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The race to develop paper-based tests for coronavirus

Scientists are working at breakneck speed to develop inexpensive tools that take only minutes to tell if someone is infected — a feat that could pave the way for a safer return to normalcy

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Making and breaking connections in the brain

The links between nerve cells, called synapses, allow us to learn and adapt, and hold clues to conditions such as autism, schizophrenia and more

The origin of mud

For most of Earth’s history, hardly any of the mucky stuff existed on land. It finally started piling up around 458 million years ago, changing life on the planet forever.

Microbial secrets of sourdough

It all starts with a community teeming with yeasts and bacteria — but what’s really happening? Scientists peer into those jars on the kitchen counter to find out.

Why jobless payments serve the public good

Amid political debate over benefits during the pandemic, a researcher explains why unemployment insurance and other government measures are crucial for the economy and employees to survive troubled times

The fragile state of contact languages

These linguistic mash-ups are at high risk of extinction. The race to save them is a matter of time, with more at stake than words.

Getting a Covid-19 vaccine — quickly and safely

Researchers around the globe are working with unprecedented speed to find the vaccines we need to find our way through the pandemic. What’s the bar for safety and effectiveness?

Collective behavior: How animals work together

Studies of birds, fish and ants reveal the hidden ways groups coordinate movement, which might influence engineers designing drone armadas and efficient information flow

Matching meals to metabolism

Genes, microbes and other factors govern how each person’s body processes nutrients. Understanding the connections could help optimize diets — and health.

Less toy, more workhorse: Drones get functional

Airborne autonomous vehicles could soon be dropping off your Amazon packages, delivering your food and even ensuring that the infrastructure around you is safe and sound

The trouble with medicating mental illness

Psychotropic drugs have severely narrowed how we treat psychiatric disorders — to the detriment of patients and society as a whole. A look at the past suggests a better way forward.

How viruses evolve

Pathogens that switch to a new host species have some adapting to do. How does that affect the course of a pandemic like Covid-19?

Searching high and low for the origins of life

Researchers think they’re getting warmer: They’ve created amino acids and primitive membranes by simulating conditions found at scalding vents on the ocean floor

Earth to birds: Take the next left

Scientists have long thought that avian migration is guided by the magnetic field, but how, exactly? The search has led to three very different hypotheses.

Speaking of pandemics: The art and science of risk communication

Public health messages should be loud and clear, so that everyone listens and stays safe. But that’s easier said than done — especially with a case as complex as Covid-19.

Beyond the twilight zone

Tidally locked worlds are places of extremes. On one side it’s an endless day, the other a perpetual night. Yet scientists speculate that some may harbor conditions that could support life.

An elemental problem with the sun

For two decades, astronomers have argued over how much carbon, nitrogen and especially oxygen lie within our closest star — a dispute with implications for the entire universe

The 2020 census has arrived. Here’s why the population count matters.

COMIC: Written into the US Constitution, the decadal tally has always started arguments. But it is also fundamental to governing.

When courtroom science goes wrong — and how stats can fix it

COMIC: Bite marks, shoe prints, crime-scene fibers: Matches to suspects are often far shakier than courtroom experts claim. Better statistical methods — among them, a little beast known as the “likelihood ratio” — can cut down on wrong convictions.

The monarch’s stupendous migration, dissected

COMIC: The feisty orange-black butterfly uses a toolbox of biological tricks to find its way down to Mexico for winter and flap north again in spring. Here’s how scientists figured out those tricks — and what they don’t yet understand.

Corporate crime and non-punishment

The legal system makes it easy for big businesses that break the law to escape prosecution and evade reform. There is a better way — and a legal scholar tells us exactly how it could work.

Telemedicine’s tipping point

Sheltering in place has pushed virtual health care into the mainstream. Will we go back to doctors’ waiting rooms?

Mini-organs push along Covid-19 and other virus research

While studies in mice and people can be slow, researchers are making fast progress testing medications in miniature airways and guts made of human cells