Coffee: Millions of Years of Poison and Brain Manipulation

Many people think of coffee simply as an absolute necessity in the morning. But it's also a fascinating piece of natural history. Here we have a plant that produces a potent chemical--caffeine--that can snap our brains to attention in low doses and kill us in big doses. Why on Earth would some Ethiopian bean go to such great lengths? For my Matter column this week in the New York Times, I take a look at a new study that offers some answers.

The study is, in fact, the sequencing of the coffee genome. Normally, I'm very leery of genome papers--I come down with a disorder I've dubbed

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