During development, cells take cues from their immediate environment to decide their fate, but it is not always easy to “hear” the relevant information among all the genetic and molecular activities that are taking place. Cells will quiet this noise so that they can make accurate calls on how to behave. Using the zebrafish hindbrain as a testing ground, three University of California, Irvine (UCI), scientists—applied mathematician Christopher Rackauckas (now at MIT), developmental biologist Thomas Schilling, and mathematical biologist Qing Nie—identified a strategy called intermediate states that cells use to control noise. Their paper is one of the first examples of how a specific cellular protein can tone noise down to levels necessary for developmental activities. THIS article is the backstory for “Mean-Independent Noise Control of Cell Fates via Intermediate States,” published on April 10 in iScience.