On a summer day in 1968, professor Julian Stanley met a brilliant but bored 12-year-old named Joseph Bates.
On a summer day in 1968, professor Julian Stanley met a brilliant but bored 12-year-old named Joseph Bates.
The digital revolution is in full swing. How will it change our world? The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In other words: in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015.
From Ensia (find the original story here); reprinted with permission. July 19, 2016 — Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand.
It is the central question in quantum mechanics, and no one knows the answer: What really happens in a superposition—the peculiar circumstance in which particles seem to be in two or more places or states at once? Now, in a new paper a team of researchers in Israel and Japan has proposed an experi
Have you ever noticed that when you present people with facts that are contrary to their deepest held beliefs they always change their minds? Me neither. In fact, people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them.
A stressed-out and traumatized father can leave scars in his children. New research suggests this happens because sperm “learn” paternal experiences via a mysterious mode of intercellular communication in which small blebs break off one cell and fuse with another.
Peter Carruthers, Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Maryland, College Park, is an expert on the philosophy of mind who draws heavily on empirical psychology and cognitive neuroscience.
On June 28, 2009, the world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking threw a party at the University of Cambridge, complete with balloons, hors d'oeuvres and iced champagne. Everyone was invited but no one showed up.
Most of us learn how to ride a bike during childhood. But as we grow older, many of us stop riding and put those once-beloved bikes in storage. Years later, when we discover these relics and hop on, it’s as if we never stopped biking.
The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century.
In Brief Economic inequality is higher in the U.S. than in virtually all other advanced countries. The American political system, coupled with high initial inequality, gave the moneyed enough political influence to change laws to benefit themselves, further exacerbating inequality.
The Greek version of a familiar myth starts with Artemis, goddess of the hunt and fierce protectress of innocent young women. Artemis demands that Callisto, “the most beautiful,” and her other handmaidens take a vow of chastity.
NEW YORK—If you, me and every person and thing in the cosmos were actually characters in some giant computer game, we would not necessarily know it. The idea that the universe is a simulation sounds more like the plot of “The Matrix,” but it is also a legitimate scientific hypothesis.
In Brief Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have met with enormous public opposition over the past two decades. Many people believe that GMOs are bad for their health – even poisonous – and that they damage the environment.
In a viral YouTube video from October 2011 a one-year-old girl sweeps her fingers across an iPad's touchscreen, shuffling groups of icons. In the following scenes she appears to pinch, swipe and prod the pages of paper magazines as though they too were screens.
The stresses of everyday life may start taking a toll on the brain in relatively early middle age, new research shows.
Picture the stereotypical pot smoker: young, dazed and confused. Marijuana has long been known for its psychoactive effects, which can include cognitive impairment.
When is the last time a stereotype popped into your mind? If you are like most people, the authors included, it happens all the time. That doesn’t make you a racist, sexist, or whatever-ist. It just means your brain is working properly, noticing patterns, and making generalizations.
Elite memory athletes are not so different from their peers in any other sport: They face off in intense competitions where they execute seemingly superhuman feats such as memorizing a string of 500 digits in five minutes.
It was a faustian bargain—and it certainly made editors at National Public Radio squirm. The deal was this: NPR, along with a select group of media outlets, would get a briefing about an upcoming announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a day before anyone else.
Does the language you speak influence how you think? This is the question behind the famous linguistic relativity hypothesis, that the grammar or vocabulary of a language imposes on its speakers a particular way of thinking about the world.
Who are You Calling “Smart”? No doubt you know several folks with perfectly respectable IQs who repeatedly make poor decisions. The behavior of such people tells us that we are missing something important by treating intelligence as if it encompassed all cognitive abilities.
Our political opinions and attitudes are an important part of who we are and how we construct our identities. Hence, if I ask your opinion on health care, you will not only share it with me, but you will likely resist any of my attempts to persuade you of another point of view.
In a candid conversation with Frank Rich last fall, Chris Rock said, "Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.
In Brief The claim that gun ownership stops crime is common in the U.S., and that belief drives laws that make it easy to own and keep firearms. But about 30 careful studies show more guns are linked to more crimes: murders, rapes, and others. Far less research shows that guns help.
When it comes to home projects, I am a step-by-step kind of girl. I read the instructions from start to finish, and then reread and execute each step. My husband, on the other hand, prefers to study the diagrams and then jump right in. Think owner’s manual versus IKEA instructions.
There’s something mysterious coming up from the frozen ground in Antarctica, and it could break physics as we know it. Physicists don’t know what it is exactly.
“We aren’t going to get sick, are we?” my roommate Brett asked me. He cringed as I knelt down and stuffed a plate of E.
Research on the unconscious mind has shown that the brain makes judgments and decisions quickly and automatically. It continuously makes predictions about future events.
We connect to each other through particles. Calls and texts ride flecks of light, Web sites and photographs load on electrons. All communication is, essentially, physical. Information is recorded and broadcast on actual objects, even those we cannot see.
Some varieties of wood, such as oak and maple, are renowned for their strength. But scientists say a simple and inexpensive new process can transform any type of wood into a material stronger than steel, and even some high-tech titanium alloys.
Melissa and J.J. met on the finish line of an obstacle course race. “We were both winded and covered in mud yet we still managed to flirt. It felt weirdly authentic,” Melissa told me in our first psychotherapy session. “He was into triathlons and obstacle courses like I was.
Physicists have a problem with time. Whether through Newton’s gravitation, Maxwell’s electrodynamics, Einstein’s special and general relativity or quantum mechanics, all the equations that best describe our universe work perfectly if time flows forward or backward.
As Olympians go for the gold in Vancouver, even the steeliest are likely to experience that familiar feeling of "butterflies" in the stomach. Underlying this sensation is an often-overlooked network of neurons lining our guts that is so extensive some scientists have nicknamed it our "second brain".
