The world is tied up in knots. They form spontaneously in swirling vortices of smoke, in long strands of yarn or hair, and in the earbud cords that somehow always tangle in one’s pocket. Even down at the molecular scale, they appear in the long chains making up some proteins, and when they arise in DNA’s twists and coils, enzymes have to help unwind them. Biophysicists study these knots to figure out how they get there and how they contribute to the behavior of those molecules.
Chemists, meanwhile, have turned their attention to molecular knots of their own making: smaller synthetic constructions assembled from joined fragments rather than tied in a single continuous biomolecular string. In their labs, they have been painstakingly synthesizing such tiny knots, … Read the rest
In August 2016, a research team claimed to have unearthed evidence of life in a remote outcrop of 3.7-billion-year-old rocks in Greenland. This bold claim not only pushed back the origin of life by at least 220 million years, it also added to a growing body of evidence that challenged the standard story of Earth’s violent beginning, as Quanta Magazine reported this year in “Fossil Discoveries Challenge Ideas About Earth’s Start.” Joining a series of ancient fossil finds — as well as geological evidence from Earth and the moon — the Greenland discovery added weight to the idea that Earth was warm and watery from the outset, and that in such conditions, life emerged quickly.
But a follow-up study published in Nature last week … Read the rest
Restoring the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse to its former architectural glory at the UK’s famous gardens has also reinvented it for the 21st century… Read the rest
As though extinction weren’t enough, dinosaurs have also had to deal with doubts over their very existence, and the legitimacy of some of our favourite species… Read the rest
A highly critical new report questions the worth of the sustainability logos that appear on many products. Are they still a force for good, wonders Fred Pearce… Read the rest
A butchered rhino found on the island of Luzon shows early humans were living in the Philippines 709,000 years ago, which may explain the origins of the diminutive Homo floresiensis… Read the rest
Soaring demand for palm oil is being driven by its use as biofuel, which is increasing carbon emissions as well as destroying forests and biodiversity… Read the rest
If you like meat, but don’t want a side of animal cruelty and environmental destruction, there’s something new on the menu – and it tastes surprisingly good… Read the rest
Huge sea spiders move excruciatingly slowly, but they can still catch prey animals that move much faster than them – because their prey sometimes crash into the seafloor… Read the rest
This photoset is a glimpse into life as an ice watcher – flying long missions over frozen polar terrain to keep tabs on the warming world… Read the rest