Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours. When you examine the lives of history’s most creative figures, you are immediately confronted with a paradox: They organize their lives around their work, but not their days.
Our own bodies’ clocks are far better for telling us when to wake up.
You may think twice about your diet when you follow the metabolic fate of your food. Let’s admit it. Few of us like to think, much less talk about our colons. But you might be surprised at the importance of what gets into your colon and what goes on inside it.
Why we shouldn’t worry about leaving print behind. In A History of Reading, the Canadian novelist and essayist Alberto Manguel describes a remarkable transformation of human consciousness, which took place around the 10th century A.D.: the advent of silent reading.
Nanoscale thermal physics guarantees our decline, no matter how many diseases we cure. The inside of every cell in our body is like a crowded city, filled with tracks, transports, libraries, factories, power plants, and garbage disposal units.
The science of the wandering mind. Every emotion has a purpose—an evolutionary benefit,” says Sandi Mann, a psychologist and the author of The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good. “I wanted to know why we have this emotion of boredom, which seems like such a negative, pointless emotion.
How Julian Jaynes’ famous 1970s theory is faring in the neuroscience age. Julian Jaynes was living out of a couple of suitcases in a Princeton dorm in the early 1970s.
One day in March 2010, Isak McCune started clearing his throat with a forceful, violent sound. The New Hampshire toddler was 3, with a Beatles mop of blonde hair and a cuddly, loving personality. His parents had no idea where the guttural tic came from. They figured it was springtime allergies.
War, murder, music, art. We would have none without metaphor. The other day I fixed something—a rarity for me. The flotation device in the toilet water tank was rubbing against the side, getting stuck halfway up so that the tank didn’t fill completely. I own a hammer and know how to operate it.
Looking around our planet today, it’s hard not to be struck by humanity’s uniqueness. We are the only species around that writes books, runs experiments, and builds skyscrapers.
An engineering professor takes online-course critics to school. I teach one of the world’s most popular MOOCs (massive online open courses), “Learning How to Learn,” with neuroscientist Terrence J. Sejnowski, the Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
The surprising relationship between mindset and getting old. In 1979, psychologist Ellen Langer and her students carefully refurbished an old monastery in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to resemble a place that would have existed two decades earlier.
To see additional images from NASA Ames, click the icon on the image at the top of this page. NASA Ames is filled with the exotic technologies of a future that didn’t quite come to pass. Ancient computers still operate equipment in the machine shop.
Alex Honnold doesn’t experience fear like the rest of us. Alex Honnold has his own verb. “To honnold”—usually written as “honnolding”—is to stand in some high, precarious place with your back to the wall, looking straight into the abyss. To face fear, literally.
Henri Bergson’s debate with Albert Einstein reached and swayed the 1921 Nobel committee. On April 6, 1922, Einstein met a man he would never forget.
An oft-repeated line in A Series of Unfortunate Events, a Netflix TV show recently adapted from a book series, feels apt for the moment. “In a world too often governed by corruption and arrogance,” it goes, “it can be difficult to stay true to one’s philosophical and literary principles.
The surprising performance and physics of the fish kick. I tug my black swim cap over my hair, strap on my pink goggles, and keep a focused calm, like Michael Phelps before a race. It’s lap swim on a Monday afternoon at my local YMCA, and I’m going to attempt the fish kick.
Without inner narratives we would be lost in a chaotic world. We are all storytellers; we make sense out of the world by telling stories. And science is a great source of stories. Not so, you might argue. Science is an objective collection and interpretation of data. I completely agree.
Genetic engineering will bring us new Bolts and Shaqs. For many years I lived in Eugene, Oregon, also known as “track-town USA” for its long tradition in track and field.
It was heard in over 50 different locations around the globe.
If I claimed that Americans have gotten more self-centered lately, you might just chalk me up as a curmudgeon, prone to good-ol’-days whining. But what if I said I could back that claim up by analyzing 150 billion words of text? A few decades ago, evidence on such a scale was a pipe dream.
Will recording every spoken word help or hurt us? We are going to start recording and automatically transcribing most of what we say. Instead of evaporating into memory, words spoken aloud will calcify as text, into a Record that will be referenced, searched, and mined.
Suppose you wanted to build the perfect dog from scratch. What would be the key ingredients in the recipe? Loyalty and smarts would be musts. Cuteness would be as well, perhaps with gentle eyes, and a curly, bushy tail that wags in joy in anticipation of your appearance.
Literature’s evolution has reflected and spurred the growing complexity of society. Reading medieval literature, it’s hard not to be impressed with how much the characters get done—as when we read about King Harold doing battle in one of the Sagas of the Icelanders, written in about 1230.
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 on Sunday from Fox & Friends presenter Pete Hegseth, who was referring to … germs.
Where did language come from? Cormac McCarthy is best known to the world as a writer of novels. These include Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road. At the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) he is a research colleague and thought of in complementary terms.
Bacteria take a starring role in six vignettes of city life. Last week, microbiologists took to Twitter to find a catchy name for the millions of microbes in our residences, offices, and schools. Microbes within us—our microbiomes—have gotten years of play.
Lee Berger has a knack for finding fossils his own way. In some sense, Lee Rogers Berger found himself and the drowning woman at the same time.
Are we happier with few or many choices? One subject settles the debate—dating. In the age of online dating there are more romantic options than there are fish in the, well, you know.
Stone’s silent sister in the archaeological record. In April 1997, at the snooker world championship held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, Ronnie O’Sullivan stepped up to the table to play a frame in what was expected to be a routine victory in his first-round match against Mick Price.
Physicist Paul Steinhardt remembers a great mentor and scientist. Impossible! The word resonated throughout the large lecture hall. I had just finished describing a revolutionary concept for a new type of matter that my graduate student, Dov Levine, and I had invented.
And how to make it think differently. As a kid, I saw the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes. As a future primatologist, I was mesmerized. Years later I discovered an anecdote about its filming: At lunchtime, the people playing chimps and those playing gorillas ate in separate groups.
The emperor of physics defends his controversial theory of mind.
The responsibilities and challenges of programmed luck. On Sept. 16, 2007, a Japanese YouTuber who goes by the handle “Computing Aesthetic” uploaded a forty-eight-second-long video with the deafening title, “ULTRA MEGA SUPER LUCKY SHOT.
John Carreyrou talks to Nautilus about the lessons of a $1 billion fraud. Silicon Valley has a term for startups that reach the $1 billion valuation mark: unicorns. The term is instructive.
The 2008 financial crisis taught me about the illusion of control, and how to give it up. I’d lost almost $200 million in October. November wasn’t looking any better. It was 2008, after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. Markets were in turmoil. Banks were failing left and right.
There’s a method to the madness of the teenage brain. In the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, a few hours east of San Francisco, are the Moaning Caverns, a cave system that begins, after a narrow, twisting descent of 30-some feet, with an abrupt 180-foot drop.
Nine years ago, I was sitting in a college math physics course and my professor spelt out an idea that kind of blew my mind.
If you think everyone around you is terrible, the joke may be on you. Here’s something you probably didn’t do this morning: Look in the mirror and ask, am I a jerk? It seems like a reasonable question. There are, presumably, genuine jerks in the world.
Exposing the reasons we fail to understand the minds of others. “You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” —David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest You and I are members of one of the most social species on the planet.