Skip to content
1932

Q&A

War and drugs: Together since forever

Alcohol-drenched medieval battlefields. Opium-laced imperialism. Modern-day narco-terrorism. There’s a lot of history between armed conflict and psychoactive substances.

Archaeology of the 99%

The vast majority of people in antiquity were too poor to leave many artifacts behind. But archaeologists have learned how to look beyond the temples and palaces.

If it pleases the Prosecution

The immense powers of prosecutors throughout the US mean that the scales are tipped against defendants — and justice itself, says a legal expert

As climate changes, so does life in the planet’s soils

To understand what might be lost, ecologist Janet K. Jansson taps molecular methods to explore Earth’s underground microbes, from the permafrost to the grasslands

Always look on the bright side of life

How a positive outlook may buffer us from stress and ward off health problems 

Will the food of the future be genetically engineered or organic? How about both?

Feeding the planet — now and tomorrow — is no small task. Plant biologist Pamela Ronald says sustainability means using every tool in the toolbox.

A blizzard of “sustainability” labels

Earth-friendly certifications and standards abound for products like coffee, chocolate and palm oil. But do the programs work?

Kids in the middle

Recognizing the important role of children as cultural translators

Watching Alzheimer’s in action

A look inside the brains of engineered mice suggests therapies might need to target two key proteins — tau and amyloid-beta — at the same time

The story of Snowball Earth

Ancient rocks suggest that ice entirely covered our planet on at least two occasions. This theory may help explain the rise of complex life that followed.

Grim relics

Archaeology of the Nazi era is about digging for truth through science. Reinhard Bernbeck discusses the origins and ethics of this approach.

Looking for economic prosperity without growth

The only way for humanity to solve its environmental problems may be to abandon our quest for continual economic expansion. It’s time to study what a future of degrowth might look like, some researchers say.

The inheritance enigma

Retirement is a time for spending, not saving. And yet many people hold on to their wealth. Understanding why, and where that money ends up, is of increasing importance as the US population ages.

A deliberate fix for democracy

Take a group of random citizens, give them the facts and let thoughtful discussion unfold

At San Diego’s Frozen Zoo, a chance for animal immortality

The cryobank is a rich source of genetic knowledge of hundreds of creatures. It may one day be used to bring endangered species back from the brink and deepen the gene pool of wild populations.

What we talk about when we talk about food

From identity to national politics, gastronomical conversations can reflect who we are, and who we are not

Bypassing paralysis

By decoding brain activity with electrical implants, computers can help disabled people move a robotic arm — or their own

How a second language can boost the brain

Being bilingual benefits children as they learn to speak — and adults as they age

A salamander’s dangerous liaisons

The giant genomes of these struggling amphibians tell a story of outsider invasions, assault by disease and cross-species sex. A geneticist explains.

A “subprime” crisis in housing? Think again.

Economist Antoinette Schoar and colleagues found that middle-class homebuyers had more to do with 2008’s real estate crash than the less-wealthy consumers usually blamed for it.

She sees dead bodies

An environmental historian looks at how Americans treat corpses and what it means

Unbound and out: Boosted by black holes, stars speed off, leaving clues behind

Space oddities may help reveal dark matter and other secrets in the Milky Way. Astronomer Warren Brown explains.

Dangers of ecotourism: Up close and infectious

Travelers’ desire for intimate encounters with wildlife may threaten the animals they love

Break on through: How some viruses infect the placenta

A few rare viruses can reach the fetus when pregnant women are infected, with tragic result. As explored in this Q&A, researchers are figuring out how the placenta acts as protector and how some pathogens slip through.

A long-overlooked brain region may be key to complex thought

The thalamus has traditionally been viewed just as the brain’s sensory relay station. But it may also play an important role in higher-level cognition, MIT’s Michael Halassa explains in a Q&A.

The unmet promise of Big Data in policing

Today’s astounding computing power offers great potential for reducing crime, but a criminologist says law enforcement has yet to find ways to fully tap it.

Humanizing immunology

The field has long been more mice than men. New technologies and systems-based approaches with human cells may soon fill gaps in our understanding of autoimmune disease and health, Mark Davis says in a Q&A.

The mind of an anthill

Can we use the tools of psychology to understand how colonies of social insects make decisions?

Controlling electric signals in the body could help it heal

Tiny charges inside human cells spur development of an embryo’s form and structure. In a Q&A, Michael Levin talks about using those sparks to fix birth defects, control cancer and regrow tissues.

The music moves us — but how?

The author of This Is Your Brain on Music talks about the very human ways the mind and body keep the beat.

Take this job and . . . gig it

A few hours here, a few hours there. At home, or somewhere else. Alternative work can be a great deal or it can leave you unprotected, as management scholar Lindsey Cameron explains in a Q&A.

Unhealthy work: Why migrants are especially vulnerable to injury and death on the job

A mysterious kidney disease is just one of the many health risks faced by immigrant laborers. In a Q&A, occupational health expert Marc Schenker discusses the hazards and a few potential solutions.

The hidden damage of solitary confinement

Meant to punish or protect, social isolation in prison creates a ripple of unintended effects on the psyche

In adults, and now in teens, poor sleep is linked to cardiovascular risk

A slumber researcher explains why getting enough z’s is crucial to your health



Managing pain in a time of opioid abuse

Other therapies, more training, a new mindset: Can doctors bring relief to patients without putting them at risk for addiction?

Why viruses deserve a better reputation

Sure they cause disease, but the microbes can be a help as well. Witness long-lasting pepper seeds, drought-resistant crop plants and even our own placentas.

Making sense of many universes

The idea of a multiverse — multiple realms of space differing in basic properties of physics — bugs some scientists. Others find it a real possibility that should not be ignored.

Labor of love

Flipping the scientific thinking on our species’ “difficult childbirth”

Organs grown to order

Genetic advances may make it possible to grow transplantable tissues in other species. That could solve immunity and availability issues, but raises ethical concerns.

Do patents invent innovation?

They're a common index of technological creativity, but research finds they can impede rather than encourage it

How to detect clandestine nuclear weapons programs

A “policy physicist” explores practical ways to sniff out uranium processing from afar

Hacking the immune system

How the body’s own defense cells can be turned into tiny, programmable assassins to battle cancers and other disorders

The anti-ads

Countermarketing succeeds by exposing the motives behind the advertising of unhealthy products. It worked for teen smoking — could it do the same for junk food?

Feeling the pressure

How we want to be perceived influences how we act, and that presents persuasion opportunities. But the social factors involved are not easy to unravel.

In promoting health, when to tiptoe — and when to stomp?

Inform, incentivize, legislate: There’s a ladder of escalating approaches for changing citizens’ behavior — and nudges for every rung

Has humankind driven Earth into a new epoch?

Our mark on Earth is so profound that some argue it’s time to bid goodbye to the current geological time period — the Holocene — in favor of a new one: the Anthropocene.

The truth in baby teeth

Fossilized remains of children have a lot to tell us about their short lives

Getting to know the gut microbiome

Researchers are finally getting the tools to understand just how the microbial communities in and on our bodies affect health. But there are many mysteries left to solve — and many technological challenges.

Do yourself a favor

Thinking of others enhances your well-being, while selfishness just adds to stress, studies show

The pileup of plastic debris is more than ugly ocean litter

A solid-waste specialist offers ways to halt the plague of pollutants choking the seas

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error