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Amos Zeeberg

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    How Nuclear Explosions Were Used to Save the Environment

    In the 70s and 80s, nuclear power made a dramatic flip in the public mind, changing from a futuristic miracle to an environmental disaster.Photograph by U.S. DOD / Wikipedia In the late spring of 2010, the world watched, often in real time, a new kind of environmental disaster unfold: An oil rig operating deep under the […]

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    Why Hasn’t the World Been Destroyed in a Nuclear War Yet?

    In broadest terms, the danger facing the world is that the superpowers have institutionalized a major nuclear showdown.Photograph by U.S. Army Photographic Signal Corps / Wikipedia When opposing nations gained access to nuclear weapons, it fundamentally changed the logic of war. You might say that it made questions about war more cleanly logical—with nuclear-armed belligerents, […]

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    Computers Beat Humans at Poker. Next Up: Everything Else?

      Over the span of 20 days early this year, artificial intelligence encountered a major test of how well it can tackle problems in the real world. A program called Libratus took on four of the best poker players in the country, at a tournament at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They were playing […]

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    Fake News Is an Old Problem

    In a presidential campaign that seemed to break rules of political decorum daily, one of the more alarming developments was the rise of a new kind of media: fake news. “Obama FURIOUS After Judge Jeanine Calls Him A Terrorist On Live TV!!!” proclaimed TrumpVision365.com, a fake-news site run by young people in Macedonia. “STOP HER […]

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    Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese

    The stories have become all too familiar in Japan, though people often do their best to ignore them. An elderly or middle-aged person, usually a man, is found dead, at home in his apartment, frequently right in his bed. It has been days, weeks, or even months since he has had contact with another human […]

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    Don’t Believe the Hype: Winter Does Not Begin Tonight

    Tonight, at 11:48 PM Eastern Time, is the moment of the winter solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is pointed as far away from the sun as it ever gets. It will be the longest night of the year, and tomorrow will be the day with the fewest hours of sunlight. As most people know, this […]

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    Watch Water Levitate, Flow Up, & Swirl the Wrong Way in the Other Hemisphere

    The conventional wisdom is all wrong. Countless parents and teachers have gotten it twisted. The BBC and PBS aired bogus explanations. Even textbooks have botched the story. The Earth’s rotation, and the Coriolis effect that results, do not cause water to circle the drain in opposite directions in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Well, actually, […]

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    Does Culture Really Evolve Like Organisms Do?

    It’s become common to think about cultural change the same way we think about biological evolution—so common that it may obscure whether the comparison really works. Though there remain many questions yet to answer about biological evolution, it’s a process that’s well-understood. We know, in great detail, how variations emerge, how they’re passed on hereditarily, […]

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    Why Were the UK Election Polls So Wrong? A Statistical Mystery

    Workers count votes at a polling place in Worcester, Mass.SuperStock via Getty Images Last Thursday the UK’s Conservative Party stomped to an electoral victory that fairly shocked the country. The Tories won a comfortable majority of seats in parliament, enabling them to govern the nation without a coalition partner. That result contrasted sharply with the […]

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    Why Hasn’t the World Been Destroyed in a Nuclear War Yet?

    The precariousness of game theory.