You’re sitting at your desk, desperately trying to learn a list of facts about a mind-numbingly boring subject for an exam the next day. You give up and decide to relax by watching a documentary about a fascinating subject. After all of the effort you put into trying to learn the facts for the exam, you find that you can’t remember a single one of them, although you can remember the tiniest details from the documentary.
During mating rituals, animals usually communicate through touch, sight, smell, or hearing. Some species communicate in unconventional ways, relying on vibrational and electric signals rather than the more common sensory approaches. These unique signals are often invisible to other animals that do not possess the organs needed to perceive them. Continue reading
All spiders are predators, but most of them are small and have rudimentary defences against larger animals that in turn prey on them. Spiders have thus evolved a range of predatory behaviours that, at the same time, allow them to evade the threat of predation – and some of the most effective strategies involve deceiving ants.
The 2014 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to three neuroscientists for their pioneering work on the brain’s “inner GPS system”. Over the course of four decades, they revealed that a small part in the brain called the hippocampus stores a map of animals’ surroundings and helps them navigate.
Our brains are incredibly powerful pattern detecting devices. Scientists have often relied on our ability to detect visual patterns when trying to convey structure in their data: graphs, maps, images from under microscopes or telescopes. Sometimes, however, other sensory modalities are more appropriate for certain types of data.
Recent research has found that one hour of vigorous exercise a week is enough to cut your chance of dementia by half – but if you exercise while pregnant, you may be able to boost your unborn child’s memory too.
One of medicine’s greatest innovations in the 20th century was the development of antibiotics. It’s a treatment that has transformed our ability to combat disease. And yet medicine in the 21st century is undertaking a re-evaluation of bacteria and concluding that, far from being uniformly bad for us, many of these organisms are actually essential for our health.
A few doors down from my house, a man is selling drugs. But he’s not standing on a street corner, skittishly glancing up and down the road. Instead, he is sat behind a desk, in a small room lined with neat glass cabinets – and if anything, he looks rather bored. Continue reading
Metamorphosis has fascinated biologists for years. A butterfly may look drastically different from its former worm-like caterpillar self, but we now know that its appearance and memories are tremendously influenced by caterpillar experiences.