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Q&A

Studying poverty through a child’s eyes

Research on early-life adversity should pay more attention to the perspective of children themselves

The story of families, wrested from big data

Records tell the story of the decline of the patriarchy, the rise and fall of marrying young, and pandemic fallout; digitizing the data could reveal even richer tales

A galactic archaeologist digs into the Milky Way’s history

Astrophysicists now have the data and models to uncover subtle imprints from our galaxy’s past

Emotions get better with age

As people grow older, they gain greater control of their feelings. How do they do that — and can they teach young whippersnappers a thing or two?

A healthy environment as a human right

UN recognition would strengthen legal arguments for preserving nature

The weird biology of asexual lizards

Some lizard species do without males altogether. Scientists are studying these all-female species to see what they might reveal about the pros and cons of sex.

How health insurance is faring under Covid

Millions of Americans lost employer-sponsored coverage when Covid-19 disrupted their jobs. Can America come up with a better system?

Battling arsenic pollution

Arsenic-poisoned water remains a threat to public health the world over. Scientists hope to change that.

Kids of the Covid generation: The road ahead

What will become of children growing up during the pandemic? There’s reason for concern, but the research on resilience is reassuring. A developmental psychologist explains what adults can do to protect youngsters from long-term harm.

American individualism and our collective crisis

Our national and social identity is deeply rooted in values like freedom, equality and order. A political scientist explores how these ideas affected the US response to the pandemic.

Pandemic puts all eyes on public health

Covid-19 has exposed the weak spots of the US public health system — and that presents an opportunity, says an epidemiologist, for the nation to recognize the problems and act to fix them

How the pandemic could globalize the economy even more — not less

Closed borders, trade conflicts and supply-chain problems raise the specter of nations turning inward and disconnecting from one another. But Princeton’s Harold James thinks Covid-19 may well push us all closer.

Fact or fantasy? Tales from the linguistic fringe

Paranormal claims and other pseudoscience often bedevil the study of language

What legacy lies ahead for Black Lives Matter?

Historically, the road to reform has often begun with protesters taking to the streets. A sociologist and a political scientist take stock of whether today’s activism will lead to actual change.

The pernicious contagion of misinformation

False statements — about Covid-19 and so much else — spread like a virus online. Scientists should study them like one.

How we bury our dead during a pandemic

Funerals, burials and other ways of communally commemorating those who have died have always been part of human history. The need for social distancing has upended these psychologically important rituals and fostered creative alternatives.

Why solar geoengineering should be part of the climate crisis solution

The controversial technology of reflecting sunlight away from the planet could help blunt the worst impacts of climate change

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

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

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.

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.

America the Unhealthy: Inequality kills

Smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise? Yes, but that’s not all. A researcher tells us what really hurts US life expectancy.

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.

Curbing implicit bias: what works and what doesn’t

Psychologists have yet to find a way to diminish hidden prejudice, but they do have strategies for thwarting discrimination 

The challenge of conducting clinical research during a pandemic

Drug treatments and vaccines for Covid-19 are needed fast. But developing them in mid-outbreak is logistically hard and ethically tricky. A veteran vaccine researcher explains.

Building a mouse squad against Covid-19

It began with an email from Wuhan, a Maine laboratory and mouse sperm from Iowa. Now that lab is on the verge of supplying a much-needed animal for SARS-CoV-2 research.

Pollution evolution: The little fish that could

Where other species succumbed, the killifish survived contaminated habitats. It’s a finding that could help researchers understand environmental risk factors for humans.

Infectious disease: Making — and breaking — the animal connection

We know pathogens from other species can endanger us. Scientists are better equipped than ever to do something about it, but political buy-in is crucial.

Chasing the genes behind pain

New treatments for chronic pain face a long road despite promising developments. Research in people with rare diseases is pointing the way to genes that influence how we experience pain — and might lead to new medications.

The complexities of a universal basic income

It’s a hot topic under political debate: providing cash grants as a social safety net. Small programs hint at how it might work — or not — on a national scale.

What makes food ‘local’?

More people are choosing what to eat based on where it was grown, made or created. An anthropologist looks at the myriad ways we link food to place — and whether it really could make a difference.

Why real-life places still matter in the age of texting and Twitter

Interactions in physical spaces, whether around the watercooler or at the neighborhood bar, are crucial to forming social ties

Out of the mouth of babes

Learning a language is child’s play, but linguists are still trying to understand how children do it so easily

Robots designed to self-construct

Robot researcher Mark Yim offers a look inside the promising field of modular reconfigurable robotics — bots that can shift form to tackle an array of tasks

Treating the growing trauma of family separation

War, disasters, trafficking and immigration are tearing millions of children from their parents all around the world. A psychologist explores how to help them recover.

Why green energy finally makes economic sense

Solar and wind generators have suddenly become just as cheap as other ways to produce electric power

The human hand in fish evolution

Fishery practices that go for the big ones may be counterproductive when mostly the small survive

Living with chronic illness: Why some cope and others don’t

What helps some people diagnosed with cancer, heart disease or diabetes stay relatively happy and healthy, while others are devastated? Psychologist Vicki Helgeson explains the traits and mindsets that can make the difference.

Getting the microbe story, straight from the mouth

A trio of researchers has mapped the living things that make the tongue, gums and palate home

Profiling the perpetrators of past plagues

The ancient pathogens in old graves are as dead as the people they once infected. Still, they tell a vivid tale.

Measuring surgical quality

Not all surgeons are equally skilled with a scalpel. Doctors are developing new ways to test — and improve — operating room performance.

Revenge is bittersweet at best

Research is starting to reveal how the urge for vengeance may have evolved, when it can be useful and what could prevent the violence it can provoke

Lessons from scorching hot weirdo-planets

Hot Jupiters were the first kind of exoplanet found. A quarter-century later, they still perplex and captivate — and their origins hold lessons about planet formation in general.

How maternal mood shapes the developing brain

Stress and anxiety during pregnancy can mean a higher risk of offspring developing ADHD, depression or other conditions. Medical psychologist Catherine Monk explains how prenatal mental care benefits mothers and babies.

Going gentle

A sociologist explains how to get the most out of the final months of life

Total recall: A brilliant memory helps chickadees survive

In winter, the birds must remember where they’ve hidden tens of thousands of seeds. Biologist Vladimir Pravosudov explains what this can teach us about how the brain evolves.

On whose green Earth?

Are we supposed to take care of the planet or should it take care of us? Willis Jenkins explains how religion shapes the conflicting views over climate change and other environmental issues.

Getting “exhausted” T cells back into action against cancer

When a malignancy or chronic infection sets in, a kind of immune combat fatigue can follow. Finding ways to recharge immune cells can restore their ability to fight deadly diseases, says immunologist John Wherry.

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