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cover of May 30, 2015 issue

Alison Pearce Stevens' Articles

  • Tiny plastic, big problem

    Plastic in the oceans is a growing problem. And it’s not just ugly: Plastic can kill many kinds of marine life.
    Unsightly plastic bottles, bags and other trash give just a hint of the largely unseen problem of plastic pollution. Scientists have found tiny bits of it throughout the ocean. The bad news: Sea life can’t tell the difference between plastic and food.
  • How DNA is like a yo-yo

    When not in use, DNA coils tightly. But it must uncoil for the cell to ‘read’ its genes. Physical forces affect how easily that happens, new data show.
  • Stress for success

    Stress and anxiety can lead to serious mental and behavioral problems. Identifying stressors can help people cope with anxiety. Even better, viewing stress as a strength can tone down anxious feelings and boost productivity.
  • A new ‘spin’ on concussions

    Scientists have suspected that rotational forces in the brain may underlie concussions. A new study used athletic mouthguards containing sensors. Data on head movements during collisions suggest that a twisting of the brain may underlie mild brain injuries, including concussion.
  • Harry Potter reveals secrets of the brain

    Reading harry potter
    Figuring out how the brain makes sense of what we read isn’t easy. So scientists enlisted the magical world of Harry Potter. It allowed experts to predict with great accuracy which brain areas would be active in a given part of the story.
  • Tiny — but mighty — food-cleanup crews

    apple core
    Discarded food wastes can turn city spaces into food courts for disease-carrying rats and pigeons. But a new study shows tiny cleanup crews — especially pavement ants — are doing their best to eliminate such wastes. This, in turn, makes cities less attractive to bigger pests.
  • Germs help each other fend off antibiotics

    Staphylococcus aureus bacteria
    Drug-resistant bacteria can cause persistent infections. A new study finds these germs fight drugs in different ways. And they can swap various compounds, increasing their neighbors’ chances of overcoming the drugs meant to kill them.

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