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Getting the microbe story, straight from the mouth

A trio of researchers has mapped the living things that make the tongue, gums and palate home

Profiling the perpetrators of past plagues

The ancient pathogens in old graves are as dead as the people they once infected. Still, they tell a vivid tale.

Measuring surgical quality

Not all surgeons are equally skilled with a scalpel. Doctors are developing new ways to test — and improve — operating room performance.

Revenge is bittersweet at best

Research is starting to reveal how the urge for vengeance may have evolved, when it can be useful and what could prevent the violence it can provoke

Lessons from scorching hot weirdo-planets

Hot Jupiters were the first kind of exoplanet found. A quarter-century later, they still perplex and captivate — and their origins hold lessons about planet formation in general.

How maternal mood shapes the developing brain

Stress and anxiety during pregnancy can mean a higher risk of offspring developing ADHD, depression or other conditions. Medical psychologist Catherine Monk explains how prenatal mental care benefits mothers and babies.

Going gentle

A sociologist explains how to get the most out of the final months of life

Total recall: A brilliant memory helps chickadees survive

In winter, the birds must remember where they’ve hidden tens of thousands of seeds. Biologist Vladimir Pravosudov explains what this can teach us about how the brain evolves.

On whose green Earth?

Are we supposed to take care of the planet or should it take care of us? Willis Jenkins explains how religion shapes the conflicting views over climate change and other environmental issues.

Getting “exhausted” T cells back into action against cancer

When a malignancy or chronic infection sets in, a kind of immune combat fatigue can follow. Finding ways to recharge immune cells can restore their ability to fight deadly diseases, says immunologist John Wherry.

War and drugs: Together since forever

Alcohol-drenched medieval battlefields. Opium-laced imperialism. Modern-day narco-terrorism. There’s a lot of history between armed conflict and psychoactive substances.

Archaeology of the 99%

The vast majority of people in antiquity were too poor to leave many artifacts behind. But archaeologists have learned how to look beyond the temples and palaces.

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 

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?

Kids in the middle

Recognizing the important role of children as cultural translators