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Authority figures: The numbers that rule them all

Zero and infinity cast long shadows in mathematics, making and breaking equations. But these strange beasts can also explain what numbers really are

Magic mushroom chemical may be a hallucinogenic insect repellent

These fungi influence our brains by producing a compound called psilocybin, but the origin of this chemical may have little to do with discovering fundamental truth

It could be snowing on Mars right now

The Red Planet may have had intense snowstorms long ago when it was wetter, but a model shows it could still have violent snowfall at night when the clouds cool

A Second Look at Scallops

In a post that appeared at this site over eight years ago, I described some of the distinctive features of the Pectinoidea, the group of bivalves commonly known as scallops. It's time to look in a bit more detail at some of the points mentioned in that post. Show More Summary


Trichosternus vigorsi, copyright Udo Schmidt. Many of the carabid ground beetles tend to attract a lot of attention from amateur entomologists due to their size and striking appearance, but it must be admitted that they are often not the easiest of animals to work with from a taxonomic perspective. Show More Summary

Letters From the World of Turtle Evolution

Spills and thrills from the exciting world of turtle evolutionary history... -- Read more on

Population Genetic Structure and Genetic Diversity in Twisted-Jaw Fish, Belodontichthys truncatus Kottelat & Ng, 1999 (Siluriformes: Siluridae), from Mekong Basin

The Mekong River and its tributaries possess the second highest diversity in fish species in the world. However, the fish biodiversity in this river is threatened by several human activities, such as hydropower plant construction. Understanding the genetic diversity and genetic structure of the species is important for natural resource management. Show More Summary

Choosing alternative cancer treatment doubles your risk of death

People who choose alternative cancer medicines tend to be wealthier and have higher levels of education, but are more than twice as likely to die in five years

The Lonely Life of the Cave Collembolan

For a few weeks last year, I had the job of sorting and identifying a collection of Collembola, springtails. Prior to doing this work, I had only the vaguest of understandings of springtail diversity: I knew that there were the round blobby ones, the long thin ones, and the ones that look a bit like sausages, but that was about as far as it went. Show More Summary

Define 'Trichostomum'

The moss in the above photo Icopyright Hermann Schachner) generally goes by the name of Trichostomum crispulum. Trichostomum is a cosmopolitan genus in the Pottiaceae, the largest recognised family of mosses with about 1500 species overall. Show More Summary

Mountain Beaver, Boomer, Sewellel

You know the mountain beaver, you’ve just never had the time to talk about it. Now is the time -- Read more on

Largest ever wildfire in Greenland seen burning from space

The blaze is the biggest ever detected by satellites  - and a recent increase in fires in the region could well be a result of the rapid warming in the Arctic

Cryptophytes: Four Genomes for the Price of One

Sometimes, the little things really do make a difference. Cryptophytes (or cryptomonads) are one of the many groups of minute flagellate protists to be found around the world whose role in our lives tends to get dismissed because of their microscopic size. Show More Summary

We may finally be able to slow Parkinson’s, with a diabetes drug

A drug for type 2 diabetes seems to also work on the causes of Parkinson’s, not just the symptoms, suggesting the two conditions work in a similar way

Space cucumbers may help plants grow better water-seeking roots

Away from Earth’s gravity, cucumber roots head towards water. Mimicking that moisture-seeking behaviour on our planet could help plants adapt to drought

CRISPR skin grafts could replace insulin injections for diabetes

Skin grafts of gene-edited cells have boosted insulin levels in mice, and protected them from gaining weight and developing diabetes under a high-fat diet

Big, armoured dinosaur still had camouflage to evade predators

The world’s most impressively preserved dinosaur fossil reveals that the 5.5-metre-long Borealopelta had camouflage despite its heavy armour

One day without notifications changes behaviour for two years

Turning off phone notifications for 24 hours amped anxiety, but raised productivity. Two years on, the experience is still helping people call the shots

Hidden cancers detected by combining genetic tests with MRI

If genetic screening says you’re predisposed to cancer, what can you do about it? Whole-body scans could be a way to find tumours before they turn deadly

Cancer runs in my family, but now we can pick it up in time

When Natalie Coutts found out she was genetically predisposed to cancer, she was devastated. But regular screens for early tumours now let her feel in control

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