In thinking about this month’s issue, the question came up among staff: What interesting stories are out there that involve the self but do not involve people? We thought of many, everything from quantum particle self-energies to immune system foreign-body detection.

As varied as they were, these stories shared something in common: A fraught definition of the self. Calculations of self-energies have a bad habit of producing infinities. The possibility of auto-immune disease seems an inescapable tag-along to basic immune function.

Complex systems seem to resist the privileged perspective necessary to define a “self.” If nature preaches a deep relativism, is our attachment to the idea of self a human foible?

Welcome to “Self.”

Lead Image Art: Francesco Izzo; Cultura RM Exclusive / Liam Norris / Getty Images