Animal Play Is Delightfully Meaningful

Tue, 20 Jul 2021 06:00:00 GMT
Scientific American - Science

Brown dwarfs, stuttering, quantum chemistry, and more

Some of the silliest behaviors turn out to be surprisingly meaningful.

Young elephants play in their water holes much like human children play in swimming pools during summer break.

Many social species, from meerkats to dogs to great apes, engage in ritualized play to hone skills they'll need as adults-and, from everything we can tell, for the joy of it.

Stars and planets are just different ends of a size spectrum, with brown dwarfs in between, astronomer Katelyn Allers explains.

Allers has figured out how to measure wind speed on a brown dwarf.

Recent research on immune cells called microglia in the brain is leading to some new approaches.

The story goes into great detail to show exactly where this research stands, with hope but without hype.

In the past few years scientists have identified many of the brain regions and some of the genes involved, and they are rolling out new treatments.

In our November 2020 issue, we ran a Graphic Science column revealing that the Southern Hemisphere's flu season was the mildest ever recorded, an early sign that the 2020-2021 flu season in the North might not be so bad. Data-visualization designer and Scientific American contributing artist Katie Peek follows up with a remarkable series of graphics depicting how flu basically disappeared around the world during the COVID pandemic.

If people wash their hands, wear masks in crowded indoor areas and stay home if they're sick, that can stop the flu cold.

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