The Unbearable Weirdness of CRISPR
How the genome of a salt-loving microbe led to a world-changing technology.
These Feminine Smells Get Sperm Moving
Sperm are the cheetahs of the microscopic world: Made of little more than molecular muscle and batteries, tipped with a payload of genetic information, they are optimized for speed. But to orient themselves before their epic, seven-inch sprint (it’s more impressive if you’re less than one three-thousandth that size), they first need to sniff out […]
Your Legacy on Earth May Be a Plant
Where I grew up in northern California, we were surrounded by the remains of Gold Rush towns, now subsumed into the wild rye. I used to look for these places on old maps and then search them out by car and on foot; sometimes the only sign I had arrived was a single blackened chimney […]
Your Roommate Is Changing Your Immune System
Our veins are swimming with immune cells of many different kinds. Some bear the memory of previous infections, in case we should encounter them again; some are actively fighting invaders; others are merely on the look-out. Counting all of the varieties of cells and what molecules they are producing gives researchers a profile of someone’s […]
Welcome to the Unpredictable Era of Editing Human Embryos
Headlines and apocalyptic notions about designer babies proliferated last month after Chinese scientists published the results of a curious set of experiments on human embryos. The researchers were looking to understand whether gene-editing technology could correct, before birth, a malformed gene that can cause a potentially devastating blood disease. They found that the method introduced new […]
Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking
How Julian Jaynes’ famous 1970s theory is faring in the neuroscience age.
A Material So Dark That It Looks Like a Black Hole
Even when applied to a highly reflective surface like aluminum foil, Vantablack renders the entire surface, including creases, all but invisible.Surrey Nanosystems via Wikipedia Color is such a powerful and evocative sensation—one of the first that we learn to describe as children—that we don’t often think about what it really is. In a sense, color […]
Food Vibrations: Spiders Are Total Virtuosos with Their Webs
Spider webs are veritable antennas humming with signals.
Vikings—They’re Just Like Us! Social Networks in Norse Sagas
A simplified diagram of the type used to analyze Viking social structures. Green connections represent friendly relations; red ones are hostile. Note that the researchers helpfully explain in the original caption, “The horned helmets, popularly associated with Viking warriors, are probably a nineteenth-century romantic construct – none of the few Viking helmets which survive have […]
The Powerful Emotional Pull of Old Video Games
Patrick Gensel via Flickr Lately I’ve been hearing a kind of spectral music in the background of my daily life. It’s a syncopated, repeating MIDI ditty that conjures a feeling of excitement and invigorating challenge. I recently recognized it, and in the process experienced an intense wave of nostalgia. Nautilus Members enjoy an ad-free experience. […]