronic sinus problems

A not-so-simple affliction of the sinuses engenders misery, $8 billion in yearly costs and overuse of antibiotics