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Health & Disease

Digital disease surveillance: Tracking a pandemic

Social media posts and online searches may offer vital clues about the spread of influenza — and now Covid-19. But they also risk errors and threaten privacy.

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Psychotherapy on the couch

Studies show talk therapy works, but experts disagree about how it does so. Finding the answer could help professionals and patients.

Life’s little oscillations

A bevy of intricate biochemical fluctuations inside cells rule the natural world. Scientists are trying to figure out how they all work.

Closing in on the new coronavirus

The eye-catching spikes sticking out from the surface of SARS-CoV-2 may inspire new ways to prevent or treat Covid-19 infections

Synthetic media: The real trouble with deepfakes

Keeping on top of manipulated videos and images is no easy feat. Scientists trace the roots of their proliferation, dig up new techniques to counter digital forgeries and warn of the growing dangers ahead.

What do genes do? | Things to Know

VIDEO: Scientists have captured live video of parts of the most fundamental event in biology — cells reading and copying DNA instructions to make proteins

New projects broaden the search for alien signals from space

A longer list of Earth-like planets, eavesdropping on radio waves and looking for laser light shows: All raise the chances of detecting E.T.

The soil solution

Policymakers, entrepreneurs and farmers are increasingly looking to soils in their fight to slow climate change

What makes food ‘local’?

More people are choosing what to eat based on where it was grown, made or created. An anthropologist looks at the myriad ways we link food to place — and whether it really could make a difference.

When nuclear goes retro | Things to Know

VIDEO: Old becomes new as nuclear startups take another look at using liquid nuclear fuel as a safe alternative to conventional nuclear reactors

How humans shift fish evolution | Things to Know

VIDEO: By targeting larger individuals, intense fishing may lead to a fishery dominated by the small

Out of Antarctica, churnings of climate change

The interplay of carbon dioxide, winds and Southern Ocean waters could be reaching an environmental tipping point

Rethinking clinical trials for next-generation cancer drugs

Therapies tailored to a tumor’s genetic markers show promise, but figuring out who’s most likely to benefit presents new challenges for scientists

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

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

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? 

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

Plumbing 101: Building the body’s tubes and branches

Lungs, blood vessels, kidneys and more: Our bodies are full of branching pipes. Their development follows a handful of basic principles.

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.”