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The Brain ‘Rotates’ Memories to Save Them From New Sensations

During every waking moment, we humans and other animals have to balance on the edge of our awareness of past and present. We must absorb new sensory information about the world around us while holding on to short-term memories of earlier observations or events. Our ability to make sense of our surroundings, to learn, to act and to think all depend on...

The New Historian of the Smash That Made the Himalayas

Earth is unique in plenty of ways. But Lucía Pérez-Díaz, a geologist at the University of Oxford, reckons that one of its most stunning novelties is its ability to constantly change its face. Our planet’s ever-metamorphosing veneer is made up of colossal slabs of rock named tectonic plates: wafers of crust stuck atop Earth’s upper mantle. They drift...

How Radio Astronomy Reveals the Universe

If you ask an astronomer to choose the single most exciting picture in all of astronomy, many of us will point to a familiar orange ring. At a glance it may not look like much — a fuzzy glowing doughnut, bulging slightly at the bottom and, as of last month, streaked with curving lines — but in reality this unassuming circle is humanity’s first glimpse...

Mathematician Disproves 80-Year-Old Algebra Conjecture

On February 22, a postdoctoral mathematician named Giles Gardam gave an hourlong online talk about the unit conjecture, a basic but confounding algebra question that had stood open for more than 80 years. He carefully laid out the history of the conjecture and two allied conjectures, and explained their connections to the powerful algebraic machinery...

New Genomic Study of Placenta Finds Deep Links to Cancer

In 2008, while the medical resident Sam Behjati was doing his usual rounds in a hospital maternity ward, a colleague urgently pulled him into a patient’s room, where he saw a mother beaming with joy and swaddling a perfectly healthy newborn. Behjati’s jaw dropped. Only a few months earlier, doctors had given this mother the devastating news that a routine...

‘Last Hope’ Experiment Finds Evidence for Unknown Particles

Twenty years after an apparent anomaly in the behavior of elementary particles raised hopes of a major physics breakthrough, a new measurement has solidified them: Physicists at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago announced today that muons — elementary particles similar to electrons — wobbled more than expected while whipping around...

Iceland’s Eruptions Reveal the Hot History of Mars

After 15 months of increasingly intense and disruptive earthquakes on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, the region finally let off some pressure. On March 19, lava roared out of the ground in the uninhabited valley of Geldingadalur, marking the first time in 800 years that this southwesterly strip of land has been rocked by an eruption. Volcanologists...

Mathematicians Settle Erdős Coloring Conjecture

In the fall of 1972, Vance Faber was a new professor at the University of Colorado. When two influential mathematicians, Paul Erdős and László Lovász, came for a visit, Faber decided to host a tea party. Erdős in particular had an international reputation as an eccentric and energetic researcher, and Faber’s colleagues were eager to meet him. “While...

A Computer Scientist Who Tackles Inequality Through Algorithms

When Rediet Abebe arrived at Harvard University as an undergraduate in 2009, she planned to study mathematics. But her experiences with the Cambridge public schools soon changed her plans. Abebe, 29, is from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and largest city. When residents there didn’t have the resources they needed, she attributed it to community-level...

Cells Form Into ‘Xenobots’ on Their Own

Early last year, the biologist Michael Levin and his colleagues offered a glimpse of how versatile living matter can be. Levin and Douglas Blackiston, a member of his laboratory at the Allen Discovery Center of Tufts University, brought together nascent skin and muscle cells from a frog embryo and shaped the multicelled assemblies by hand. This sculpting...

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