The New York Times, April 2, 2019


In 2011, Dr. Dena Dubal was hired by the University of California, San Francisco, as an assistant professor of neurology. She set up a new lab with one chief goal: to understand a mysterious hormone called Klotho.

Dr. Dubal wondered if it might be the key to finding effective treatments for dementia and other disorders of the aging brain. At the time, scientists only knew enough about Klotho to be fascinated by it.

Continue reading “One Day There May Be a Drug to Turbocharge the Brain. Who Should Get It?”

The New York Times, March 29, 2019


Before dawn on April 4, 1994, Abigail Alling and Mark Van Thillo slipped across the foothills of Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains. They made their way to a looming monument of geodesic domes and pyramids known as Biosphere 2. The three-acre complex contained a miniature rain forest, a mangrove, a desert and a coral reef — along with seven people who had been sealed inside for a month.

Ms. Alling and Mr. Van Thillo had recently emerged from a two-year stay in Biosphere 2. Later, after they were arrested, they told reporters that they feared for the safety of the people inside. They were determined to bring the mission to an end.

Continue reading “The Lost History of One of the World’s Strangest Science Experiments”

The New York Times, March 28, 2019


On Thursday, 41 scientists published the first worldwide analysis of a fungal outbreak that’s been wiping out frogs for decades. The devastation turns out to be far worse than anyone had previously realized.

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers conclude that populations of more than 500 species of amphibians have declined significantly because of the outbreak — including at least 90 species presumed to have gone extinct. The figure is more than twice as large as earlier estimates.

Continue reading “The Plague Killing Frogs Everywhere Is Far Worse Than Scientists Thought”

The New York Times, March 25, 2019


As a child growing up in the Netherlands, Hanna ten Brink spent many days lingering by a pond in her family’s garden, fascinated by metamorphosis.

Tadpoles hatched from eggs in the pond and swam about, sucking tiny particles of food into their mouths. After a few weeks, the tadpoles lost their tails, sprouted legs and hopped onto land, where they could catch insects with their new tongues.

Eventually Dr. ten Brink became an evolutionary biologist. Now science has brought her back to that childhood fascination.

Continue reading “Why Would an Animal Trade One Body for Another?”

The New York Times, March 14, 2019


For thousands of years, the Iberian Peninsula — home now to Spain and Portugal — has served as a crossroads.

Phoenicians from the Near East built trading ports there 3,000 years ago, and Romans conquered the region around 200 B.C. Muslim armies sailed from North Africa and took control of Iberia in the 8th century A.D. Some three centuries later, they began losing territory to Christian states.

Along with historical records and archaeological digs, researchers now have a new lens on Iberia’s past: DNA preserved in the region’s ancient skeletons. Archaeologists and geneticists are extracting genetic material spanning not just Iberia’s written history but its prehistory, too.

Continue reading “A History of the Iberian Peninsula, as Told by Its Skeletons”