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The Immune System’s Weirdest Weapon

Every drop of pus that’s squeezed out of the human body is a squidgy mess—a souvenir of an infection gone awry, a reminder to never eat off-color custard again. It is also a wartime memorial, dedicated to the corpses of the many thousands of microscopic soldiers that once teemed within. The fallen are neutrophils: stalwart immune cells that throng in...

The ‘Green Vortex’ Is Saving America’s Climate Future

Here, at least, is the standard story: The past decade has been abysmal for climate-change policy in the United States. In 2009, a handsome new president took office pledging to pass a comprehensive climate bill in Congress. He did not. The Environmental Protection Agency sought to meaningfully reduce carbon pollution from power plants. It did not....

Drivers Never Learn the One Lesson of Cicada Season

The story sounds ridiculous, but it’s true: A man in Ohio recently drove his car into a utility pole after a cicada flew through his open window and smacked into his face. He was fine! The car, not so much.The Brood X cicadas have certainly made their presence known over the past several weeks: their ceaseless screeching from the treetops, their slow,...

Detective Fiction Has Nothing on This Victorian-Science Murder Mystery

In the summer of 1893, an unusual volume appeared on the shelves of London booksellers. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia: Its Products and Potentialities, published by W. H. Allen and Company, was remarkable both for its price—the leather-bound volume would have cost a skilled tradesperson nearly two weeks’ pay—and for its fantastically close observation...

A Hint About How Life Made It Onto Land

Mangrove rivulus fish hate enforced water aerobics. Despite her best efforts, Giulia Rossi, a biologist who recently received her doctorate from the University of Guelph, cannot coax the fish to swim against a current in a laboratory tank. “They refuse to exercise in water,” she told me. “They just let themselves hit the back mesh.”When plucked out...

Why the U.S. Doesn’t Dominate the Solar-Panel Industry Anymore

Every week, our lead climate reporter brings you the big ideas, expert analysis, and vital guidance that will help you flourish on a changing planet. Sign up to get The Weekly Planet, our guide to living through climate change, in your inbox.You wouldn’t know it today, but the silicon photovoltaic solar cell—the standard, black-and-copper solar panel...

A Strangely Comforting Finding About Alien Rain

On rainy days, Kaitlyn Loftus likes to imagine herself somewhere else. Not on a sun-soaked beach, but on another world in the middle of its own rainstorm. Beneath the swirling storms of Jupiter or Saturn’s hazy cloud tops, where helium drops from the sky. On Neptune, where it might drizzle diamonds. Maybe Titan, a moon of Saturn, where methane rain...

The Essential Ed Yong Reading List

In a series of definitive pieces that earned him the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting, The Atlantic’s Ed Yong anticipated the course of the coronavirus pandemic, clarified its dangers, and illuminated the American government’s disastrous failure to curb it.Yong, who has been a staff writer at The Atlantic since 2015, began warning readers...

The Human Genome Is—Finally!—Complete

When the human genome was first deemed “complete” in 2000, the news was met with great international fanfare. The two rival groups vying to finish the genome first—one a large government-led consortium, the other an underdog private company—agreed to declare joint success. They shook hands at the White House. Bill Clinton presided. Tony Blair beamed...

The IVF Cases That Broke Birthright Citizenship

Ethan and Aiden Dvash-Banks are twin brothers—born just four minutes apart on the same September day in the same hospital room in Ontario, Canada. But shortly after their birth in 2016, the U.S. State Department decided that the two boys were very different in the eyes of American law: Aiden was a U.S. citizen but Ethan, the brother with whom he’d shared...

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