Bad Case of Nerves

In multicellular organisms, somatic cell replication is essential to replacing worn-out cells with fresh copies. While, to some degree, plants can grow themselves past genetic defects, animals must have good working replacements for proper functioning.

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The Mind's Eye

The mind and body are entangled. Changes to the brain can influence mental function. But, more than anything, it is the power of the mind that controls health. That's true even for birds.

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Bonds Beyond

The vast expanse of interstellar space is supposed to be too cold for most chemical reactions to occur. The more frigid it gets, the harder it is to spark a chemical reaction, for lack of energy – the very definition of cold. Yet a vast variety of complex organic molecules are formed in space. Some reactions transpire on the surface of cosmic dust grains, or with a little help from gamma rays or stray high-energy electrons. But most happen beyond the laws of chemistry.

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Earth's Dechlorination

That complex life could evolve on Earth involved a set of fantastic coincidences. One of them was the prolonged pummeling of the planet for 800 million years, starting over 4.5 billion years ago. Seeding the planet with cosmic debris was essential to its evolution, as was what was taken off in the process. One benefit of bombardment was ridding Earth of most of its chlorine.

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Cicada Time

Late spring 2013: from the remaining forests of the northeastern United States, cicadas are emerging to mate as the culmination of their 17-year life cycle. Their ways retain enigmas.

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Poison Avoidance

Organisms of all kinds rapidly adapt. The more primitive, the more quickly evolution creates a solution. Human pests are exemplary.

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Red Meat

It has long been known that eating red meat engenders cardiovascular disease. The tasty fat marbled in the meat has long been pointed to as the villain, as has cholesterol. That turns out be a subplot in the story, though consuming animal fat is unhealthy, and the wrong kind of cholesterol does damage. Instead, carnitine is the culprit.

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Free Enterprise

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) advocates "limited government and free markets." They campaign against clean air and clean water, and favor legislation that allows routine animal cruelty.

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Buzz Off

Pollination is essential to two-thirds of the world's food crops. Commercial bee hives are often relied upon, but unkempt insects, including bees, beetles, flies and butterflies, are important, as the wild things are more productive pollinators. Pesticides and herbicides, blithely applied worldwide, are indiscriminate killers. Ironically, considering their intended benefit, crop yields are declining because of their use.

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Status Sniff

Many mammals, including dogs, rats and cats, sniff each other out when they meet. For rodents at least, sniffing intensity signals social status.

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