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Springing forward
Growing Healthier Tomato Plants
Tree Frogs
Blotchy Face, Big-Time Wasp
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How to Fly Like a Bat
The Disappearing Newspaper
A brain-boosting video game
Listening to Birdsong
Chemistry and Materials
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The hungry blob at the edge of the universe
Sticky Silky Feet
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Games with a Purpose
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Fungus Hunt
Finding the Past
Writing on eggshells
Decoding a Beverage Jar
Preserving Ancient Warrior Paint
Pygmy Sharks
A Jellyfish's Blurry View
Food and Nutrition
Turning to Sweets, Fats to Calm the Brain
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Who vs. Whom
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Human Body
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Prime Time for Broken Bones
Music in the Brain
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Speedy stars
Invisibility Ring
A Giant Flower's New Family
Stalking Plants by Scent
Fastest Plant on Earth
Sea Turtles
Snapping Turtles
Space and Astronomy
Older Stars, New Age for the Universe
An Icy Blob of Fluff
A Dusty Birthplace
Technology and Engineering
Roll-Up Computer Monitors to Go
Slip Sliming Away
Spinach Power for Solar Cells
The Parts of Speech
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
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Robots on a Rocky Road
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Antarctica warms, which threatens penguins
Arctic Melt
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Machine Copy

It would be a perfect theme for a horror movie: People build robots that can make copies of themselves. Robots reproduce like crazy. Robots take over the world. Ridiculous? In fact, only part of the story is fiction. Robots haven't yet taken over the world, but scientists from Cornell University have created simple machines that can make more of their own kind. The process is called self-replication. Far from being nightmarish, the researchers say, self-replicating robots could revolutionize space exploration. And they'd be perfect for clearing minefields and doing other risky tasks. Best of all, they'd be able to repair themselves. The new robots are made of stacks of blocks called "molecubes." Each cube is about the size of an adult's fist. Inside, there's a motor, electromagnets, and a tiny computer processor. The cubes are divided diagonally into plastic halves that can swivel back and forth. As a robot copies itself, computer programs tell the cube halves how to rotate. Electromagnets, meanwhile, let go of some cubes and pick up others that have been placed nearby. During the process, the stack of cubes twists and bends into various shapes, such as L's or upside-down U's. In the end, there are two identical objects, where once there was just one. This may not sound very impressive—yet. But it's a step on the path toward complex machines that can make copies of themselves.—E. Sohn

Machine Copy
Machine Copy

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