Journal Club

Highlighting recent, timely papers selected by Academy member labs

Category Archives: Journal Club

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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To find zoonotic viruses, researchers seek genomic signatures of virus adaptations to hosts

In light of the ongoing pandemic, researchers have stepped up efforts to identify new zoonotic threats—viruses that could make the leap from animals to humans and cause future epidemics. Studies aiming to identify such viruses often focus on a novel … Continue reading

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Using helpers, desert birds hedge their bets to weather variable conditions

Unpredictable environments can help explain the evolution of cooperative behavior, according to a decade-long study of birds in the Kalahari Desert. The research showed that white-browed sparrow-weavers (Plocepasser mahali) work to raise the offspring of other birds as a strategy … 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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When listeners pay close attention to stories, their heart rates synchronize

  An international team of researchers has shown that when a group of people hear the same story or watch the same video, their heart rates tend to rise and fall in synch. This correlation of heart rates, described this … 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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Digital reconstruction gets to the root of 400-million-year-old plant

Researchers have managed to reconstruct the detailed 3-D structure of a fossilized plant more than 400 million years old. The ancient leafy organism, a relative of today’s clubmosses, grew in the Early Devonian era—a crucial time for the development of … 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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Drought causes lasting changes to the rice root microbiome

Beneficial microbes living in and around a crop’s roots could be powerful allies in the fight to keep plants alive through droughts, especially as climate change worsens. But before scientists can harness these microbial partners to make crops more resilient, … 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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