The great rest of our ancestors came 66 million years ago, on the worst day in Earth’s history. An asteroid hit our planet, caused tsunamis and volcanoes and fires, and darkened the sky for years. Disaster is the end of dinosaurs (other than birds) but a new beginning for mammals — or at least the mammals that have survived. In our cover article, paleontologist Steve Brusatte fills this story at the beginning with interesting new details about mammals that evolved in the Before Times and a deeper understanding of how some survived the After.
Childhood development is one of the richest and most productive fields of research today — much occurring from birth to the first few years of life. The brain rapidly expands and builds a million connections per second, as children learn languages and social connections and how to explore the world. As a childhood learning researcher and physician Dana Suskind and author and Scientific American Contributing editor Lydia Denworth explains, the research identifies two key factors that encourage healthy mental development: protection from stress and nurturing interactions with participants. atiman. The work they share has immediate implications for policies that help children thrive.
In a deeper part of how the brain learns to understand the world, neuroscientist György Buzsáki presents an “inside-outside” theory of brain functioning. The classic “outside-in” conception says that the brain starts out as a blank slate and is written with visions and experiences. But the brain has its own ideas of how to organize, generalize and respond to external stimuli. Studies in humans and animals and AI research show how internal brain algorithms can be used to shape our experiences, plan ahead and learn effectively.
Powerful flares called rapid radio explosions explode with as much force suddenly as the emission of the sun in a month. Astronomers aren’t sure what caused the flashes, but they made a lot of progress when a much faster radio burst in 2020 was traced back to a magnetar, a large remnant of a supernova. Not all fast radio broadcasts seem to come from magnets, though, and some can be repeaters rather than an explosion. It’s a hot spot in astronomy, as described by science writer Adam Mann, and it’s ready to heat up – the rapid spread of radio can help reveal what they’re going through from their origin to our telescopes.
A fundamental injustice in modern times is that privileged people live longer, healthier lives than people who face discrimination, powerlessness and systematic discrimination. Our special health equity package explains what we know about the differences in our health systems and, more importantly, how they are fixed. Heart disease, the leading killer in the world, is more lethal to poor groups. The world’s oldest pandemic, tuberculosis, has largely been eradicated in the rich world but persists in poverty. Mental health care should be a right, not a privilege. And you’ll meet people looking for solutions to health inequality around the world and still taking relevant lessons from the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
We are all in Scientific American thanks Curtis Brainard, our managing editor, for leading the health equity package on this issue and many other innovations and projects. Curtis joined our publication in 2014 as editor of blogs and soon began managing all of our online content. He became managing editor in 2017 and acting editor in chief in 2019 and we went through the start of the COVID pandemic. Curtis is leaving Scientific American (hesitant, he says) for a sweet new job in Paris, and we all wish he was well, but gosh, we miss him!