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Adorable Voles, Life as We Don’t Know It and Better Cement

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Every once in a while we publish a story that makes the editorial team at Scientific American melt. When we were reviewing illustrations for “The Neurobiology of Love” about pair-bonding in prairie voles, the most common response was, “Aww.” First of all, they’re so stinking cute. Unlike promiscuous species like meadow voles, they pair up for life, raise young together and cuddle for comfort. For about 50 years they’ve been the go-to animal model for studying attachment and relationships and what looks like some rudimentary version of love. Scientists Steven Phelps, Zoe Donaldson and Dev Manoli explain how we’ve learned so much about commitment from prairie voles. Some free advice: date all the meadow voles you like but marry a prairie vole.

Our cover story this month is about one of the most mind-bending searches in science: the attempt to find life as we don’t know it. (Science writer Sarah Scoles proposes the acronym “LAWDKI” for this search.) How do you look for aliens that are profoundly alien to Earthlings? Scientists are figuring out how to scan for…

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