Journal Club

Highlighting recent, timely papers selected by Academy member labs

Author Archives: Amy McDermott

Jellyfish species proves its mettle as a neurobiology model organism

Aquaria at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena bustle with tiny translucent jellyfish, adrift like dust motes in a sunbeam, rhythmically pulsing with long tentacles in tow. They’re beautiful—they may also be an important tool for neurobiologists. According to … Continue reading

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Could expanding social webs help humans cooperate altruistically on a global scale?

Celebrities and social media influencers are reaching global audiences on unprecedented scales. Such audiences are already forming cooperative groups that could one day tackle complex problems such as climate change, argues a recent perspective published in One Earth. Drawing on … Continue reading

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Is scientific progress waning? Too many new papers may mean novel ideas rarely rack up citations

There are so many papers coming out in the largest fields of science that new ideas can’t get a foothold, according to a recent study in PNAS. Researchers analyzed citation trends for 90 million papers and found that in very … Continue reading

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Frustrations can combust into a riot regardless of age, politics, or gender

The most common caricature of riots suggests criminal young men are the culprits. But a recent study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that is not necessarily the case. The study used a video game to incite virtual … Continue reading

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An algorithm suggests a sidewalk-space redesign to make cities safer for pedestrians

A recent study in Communications Physics is among the first to systematically analyze whole city networks of spider-webbing roads and sidewalks. Examining 10 global cities, including Boston, Paris, and New York, researchers created an algorithm that could help planners choose … Continue reading

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Robot swarms communicate best when messages spread neighbor to neighbor

In the not-so-distant future, swarms of robots could help contain environmental disasters such as wildfires, by locating and dousing the most dangerous patches, even as flames move and spread. But how would these individual robots coordinate effectively to pull off … Continue reading

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Forests fight drought, even from far away

Forests are said to be the lungs of the Earth—they also provide a moist breath that travels tens to thousands of miles. Dense stands of trees release foggy clouds of condensation. The water molecules from those clouds ride wind currents … Continue reading

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Well-connected members of tight-knit groups spread controversial ideas much more readily than “influencers”

The people who spread new and controversial ideas—changes in diet, exercise routine, political leaning, or even attitudes about vaccination—may not be the Kim Kardashians and Paris Hiltons. According to a recent study in Nature Communications, those with the most actual … Continue reading

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Study suggests mask-wearing reduces the odds of self-infection with SARS-CoV-2

COVID-19 typically turns deadly when the virus infects the lungs. Hence, how exactly SARS-CoV-2 gets deep into the respiratory tract has been a pressing question since the pandemic started early last year. One pathway is well known: Most people catch … Continue reading

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Degradable plastic polymer breaks down in sunlight and air

Plastic trash chokes shorelines and oceans, in part because plastic polymers do not easily decompose. But a new kind of environmentally degradable plastic could help change that: It breaks down in about a week in sunlight and air, according to … Continue reading

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Harmful social behaviors are the toughest to shift

Social norms changed dramatically during the pandemic. Six-foot distancing and mask wearing became de facto rules in some communities, while elsewhere, wearing a mask was seen as an invitation for harassment. A new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society … Continue reading

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