Behind a thin white veil separating his makeshift lab from joggers at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology indoor track, aerospace engineer Steven Barrett recently test-flew the first-ever airplane powered with ionic wind thrusters—electric engines that generate momentum by creating and firing
Our brains have evolved to recognize and remember faces. As infants, one of the first things we learn is to look at the faces of those around us, respond to eye contact and mimic facial expressions.
Does your hometown have any mathematical tourist attractions such as statues, plaques, graves, the cafe where the famous conjecture was made, the desk where the famous initials are scratched, birthplaces, houses, or memorials? Have you encountered a mathematical sight on your travels? If so, we i
Jan van Deursen was baffled by the decrepit-looking transgenic mice he created in 2000. Instead of developing tumours as expected, the mice experienced a stranger malady. By the time they were three months old, their fur had grown thin and their eyes were glazed with cataracts.
Richard Dawkins, the biologist and author, is complicated. I reached this conclusion in 2005 when I participated in a fellowship for journalists organized by the pro-religion Templeton Foundation.
Nearly a year has passed since Rebecca Knickmeyer first met the participants in her latest study on brain development.
In just five minutes an American president could put all of humanity in jeopardy. Most nuclear security experts believe that's how long it would take for as many as 400 land-based nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal to be loosed on enemy targets after an initial “go” order.
We’ve all heard the adage: practice makes perfect! In other words, acquiring skills takes time and effort. But how exactly does one go about learning a complex subject such as tennis, calculus, or even how to play the violin? An age-old answer is: practice one skill at a time.
Would you cut off your own leg if it was the only way to save another person's life? Would you torture someone if you thought it would result in information that would prevent a bomb from exploding and killing hundreds of people? Would you politically oppress a people for a limited time if it
The quantum world is a weird one.
What are the weirdest questions you've ever Googled? Mine might be (for my latest book): “How many people have ever lived?” “What do people think about just before death?” and “How many bits would it take to resurrect in a virtual reality everyone who ever lived?” (It's 10 to the p
Editor’s Note (02/08/18): Scientific American is re-posting the following article, originally published August 5, 2016, in light of the 2018 Winter Games which begin on February 9 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Steven Laureys greets me with a smile as I enter his office overlooking the hills of Liège. Although his phone rings constantly, he takes the time to talk to me about the fine points of what consciousness is and how to identify it in patients who seem to lack it.
In Brief Until the mid-19th century, surgery meant almost certain agony for the patient. With the adoption of ether as a general anesthetic, more surgical procedures were performed, but the rates of infection and complications also increased.
Recognizing when a friend or colleague feels sad, angry or surprised is key to getting along with others. But a new study suggests that a knack for eavesdropping on feelings may sometimes come with an extra dose of stress.
It reads like the guest list for one of the most interesting dinner parties ever: Miles Davis, Aristotle, Darlene Love, Albert Einstein, Andy Warhol, Ben and Jerry.
What to make of a Las Vegas building full of unidentified alloys? The New York Times published a stunning story Saturday (Dec. 16) revealing that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) had, between 2007 and 2012, funded a $22 million program for investigating UFOs.
The link between a mother and child is profound, and new research suggests a physical connection even deeper than anyone thought.
More than 60 years ago Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the double-helical structure of deoxyribonucleic acid—better known as DNA. Today, for the cost of a Netflix subscription, you can have your DNA sequenced to learn about your ancestry and proclivities.
Meet Grok. According to his online profile, he is a tall, lean, ripped and agile 30-year-old. By every measure, Grok is in superb health: low blood pressure; no inflammation; ideal levels of insulin, glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides. He and his family eat really healthy, too.
Donald Trump has selected one of the best-known climate skeptics to lead his U.S. EPA transition team, according to two sources close to the campaign.
The world’s most worrisome military flashpoint is arguably not in the Strait of Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, Iran, Israel, Kashmir or Ukraine. In fact, it cannot be located on any map of Earth, even though it is very easy to find.
1. Does humanity have a future beyond Earth? “I think it’s a dangerous delusion to envisage mass emigration from Earth. There’s nowhere else in the solar system that’s as comfortable as even the top of Everest or the South Pole. We must address the world’s problems here.
People mislead themselves all day long. We tell ourselves we’re smarter and better looking than our friends, that our political party can do no wrong, that we’re too busy to help a colleague.
How does the architecture of our brain and neurons allow each of us to make individual behavioral choices? Scientists have long used the metaphor of government to explain how they think nervous systems are organized for decision-making. Are we at root a democracy, like the U.K.
The concept of mindfulness involves focusing on your present situation and state of mind. This can mean awareness of your surroundings, emotions and breathing—or, more simply, enjoying each bite of a really good sandwich.
He was all red. Not just the crimson sweater with knitted reindeer crossing his belly, but his actual skin. It was cardinal dappled with violet, his nose a bulbous purple plum.
The age of consumer genomics has arrived. Nowadays you can send a vial of your spit in the mail and pay to see how your unique genetic code relates to all manner of human activity—from sports to certain diets to skin cream to a preference for fine wines, even to dating.
It’s enough to make a tea drinker buy an espresso machine. In a new study scientists in Germany report they were able to modify a common age-related defect in the hearts of mice with doses of caffeine equivalent to four to five cups of coffee a day for a human.
New research suggests it is possible to slow or even reverse aging, at least in mice, by undoing changes in gene activity—the same kinds of changes that are caused by decades of life in humans.
In Brief Playing Nice Even kindergartners have a sense of fair play and will share more with specific groups—family, friends and people who have been generous with them. Parents can tap this notion of fairness to encourage children to cooperate with one another and avoid spiteful behavior.