There’s a rocky island in the South Atlantic Ocean so remote that it is known as Inaccessible Island. No humans and few animals dwell there, but among the creatures that call the island home is the Inaccessible Island rail, the world’s smallest flightless bird still in existence. Since the creature was first described in the 1920s, scientists have wondered how it managed to reach its far-flung habitat. Now, as Sarah Laskow reports for Atlas Obscura, a new study may shed light on the enduring natural mystery.
Millions of Americans struggle with substance abuse and tens of thousands die each year, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Though treating addiction has become a vast (and at times abusive) industry, the underlying causes of drug or alcohol dependency—and how to successfully treat these debilitating conditions—are still poorly understood by science. Now, researchers think they’ve found the germ of an answer in our genetic past. Continue reading Addictive behavior could trace back to an ancient retrovirus in our DNA
YOU MIGHT THINK the time on the clock controls when and how you live your life. But ticking away inside each of us is a biological timekeeper that holds powerful sway over our bodies and behaviors. When we eat and when we sleep, our heart rates and our hormones—they’re all regulated by our so-called circadian clocks. Continue reading HOW OUR BIOLOGICAL CLOCK COULD DICTATE MEDICAL TREATMENTS
The discovery of DNA as a double helix is a hallowed story of scientific triumph—the work of four researchers merging together to solve one of science’s biggest mysteries, giving birth to what we know as the field of modern genetics. But decades later, we’re still learning that DNA is a more furiously complicated piece of biological machinery than we ever knew. Continue reading Scientists just discovered a strange new DNA shape lurking in human cells
For nearly two years now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been quietly giving the go-ahead to a handful of crops that have been genetically engineered using CRISPR. Editing the DNA of people and animals may be controversial, but when it comes to plants, the agency has taken the stance that as long as the gene-edited plants don’t include any foreign genetic material, CRISPR’d crops aren’t subject to special regulation. Continue reading The USDA Just Gave the Green Light to CRISPR’d Food
Here’s a riddle: If an alien life form is, well, alien, how will we know what it is? DNA and RNA are the building blocks of life on Earth, but the molecules of life might differ substantially on another planet. So if scientists combing, say, the potentially habitable waters of Jupiter’s moon Europa were to stumble across a new life form, how could they know what they had discovered? Continue reading How Scientists Could Use DNA Sequencing to Identify Alien Life
When Amanda Wanklin and Michael Biggs fell in love, they “didn’t give a toss” about the challenges they might face as a biracial couple, Amanda says. “What was more important was what we wanted together.”