Journal Club

Highlighting recent, timely papers selected by Academy member labs

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

Categories: Agriculture | Climate science | Journal Club | Microbiology | Plant Biology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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Prion-like protein acts as water sensor in seeds

The sprouting of a seed is clearly a crucial stage in a plant’s life. Yet one part of the process has long been shrouded in mystery: How do seeds know when there’s enough water to germinate? Researchers recently reported the … Continue reading

Categories: Cell Biology | Genetics | Journal Club | Plant Biology | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Categories: Immunology | Journal Club | Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

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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Emotional associations, more than knowledge, determine how much people care about the deep sea

With new technological advances in deep-sea mining, the ocean floor’s trove of valuable metals and rare earth elements is coming within reach of commercial mining operations. The impending reality of this practice, and its associated environmental risks, raises the question … Continue reading

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New culturing techniques track crucial stage of embryo development

The second week of gestation is crucial for human development, as the growing embryo needs to implant in the mother’s womb to survive. Many early pregnancies fail at this point, but it has been difficult to determine exactly why. Lacking … 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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Easily made, robust chemical reagents could be game changer for developing world science

Enzymes and other chemical reagents are crucial for all sorts of life sciences research. Typically, they’re produced in industrial processes by modified bacteria; then they’re extracted and purified. But scientists in many parts of the world struggle to access such … Continue reading

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