Mathematicians Begin to Tame Wild ‘Sunflower’ Problem
A major advance toward solving the 60-year-old sunflower conjecture is shedding light on how order begins to appear as random systems grow in size.
Inherited Learning? It Happens, but How Is Uncertain
Studies suggest that epigenetics allows some learned adaptive responses to be passed down to new generations. The question is how.
How Randomness Can Arise From Determinism
Playing with a simple bean machine illustrates how deterministic laws can produce probabilistic, random-seeming behavior.
With Category Theory, Mathematics Escapes From Equality
Two monumental works have led many mathematicians to avoid the equal sign. Their goal: Rebuild the foundations of the discipline upon the looser relationship of “equivalence.” The process has not always gone smoothly.
How Jurassic Plankton Stole Control of the Ocean’s Chemistry
Only 170 million years ago, new plankton evolved. Their demand for carbon and calcium permanently transformed the seas as homes for life.
Cell-Bacteria Mergers Offer Clues to How Organelles Evolved
Cells in symbiotic partnership, nested one within the other and functioning like organelles, can borrow from their host’s genes to complete their own metabolic pathways.
Your Brain Chooses What to Let You See
Beneath our awareness, the brain lets certain kinds of stimuli automatically capture our attention by lowering the priority of the rest.
To Pay Attention, the Brain Uses Filters, Not a Spotlight
A brain circuit that suppresses distracting sensory information holds important clues about attention and other cognitive processes.
Math Reveals the Secrets of Cells’ Feedback Circuitry
Maintaining perfect stability through negative feedback is a basic element of electrical circuitry, but it’s been a mystery how cells could do it — until now.
Long-Lived Stellar Blast Kindles Hope of a Supernova We’ve Never Seen Before
A giant star’s death throes may offer the first evidence of a pair-instability supernova, and a glimpse of the first stars in the universe.