The Year’s Biggest Breakthroughs in Biology


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The Year’s Biggest Breakthroughs in Biology

The Year’s Biggest Breakthroughs in Biology

In 2020, the study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was undoubtedly the most urgent priority. But there were also some major breakthroughs in other areas. We’d like to take a moment to recognize them.

1. This year, we learned that we had severely underestimated the human brain’s computing power. Researchers are coming to understand that even the dendritic arms of neurons seem capable of processing information, which means that every neuron might be more like a small computer by itself.

2. The new Information Theory of Individuality completely reimagines the way biologists have traditionally thought about individuality. Armed with information theory, the researchers found objective criteria for defining degrees of individuality in organisms.

3. Deprived of sleep, we and other animals die within weeks. More than a century of scrutiny failed to explain why lack of sleep is so deadly. This year, an answer was finally found — not inside the brain, as expected, but inside the gut.


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