The genius, artist, philosopher, scientist, dumpster-diver, Joe Davis started making crystal radios as a child, nurturing a lifelong fascination with electro-magnetics, DNA and the nature of the universe. Art and science fuse in his work; whether creating a genetically modified apple designed to tempt the Devil, recording the sounds of micro-organisms or encoding Greek philosophy into fly DNA.
None of New Guinea’s wild wonders have fascinated scientists as deeply as the creatures that 19th-century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace called “the most extraordinary and the most beautiful of the feathered inhabitants of the earth”: the birds of paradise. The 39 species are found only in New Guinea and a few nearby areas, and despite decades of exploration and research, no one had ever succeeded in seeing them all—until now. Birds of paradise represent an extreme example of Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection: Females choose mates based on certain appealing characteristics, thus increasing the odds that those traits will pass from one generation to the next. In New Guinea an abundance of food and a scarcity of predators have allowed the birds to flourish—and to exaggerate their most attractive traits to a degree that even literal-minded scientists have called absurd.
Scientists are making their first forays into the mysterious world of biology miles up in the air. Their startling conclusion: That ecosystem in the sky might influence tomorrow’s weather and next year’s harvest.
Moody. Impulsive. Maddening. Why do teenagers act the way they do? Viewed through the eyes of evolution, their most exasperating traits may be the key to success as adults. Culture clearly shapes adolescence. It influences its expression and possibly its length. It can magnify its manifestations. Yet culture does not create adolescence. The period’s uniqueness rises from genes and developmental processes that have been selected for over thousands of generations because they play an amplified role during this key transitional period: producing a creature optimally primed to leave a safe home and move into unfamiliar territory.
The current state of technology, coupled with our enhanced access to knowledge, has provided new, unrestricted capabilities for people interested in particular fields of study, like biology. This access has resulted in the formation of a new group of do-it-yourself biologists, known as “BioHackers.” BioHackers conduct their research independently of universities and other scientific institutions, and have still been able to contribute significant findings to the world of science. As technology improves and becomes cheaper, it is likely the trend of BioHackers will only grow, signaling a new direction in scientific research, and opening the field to many others.
Empathy, cooperation, fairness and reciprocity — caring about the well-being of others seems like a very human trait. But Frans de Waal shares some surprising videos of behavioral tests, on primates and other mammals, that show how many of these moral traits all of us share.
Amy Cuddy revealed that we can actually change feelings we have about our own status through the physical positions we take with our bodies. Her research participants had higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol after only two minutes in a “power pose”. Cuddy asked if such findings can have wider implications for empowerment training.
Pop quiz: When does learning begin? Answer: Before we are born. Science writer Annie Murphy Paul talks through new research that shows how much we learn in the womb — from the lilt of our native language to our soon-to-be-favorite foods.
Each weaver ant colony inhabits from half a dozen to more than a hundred nests at any given time, forming a metropolis of boroughs and suburbs connected by busy commuter routes. A hierarchy of workers and soldiers maintains and defends this territory, which spreads from treetops to the forest floor, staying in sync through constant communication. They touch each other with mouths, forelegs, or antennae. They lay down scents with different glands to send different messages. They release more pheromones into the air to broadcast signals quickly and widely.