Publications

2016
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Figuring out why certain soils keep plant parasites at bay could be a boon for agriculture around the globe

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Modern life is messing with our clocks

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How will I die?

This is a question most of us have thought about. Have you ever wondered what is it about our bodies that “makes us die”? What is it in our bodies that tells our cells “that’s it folks”? Is it something that happens over time or is it just as simple as flipping a switch?

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A surprising new finding was released recently that reports an entirely novel route of transmission for a well-known global health threat: tuberculosis (TB). As is often the case with scientific research, a line of seemingly straightforward inquiry yielded an unexpected discovery – in this case, researchers have identified a link between TB transmission and anal secretions of mongooses. Yep, you heard it here first.

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Think of your favorite animal. Perhaps Harry Potter’s snowy owl comes to mind.  Or, maybe the lion, king of the jungle? If we were to take our thought experiment under water, you might think of the massive whale shark, or the majestic sea turtle. Perhaps not. But I bet I can guess what wouldn’t come to mind. Freshwater fish rarely, if ever, have the celebrity status of these other animals. Yet, they can be just as fascinating.

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Mayo Clinic, along with researchers at Harvard University, Temple University, Tufts University, and Boston Children’s Hospital are collaborating on a project to discover new therapeutic responses to infection.

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Let’s use our words to talk about words - how does our brain process language? Join us this week as Alie dives into some of what we know about the neuroscience of language, and some of what we don’t know, too! 

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They're infected with the virus, but it causes them no harm—and the same goes for more than 60 other pathogens they transmit to humans, often with lethal effect

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You may have heard the news that you should be seriously worried about eating Oreos...because, they're as addictive as cocaine. In this video, I try to show you what the study that inspired the news did and what is reasonable to conclude from the data. 

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Research shows that more facts don't necessarily lead to changed minds, but my colleagues have a hard time accepting it

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Science has an inside secret: we fail all the time.

2015
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At first glance, metaphor and science might seem to inhabit opposite ends of the things-we-learn-in-school continuum. We usually learn about metaphor through lessons on works like Langston Hughes’s Life ain’t been no crystal stair, and we associate science with topics like crystallization, the process of transferring a liquid to a solid. But metaphor is a mischief that doesn’t like to stay confined to the language arts classroom. It lurks in political discourse (the wealth gap), in music (you ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog), and – you guessed it – in education.

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To solve a problem, sometimes you need to consider the exact opposite of what you think you know. Take trying to see the minute details of biological units, such as neurons in the brain. Instead of attempting to improve magnification on such a small scale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineer Edward Boyden asked, why not increase the size of the structure?

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When it comes to black holes, a change in perspective can make all the difference. Standing outside one of these massive objects in the universe, for instance, there's only darkness—the black hole's gravity is so strong that not even light escapes. But just inside the black hole, there may lie a blazing wall of fire, waiting to destroy whatever enters.

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Imagine a planet where the surface temperature is so hot that rocks melt into lava—or another where two suns dip below the horizon at dusk. Settings for a science fiction plot? Not to Massachusetts Institute of Technology astrophysicist and planetary scientist Sara Seager.

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Evolution—the change in heritable traits over successive generations—has long served as one of the central tenets of biology. But new research indicates much can be gained from studying regions of the genome that donot change. Termed “ultraconserved elements” or UCEs, these portions of the genome have remained unchanged for 300 to 500 million years, appearing in the same state across multiple animal species—from humans to dinosaurs to platypuses. 

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Unlike the early explorers who sailed vast oceans to reach faraway shores, planetary scientist Sara Seager will never set foot on new lands she may discover. Her goal is to find habitable exoplanets, worlds that are not merely outside our solar system but many light-years away.

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Many Americans live one paycheck away from street homelessness, and those most at risk may be older, according to new research presented at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Oct. 11 by Margot Kushel, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

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