The Girl Who Turned to Bone

Unexpected discoveries in the quest to cure an extraordinary skeletal condition show how medically relevant rare diseases can be.

How Scientists Stalked a Lethal Superbug—With the Killer's Own DNA

A lethal bacterium was running rampant at an NIH hospital. Antibiotics were useless. Then two scientists began a frantic race to track down the killer—with the superbug’s own DNA.

Should Science Pull the Trigger on Antiviral Drugs—That Can Blast the Common Cold?

Buoyed by advances in molecular biology, a handful of researchers in labs around the US and Canada are homing in on strategies that could eliminate not just individual viruses but any virus, wiping out viral infections with the same wide-spectrum efficiency that penicillin and Cipro bring to the fight against bacteria. If these scientists succeed, future generations may struggle to imagine a time when we were at the mercy of viruses, just as we struggle to imagine a time before antibiotics.

Three teams in particular are zeroing in on new antiviral strategies, with each group taking a slightly different approach to the problem. But at root they are all targeting our own physiology, the aspects of our cell biology that allow viruses to take hold and reproduce. If even one of these approaches pans out, we might be able to eradicate any type of virus we want. Someday we might even be faced with a question that today sounds absurd: Are there viruses that need protecting?

The Secret Life of Bees

The decision-making power of honeybees is a prime example of what scientists call swarm intelligence. Clouds of locusts, schools of fish, flocks of birds and colonies of termites display it as well. And in the field of swarm intelligence, Seeley is a towering figure. For 40 years he has come up with experiments that have allowed him to decipher the rules honeybees use for their collective decision-making. “No one has reached the level of experimentation and ingenuity of Tom Seeley,” says Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University.

Growing up in Ellis Hollow, in upstate New York, Seeley would bicycle around the farms near his house; one day he discovered a pair of white boxes. They each contained a hive. Seeley was seduced. He came back day after day to stare at the hives. He would look into the boxes and see bees coming in with loads of pollen on their legs. Other bees fanned their wings to keep the hives cool. Other bees acted as guards, pacing back and forth at the opening.

King of the Cosmos

A profile of Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Tyson spreads himself so wide for two reasons. One is that there’s so much in the sky to talk about. The other reason is down here on earth. For all the spectacular advances American science has made over the past century—not just in astrophysics but in biology, engineering, and other disciplines—the best days of American science may be behind us. And as American science declines, so does America. So here, in the dark, under the stars, Tyson is going to try to save the future, one neck cramp at a time.

Can You Live Forever? Maybe Not--But You Can Have Fun Trying

The Singularity is more than just hypothetic milestone in history. It’s also a peculiar movement today. Along with spaceflight tycoon Peter Diamandis, Kurzweil has launched Singularity University, which brought in its first batch of students in the summer of 2009. Kurzweil is also director of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which held its first annual summit in 2006. The summits are a mix of talks by Kurzweil and other Singularity advocates, along with scientists working on everything from robot cars to gene therapy

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