Nautilus6 min. leídosPhysics
The End of Reductionism Could Be Nigh. Or Not.
The history of science so far has been a triumph of reductionism. Biology can be reduced to chemistry, chemistry can be reduced to atomic physics, and atoms are made of elementary particles like electrons, quarks, and gluons. The currently known 25 e
Nautilus5 min. leídosTechnology & Engineering
My 3 Greatest Revelations: The author on writing his new book, “The Ascent of Information.”
1  The “Dataome” Is Huge The dataome is shorthand to describe all of the externalized information we generate in symbolic representations: drawings, music, books, computing, data storage. It’s all of the information we utilize and propagate, along wi
Nautilus10 min. leídosGender Studies
The History of Locker-Room Talk: Why men put down other men by attacking their masculinity.
When I first posted on social media about my new book, Father Figure: How to Be a Feminist Dad, some of my friends were confused. One commented, “I don’t understand; do you hate men?” Another said, “I feel bad for your sons.” It turns out that many p
Nautilus7 min. leídosPhysics
Is the Universe Open-Ended?: An intriguing proposal about what makes reality tick under the surface.
One of my favorite albeit heavily paraphrased quotes from Albert Einstein is his assertion that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. (What he actually said, in his 1936 work “Physics and Reality,” is more l
Nautilus7 min. leídosPsychology
My Lab Uses Ultrasound to Stimulate Unconscious Patients
A few years ago, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, I escaped the noisy midday hustle and bustle, ducking into a room in the Intensive Care Unit. It was completely quiet, save the subtle hum of equipment. A patient, who I will call Christopher, wa
Nautilus11 min. leídosPhysics
Our Little Life Is Rounded with Possibility: Science expressed only in terms of what happens is getting in the way of progress.
If you could soar high in the sky, as red kites often do in search of prey, and look down at the domain of all things known and yet to be known, you would see something very curious: a vast class of things that science has so far almost entirely negl
Nautilus8 min. leídosIntelligence (AI) & Semantics
Do You Want AI to Be Conscious?: Consciousness is an important function for us. Why not for our machines?
People often ask me whether human-level artificial intelligence will eventually become conscious. My response is: Do you want it to be conscious? I think it is largely up to us whether our machines will wake up. That may sound presumptuous. The mecha
Nautilus7 min. leídosBiology
Data Crunchers To The Rescue: Genetic diseases that puzzle lab scientists are being solved by quantitative biologists.
The boy was only a month old but had developed the amount of health problems that other people don’t acquire in a lifetime. He was constantly suffering from bacterial infections, battling unexplained inflammation, not gaining weight, and—scariest of
Nautilus5 min. leídosSecurity
We Already Know How to Stop SolarWinds-Like Hacks
Last year, hackers made headlines after they breached SolarWinds, a software company that specializes in network monitoring software. About 33,000 organizations, including the Pentagon, the U.S. State Department, and some intelligence agencies, use O
Nautilus5 min. leídosMedical
The “Lab Leak”: It’s Not Enough to Say Accidents Happen
Disasters evoke a search for who to blame. Mishandled disasters make that search vital for anyone whose actions or inactions may have amplified the catastrophe’s damage. As the official United States COVID death toll reaches 600,000, those two dynami
Nautilus7 min. leídosEnvironmental Science
If Only 19th-Century America Had Listened to a Woman Scientist: Where might the US be if it heeded her discovery of global warming’s source?
Human-induced climate change may seem a purely modern phenomenon. Even in ancient Greece, however, people understood that human activities can change climate. Later the early United States was a lab for observing this as its settlers altered nature.
Nautilus12 min. leídos
Tarzan Wasn’t for Her: It took an outsider to restore women to the story of human evolution.
Elaine Morgan had sass. In Descent of Woman, published in 1972, she asked her readers to take science into their own hands. “Try a bit of fieldwork,” she suggested. “Go out of your front door and try to spot some live specimens of Homo sapiens in his
Nautilus6 min. leídos
How to Make Sense of Contradictory Science Papers: Published research is less about conclusions than science at play.
The science you can come across today can often appear to be full of contradictory claims. One study tells you red wine is good for your heart; another tells you it is not. Over the past year, COVID-19 research has offered conflicting reports about t
Nautilus14 min. leídosGender Studies
Are We Cut Out for Universal Morality?: If objective ethical values exist, we’ll have to give up tribalism to realize them.
Footage of a mob storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to subvert the legal and peaceful transfer of power, filled many of us with horror. Underlying that response was our indignation at the brazen violation of central democratic institu
Nautilus14 min. leídosPolitical Ideologies
Why Misinformation Is About Who You Trust, Not What You Think: Two philosophers of science diagnose our age of fake news.
I can’t see them. Therefore they’re not real.” From which century was this quote drawn? Not a medieval one. The utterance emerged in February 2019 from Fox & Friends presenter Pete Hegseth, who was referring to … germs. The former Princeton Universit
Nautilus11 min. leídos
How Taboos Can Help Protect the Oceans: Pacific Islanders are charting a new course for ocean conservation.
