Vaccines for COVID-19 have been in the news all week as drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna reported promising results on the effectiveness of their respective vaccines. The rapid development of their vaccines is due in part to the technology behind them, called synthetic messenger RNA. A scientist involved in vaccine development himself explains this technique, including why doses need to be kept at supercold temperatures. But vaccines won’t be available for most people for months, which is why another promising therapy, called monoclonal antibodies, is still needed.

Also in this week’s science and research news, an AI-based tool for identifying conspiracy theories as they emerge and a history of how humans exploited the resources of Antarctica from the day they arrived 200 years ago.

Martin La Monica

Deputy Editor

Moderna’s new mRNA vaccine is almost 94.5% effective in large-scale trials. JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

How mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna work, why they’re a breakthrough and why they need to be kept so cold

Sanjay Mishra, Vanderbilt University

There are two new COVID-19 vaccines that appear to be more than 90% effective. But what are these vaccines, and how are they different from those used previously?

Workmen dissecting a whale carcass in Antarctica, circa 1935. Hulton Archive via Getty Images

200 years ago, people discovered Antarctica – and promptly began profiting by slaughtering some of its animals to near extinction

Daniella McCahey, Texas Tech University; Alessandro Antonello, Flinders University

For 200 years, a small number of countries have exploited the marine wildlife of Antarctica, often with devastating impact on their populations.

In the age of social media, conspiracy theories are collective creations. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

An AI tool can distinguish between a conspiracy theory and a true conspiracy – it comes down to how easily the story falls apart

Timothy R. Tangherlini, University of California, Berkeley

Computational methods could help identify conspiracy theories as they emerge.