Despite evidence of worsening MORTALITY TRENDS for middle-aged Americans, the picture is brighter for young people. Researchers have found across-the-board declines in death rates for children, with the greatest reductions in the poorest counties. In research published in Science in April, Janet Currie *88, a Princeton professor of economics and public affairs, and co-author Hannes Schwandt of the University of Zurich suggest that better health care and nutrition and reductions in pollution could be contributing to the changes.

DARWIN’S FINCHES of the Galapagos Islands are presented in every high school biology class as the classic example of natural selection causing evolution — but no one found a specific gene controlling the process until now. Looking at evidence of rapid evolution related to a drought on the islands between 2004 and 2006, Princeton zoology professor emeritus Peter Grant and research biologist B. Rosemary Grant identified a gene, HMGA2, which controls beak size in a finch species. After the drought, about four of five finches with a gene variant for large beaks had died off, while those with a gene for small beaks survived. The research was published in Science in April. Illustration: Peter Arkle