One dreary Tuesday, Leó Szilárd took a walk. Crossing the street, he realized that nuclear reactions could be maintained by the neutrons they themselves produced. A self-sustaining nuclear reactor became a reality nine years later, and the bomb in another three. This issue, we watch dominoes fall in human lives, across the oceans and under cities. They […]
Why Hasn’t the World Been Destroyed in a Nuclear War Yet?
The precariousness of game theory.
How Enormous Dominoes Can Help You Rethink Saving for Retirement
A still from Prudential’s commercial, showing the largest domino to ever be toppled. The point was to make a spectacle of the power of compound interest.Courtesy of Prudential It’s a clear warm day in early August, and the Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert is lucky it isn’t windy. Towering right behind him stands a 30-foot tall […]
Why Expectant Mothers Can Just Chill Out
Sodapix/Getty When philosopher Nicolas Malebranche peered at a fetus floating in a glass jar, in a shop of curiosities in Paris in 1672, he blamed its monstrous shape on the mother. At the time it was believed that a mother could deform her fetus simply by looking at something vivid. Malebranche had heard that this […]
Meet the 17-Year-Old, Award-Winning, Rube Goldberg Parts Manufacturer
Tommy George and the Agents of SHIELD shot a Nerf ball and erased a whiteboard.
What Facebook, Blue Jeans, and Metal Signs Taught Us About Tornado Science
Screen capture of Patty Bullion’s “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes” Facebook page. On April 27, 2011 a monstrous EF5 tornado traveled 132 miles across northern Alabama and into southern Tennessee, missing one of the nation’s largest nuclear power plants by less than two miles, and also skirting the grounds of […]
Is Our Universe a One-Off Fluke, or an Endless Cycle?
Paul Steinhardt is torn. On the one hand, he has been working on and contributing to the theory of inflation for decades. On the other hand, he thinks it may very well be wrong. Inflation describes the early universe going through an unimaginably rapid expansion in its infancy, from the size of an atomic nucleus […]
Intemperate Planet: How Natural Systems Magnify the Effects of Global Warming
As Arctic ice warms and forms dark melt ponds, it absorbs more sunlight, accelerating global warming.Kathryn Hansen, ICESCAPE mission, NASA Besides a few lucky astronauts, the entire human experience is contained within a narrow envelope of gas maintained in a relatively narrow temperature range on a single rock hurtling through the vacuum of space. That […]
Forget the Ordinary Honeybee; Look at the Beautiful Bees They’re Crowding Out
All of the images in this post are borrowed from the amazing Flickr feed of the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. Any day now, the apple trees on my deck will bloom, bringing with them the first honeybees of spring. It’s a moment I’ll greet with mixed feelings. To which bee-lovers everywhere may respond: […]
Why the Flash Crash Really Matters
The debate about what caused the 2010 stock market Flash Crash is missing the point.