In 1777—after whipping local people for trivial offenses, spreading venereal disease, and clumsily avoiding a plot to kill him—the English explorer James Cook left the shores of Tonga laden with treasures. Not least among them was a word scrawled in
Nautilus7 min. leídosBiology
The Man Who Drank Cholera and Launched the Yogurt Craze: Ilya Metchnikoff laid the foundation for modern probiotics.
When Ilya Metchnikoff was 8 and running around on his parents’ Panassovka estate in Little Russia, now Ukraine, he was making notes on the local flora like a junior botanist. He gave science lectures to his older brothers and local kids whose attenda
Nautilus8 min. leídosPsychology
The English Professor Who Foresaw Modern Neuroscience: Science and the humanities weren’t separate cultures to this critic.
In the 21st century, neuroscience has been able to extend our understanding of the brain beyond brain anatomy to an increasingly functional view of cognition. Every year brings new insights on memory and imagination, and reveals often surprising area
Nautilus9 min. leídosRelationships
Science Isn’t Here for Your Mommy Shaming: When people sensationalize research, parents pay the price.
A few years ago, Time magazine published an article titled, “Cell-Phone Distracted Parenting Can Have Long Term Consequences.”1 It reported research supposedly showing that “distracted parental attention” could hurt infant development, and especially
Nautilus9 min. leídosAstronomy & Space Sciences
Should We Terraform Mars? Let’s Recap: Elon Musk wants to engineer Mars’ atmosphere. Can he?
It seemed inevitable that Elon Musk would eventually get into a Twitter war over whether Mars can be terraformed. When you’re on Twitter, he told Businessweek in July, 2018, you’re “in meme war land.” “And so essentially if you attack me,” he said, “
Nautilus11 min. leídosAviation & Aeronautics
The Profound Potential of Elon Musk’s New Rocket: An aerospace engineer explains why SpaceX’s Starship will change everything.
In the late afternoon of May 5, SpaceX’s Elon Musk tweeted, “Starship landing nominal!” Musk is not known for understatement. But seeing that stainless steel behemoth soar was, for many, something more like phenomenal. Over 5 million people watched t
Nautilus6 min. leídosEarth Sciences
The Largest Cells on Earth: Deep in the ocean abyss, xenophyophores are worlds unto themselves.
Imagine you’re a scientist, sitting in the cold dark belly of a ship above an ocean abyss. Your eyes are fixed on a panel of screens as a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) descends miles below your feet. First the ROV travels through the productive sun
Nautilus7 min. leídosPsychology
Why People Feel Like Victims: Getting to the core of today’s social acrimony.
In a polarized nation, victimhood is a badge of honor. It gives people strength. “The victim has become among the most important identity positions in American politics,” wrote Robert B. Horwitz, a communications professor at the University of Califo
Nautilus9 min. leídos
You Can’t Dissect a Virtual Cadaver: What is lost when we lose in-person learning.
Last year, my first in medical school at Columbia University, I used a bone saw to slice through the top half of a cadaver’s skull, revealing a gray brain lined with purple blood vessels. This was Clinical Gross Anatomy, the first-year course that ha
Nautilus5 min. leídosChemistry
How Maxwell’s Demon Continues to Startle Scientists
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. The universe bets on disorder. Imagine, for example, dropping a thimbleful of red dye into a swimming pool. All of those dye molecules are going to slowly spread throughout the water
Nautilus6 min. leídos
How Surprising Connections Can Save the Ocean: Marine biologist Heather Koldewey on conservation, seahorses, and cross-discipline work.
Many marine biologists identify a gateway drug into their obsession, and for Heather Koldewey, it was the seahorse. Who can blame her? Seahorses seem to have evolved not entirely in the ocean, but also by way of a whimsical storybook, in which animal
Nautilus9 min. leídosScience & Mathematics
Our Most Effective Weapon Is Imagination: Why science changes everything.
In his Theaetetus, Plato remarks to Socrates: “This pathos is proper to the philosopher: It is the thaumazein. And philosophy has no other point of departure than this.” The word, which contains the root thauma, the same that appears in thaumaturgy,
Nautilus5 min. leídosPsychology
Why We Love to Be Grossed Out
Nina Strohminger, perhaps not unlike many fans of raunchy comedies and horror flicks, is drawn to disgust. The University of Pennsylvania psychologist has written extensively on the feeling of being grossed out, and where it comes from. The dominant
Nautilus8 min. leídosChemistry
A Wrinkle in Nature Could Lead to Alien Life: There may be more than one way to tune a universe for life.
I grew up in a small village in a very rural part of England. It was a landscape capped with the huge skies of a low-lying coastal zone. Gently rolling fields, long hedgerows, and a lot of farms. Some of the people running those farms came from so ma
Nautilus14 min. leídos
The Botanist Who Defied Stalin: His dream of feeding the world died in prison. His dream of a seed bank lives on.
In 1913, 26-year-old Russian biologist Nikolai Vavilov went to the John Innes Horticultural Institute to study at the feet of legendary geneticist William Bateson. While there, Vavilov attended lectures at nearby Cambridge University, and could often
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