Big Data Helps Find the Achilles Heel of Each Individual Cancer
In January, the pharmaceutical company Roche paid more than a billion dollars to buy about half of a small company called Foundation Medicine. Foundation has not invented any new drugs or life-saving devices. Most insurance companies won’t pay for its main product, and like a lot of biotech companies, it loses money. The big bucks are […]
5 Languages That Could Change the Way You See the World
I went to my neighbor’s house for something to eat yesterday. Think about this sentence. It’s pretty simple—English speakers would know precisely what it means. But what does it actually tell you—or, more to the point, what does it not tell you? It doesn’t specify facts like the subject’s gender or the neighbor’s, or what […]
How Odd Behavior in Some Young Horses May Reveal a Cause of Autism
By gently squeezing maladjusted foals, veterinary researcher John Madigan recreates the experience of traveling through the birth canal, lowering the levels of certain neurosteroids and “waking up” the young horses.Joe Proudman / UC Davis As a toxicologist at the University of California, Davis, Isaac Pessah focuses on how different molecules regulate human brain function and […]
The Death of Hundreds Is Just a Statistic—But It Doesn’t Have to Be
Imagine that tomorrow I were to show you a newspaper article describing a deadly wildfire. Do you think you’d be more upset upon reading that 10,000 people died than if you read that five people died? This scenario makes people engage in affective forecasting—predicting their future emotional states. We expect that hearing about 10,000 deaths […]
Is DNA the Language of the Book of Life?
Thinking of nucleobases as a long sequence of letters may contribute to the illusion that DNA is a language.Neil Palmer / CIAT via Flickr When we talk about genes, we often use expressions inherited from a few influential geneticists and evolutionary biologists, including Francis Crick, James Watson, and Richard Dawkins. These expressions depict DNA as […]
Mario Livio on 25 Years of Hubble
The astrophysicist looks at the history of the world’s most famous telescope.
The Thrill of Defeat
What Francis Crick and Sydney Brenner taught me about being scooped.
Did Grief Give Him Parkinson’s?
These identical twins led virtually identical lives—with one tragic exception.
Will Humans Be Able to Control Computers That Are Smarter Than Us?
The ominous eye of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey If humans go on to create artificial intelligence, will it present a significant danger to us? Several technical luminaries have been open and clear with respect to this possibility: Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has equated it to “summoning the demon”; Stephen Hawking warns […]
Mumbling Isn’t a Sign of Laziness—It’s a Clever Data-Compression Trick
Many of us have been taught that pronouncing vowels indistinctly and dropping consonants are symptoms of slovenly speech, if not outright disregard for the English language. The Irish playwright St. John Ervine viewed such habits as evidence that some speakers are “weaklings too languid and emasculated to speak their noble language with any vigor.” If […]