A New Explanation for One of the Strangest Occurrences in Nature: Ball Lightning
Every so often, given the proper conditions, a small and roughly spherical piece of the atmosphere around us will briefly catch fire. As they are best viewed late into the night and have no obvious natural explanation, it’s perhaps no wonder they’ve inspired a rich mythology. Names for balls of fire include ignis fatuus, will-o’-the-wisp, […]
This Is What Musical Notes Actually Look Like
A few months ago, I sat poolside with friends in Palm Springs. Amid the quiet desert sublime, we reminisced about all the live music we’ve experienced over the years, just about every big and small act since the mid-80s: Prince, David Bowie, Guns ‘n Roses, Bruce Springsteen, and the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs among the them. […]
The Man Who Designed Ghost Armies and Opera Houses
The storied career of the centenarian and acoustician, Leo Beranek.
Your Terrifying Dreams Could Be Rehearsal for Real Life
Once, I dreamed I was at a man’s funeral. According to the deceased’s instructions, each of his toes were to be buried in tiny, individual coffins. When I woke up, I wondered, “What could it mean?” According to some neuroscience research on dreams, like that of the Harvard psychiatrist Allan Hobson, the coffined toes might […]
The Case For Leaving City Rats Alone
A Vancouver rat study is showing us how pest control can backfire.
Noise Is a Drug and New York Is Full of Addicts
We may complain about a defining feature of the city, but we also feed off it.
Her Second Act: Fotini Markopoulou on Life Beyond Physics
It was time to work with her hands, not only her mind.
This Physics Pioneer Walked Away from It All
Why Fotini Markopoulou traded quantum gravity for industrial design.
These Clumps of Undigested Food Used To Be Medicinal Charms
Digestive Tract Bling: A bezoar mounted in gold filigree, from late-17th century India—now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. When you get right down to it, a body like ours is basically a bony scaffold that a strange collection of organs, interconnected by a complex entanglement of piping, hangs on. In some of these pipes, […]
Martian Colonists Could Be Genetically Engineered for Democracy
It sounds like science fiction: A citizenry genetically engineered to be democratic. It’s not implausible. Last month, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report touting the promise of a biological engineering technique called gene drive—particularly for dealing with public health problems such as the Zika virus, malaria, and dengue fever. Last year, Anthony James, […]