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How is the human body able to produce antibodies to mount a defence against any attacking microorganism – even those it’s never encountered before? After all, our mere 20,000 genes seem woefully inadequate to produce the billions of different antibodies necessary to fight every possible disease. The problem stumped researchers for decades until the Japanese scientist Susumu Tonegawa discovered the key to our incredible adaptive capacity for fighting contagions – an accomplishment that earned him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1987. The answer, explored in this brief animation from Nature, lies in recombination-activating genes (RAGs) – DNA-‘shuffling’ enzymes that can create proteins capable of fighting any foreign invader.
Watch the elegant flow of a sheep herd, seen from the sky above Israel
How would a piano sound on Mars? Embark on an interplanetary sonic journey
Design and fashion
Gear up for a stylish celebration of vintage motorcycle design
An ode to the humble rotifer – one of nature’s simplest and strangest creatures
Check in to the Hilbert Hotel, and learn why some infinities are bigger than others
Cognition and intelligence
How a ‘periodic table’ of animal intelligence could help to root out human bias
The city as an emergent life form, with architecture as the skeleton and roads as veins
How sky-high dreams launched one man’s audacious life in homemade rocketry
Earth science and climate
How much can science really tell us about the future of climate change?