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Science

Cracking the sugar code: the secret language cells use

When it comes to communicating the fundamentals of life, DNA gets all the credit. Almost everyone is familiar with the distinctive double helix, an iconic structure that has been familiar ever since 1953 when Watson and Crick published the now-legendary article announcing its discovery. But what about life’s other language? The code which has been […]

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Science

Forget anti-vaxxers, we need to talk about ease of access

Let me begin with a potentially controversial statement: anti-vaxxers are a manufactured problem. Growth in these groups is often associated with the recent spikes in confirmed cases of measles, attracting a lot of public attention. This is an extremely useful narrative. It gives us a group to blame when we see people dying from completely […]

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Science Science

Humans may be able to sense the magnetic field of the earth

Humans may just have become members of a very eclectic club. Fruit flies, homing pigeons, bats, mole-rat, and turtles are among the diverse creatures unified by an intriguing characteristic: the ability to detect the earth’s magnetic field. Now, for the first time, there is compelling evidence to suggest that humans might also unknowingly share this […]

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Environment Science Science

The lessons learnt from the lamprey’s spinal cord regeneration

You could be forgiven for never having heard of the lamprey, an obscure lineage of fish that shared a common ancestor with humans approximately 550 million years ago. In fact, the only prominent example of this strange creature featuring in popular culture is their alleged role in the death of King Henry I, who, legend […]

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Health Science

The Great Mystery of Sleep

For such a fundamental and routine feature of our existence, sleep is something that we know relatively little about. Though it has been studied since the 1900s, scientists still do not fully know why sleep is even strictly necessary, or which specific advantages have allowed this seemingly impractical behaviour to evolve. In a competitive environment, […]

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Environment Science Science

Boiling a Frog: an Evolutionary Perspective on Why We Are So Bad at Tackling Climate Change

You may have previously come across the fable in which two unfortunate amphibians are dropped into two separate pots of water. In the first instance, the water is already boiling and the frog quickly reacts, jumping to safety upon sensing the hot temperature. In the second case, however, the water is initially cool and gradually heats. […]

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Environment Science

The mysterious case of the sea walnut’s disappearing anus

It is a fair assumption that you have not come across the phrase “transient anus” before. At least, no obvious context comes to mind. The phrase is new to biology and has been coined to describe an anus which appears only when it is required for defecation, vanishing as soon as the deed is done. […]

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Science

The robot that discovered itself

AI (artificial intelligence) researchers have made an important step towards the development of an ‘intelligent’ robot. If this phrase conjures up dystopian images of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg, the reality may be a far cry from what you are expecting. Instead, the robot in question consists of a long mechanically jointed arm with a […]