The absurd has a way of crystallizing our thinking. Satire spurs social change. Extreme coincidences in the fundamental constants of physics challenge us to reconsider our metaphysics. We got where we are with the help of the absurd. Without it, life would be strange indeed.
Impossibly Hungry Judges
It is up to authors to interpret the effect size in their study, and to show the mechanism through which an effect that is impossibly large, becomes plausible.The Court by William Hogarth (circa 1758) I was listening to a recent Radiolab episode on blame and guilt, where the guest Robert Sapolsky mentioned a famous study on judges handing out […]
The Pressures and Perks of Being a Thought Leader
Barmy ideas can gain a foothold just because of the prominence of the person voicing them.Photograph by Tamaki Sono / Flickr The first time I saw the term, I was mystified. “Hey, Dr S! We’re getting a few KOLs together to give us some advice about how to develop our new compound,” began the friendly […]
The Unbearable Weirdness of CRISPR
Francisco Mojica in a lab at the University of Alicante in Spain.Photograph courtesy of the University of Alicante. When Francisco Mojica was 25, he supported himself by tracking bacteria in the Mediterranean off the coast of a tourist haven in southeastern Spain. At the time, he was a doctoral candidate at the University of Alicante, […]
Ingenious: Albert Camus
A reconstructed conversation with the great writer about science and the absurd.
The Crumbling Ancient Texts That May Hold Life-Saving Cures
A page from a Timbuktu manuscript.Photograph by Amy Maxmen Seven hundred years ago, Timbuktu was a dream destination for scholars, traders, and religious men. At the southern edge of the Sahara desert in what is now Mali, travelers from Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, and Morocco met in the bygone metropolis to exchange gold, salt, and […]
To a Cigarette Maker, Your Life Is Worth About $10,000
Since there is one death for every million cigarettes sold (or smoked), a tobacco manufacturer will make about $10,000 for every death caused by their products.Illustration by Raxon Rex / Flickr If you had to put a price on your life, what cash amount do you think it would be? What about $100,000? That was […]
What It’s Like to Be an Ant
The idiosyncrasies of our social and cultural lives significantly influences our conscious and unconscious responses to the smells of others and our behaviors toward them.Photograph by Gayil Nalls / Installation View: The Hugo Boss Prize 2016: Anicka Yi, Life Is Cheap, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, April 21–July 5, 2017 Right now, at the […]
How to Obfuscate
What misinformation on Twitter and radar have in common.
New York Under Water
Your future commute to work is on a boat.