Free Falling: the science of weightlessness

by Lisa Heppler figures by Jovana Andrejevic Weightlessness is something many of us have dreamed about since we were kids. We have seen footage of astronauts floating around the International Space Station playing Ping-Pong with balls of water and Pac-Man with strings of M&Ms. For a moment, as we watch these astronauts thriving in an environment completely alien to us, we are able to imagine ourselves … Continue reading Free Falling: the science of weightlessness

A Tall Order: Using Machine Learning to Predict Height from Genetic Variation

A machine learning algorithm trained using 500,000 genetic profiles can predict the height of an individual within about one inch based solely on their genes. Such an algorithm shows great promise for accurate risk assessment of complex diseases and identifying targets for therapy. However, further validation is required to evaluate how the tool will extend to more genetically diverse populations, and standardized methods for assessing genetic variation are necessary. Continue reading A Tall Order: Using Machine Learning to Predict Height from Genetic Variation

Hey, Can You Put That Out? My Planet is Dying

You’ve probably heard that cigarettes are bad for you, and it has always been a safe bet to assume that they’re bad for the environment too. A comprehensive analysis of the entire tobacco supply chain by researchers at the Imperial College of London shows just how devastating the industry continues to be for global environmental health. Check out Trevor Haynes’ article to learn more. Continue reading Hey, Can You Put That Out? My Planet is Dying

Signs of Life: Searching for Plants on Other Planets

If you travel into deep space and look back at Earth through a sophisticated telescope, you could measure what’s called the vegetation red edge (VRE). The vegetation red edge is a mixture of red and infrared light that is reflected by plants on Earth’s surface. Because of clouds, ice masses, and large oceans, the vegetation red edge on Earth is actually fairly small and difficult … Continue reading Signs of Life: Searching for Plants on Other Planets

Science Diplomacy: Collaboration in a rapidly changing world

by Trevor Haynes figures by Daniel Utter “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.” – Louis Pasteur Today’s world is extremely interconnected. Most of us take this fact for granted, but its implications cannot be overstated. The rate at which information, resources, and people are able to move from one part of the world to another … Continue reading Science Diplomacy: Collaboration in a rapidly changing world

The Chemistry Nobel: Evolving proteins into better medicines and biofuels

It’s that time of year – Nobel Prize season! This year, the Chemistry Nobel prize was awarded to three scientists: one half to Frances Arnold “for the directed evolution of enzymes,” and the other half to George Smith and Sir Gregory Winter “for the phage display of peptides and antibodies.” What exactly are these award-winning technologies and how have they impacted society? ‘Directed evolution of … Continue reading The Chemistry Nobel: Evolving proteins into better medicines and biofuels

Sleepless Flies Lead Normal Lives

by Jamilla Akhund-Zade figures by Rebecca Senft Anyone who has had the misfortune of missing a night of sleep would not need convincing that sleep is important for well-being. Decades of studies concur with what is already commonly known – sleep is vital for the health of the body and the brain, and lack of sleep can be deadly. Yet contrary to our current understanding, … Continue reading Sleepless Flies Lead Normal Lives

Be the coolest house on the block with a fresh coat of a new polymer material

This summer, heat waves hit the Northern Hemisphere with temperatures upward of 100°F, highlighting one of the biggest current worldwide challenges: keeping buildings (and the people inside them) cool. A group of researchers from Columbia University may have an answer. They’ve designed a new material that chills buildings by reflecting sunlight. Instead of getting rid of heat that has already slipped into the building, this … Continue reading Be the coolest house on the block with a fresh coat of a new polymer material

A Centuries-Old Mathematical Puzzle May Finally Have an Answer

As kids, we are taught about the existence of prime numbers: numbers that are only divisible by themselves and one. The first few are easy to recognize just by counting: two, three, five… But the larger the counting goes, the less obvious the prime. The ability to predict where the prime numbers lay on the number line has haunted mathematicians and scientists for centuries, but … Continue reading A Centuries-Old Mathematical Puzzle May Finally Have an Answer

Make No Bones About It: Human skeletal stem cells discovered for first time

Human stem cells are specialized cells that can be harvested from the body and engineered to turn into various tissues and organs. Perhaps the greatest potential use of stem cells is the generation of new tissues for organ transplants. Unfortunately, scientists have long struggled to find skeletal stem cells that can reliably turn into bone, cartilage, and supportive tissues of the skeleton. In a study … Continue reading Make No Bones About It: Human skeletal stem cells discovered for first time