43 articles
  • whale fall

    The Strange Ecosystem in the Sea: Dead Whales

    One April day in 2013, the submersible Shinkai 6500 descended to the base of the steep São Paulo Ridge, 13,000 feet under the Atlantic Ocean. “Hang on,” Paulo Sumida, a marine biologist, radioed to the submersible pilot from the support vessel on the ocean’s surface. “Those are whale bones.”In fact, they were frozen vertebrae of an […]
  • hope crisscross applesauce

    Listen to an Exclusive Excerpt from Hope Jahren’s New Book, “Lab Girl”

    Hope Jahren, a geobiologist and geochemist, wants to speak to you. For decades, she says, she’s been speaking to the same people, her scientific peers, and now it’s time for a change. “I wanted to write this book”—her memoir, Lab Girl, published today—“in order to talk to somebody new,” she told Nautilus recently. Her subject? […]
  • alien balloon hero

    This Astrobiologist Is Collecting Unrecognizable Beings from the Stratosphere

    Milton Wainwright believes he’s seen ET. In Earth’s upper atmosphere, he claims to have found evidence for panspermia—the hypothesis that life travels through the cosmos via meteoroids and other objects. A microbiologist and astrophysicist at the University of Sheffield, Wainwright sends large balloons up to the stratosphere, as high as 25 miles above the planet’s […]
  • whitham

    This Man Is Genetically Altering Ecosystems to Save Them from Climate Change

    On a chilly afternoon last October, at a University of Northern Arizona conference, Thomas Whitham, a plant geneticist, proposed a plan to save hundreds of species from extinction. For the last several years, Whitham said, he and his colleagues had used a series of experimental gardens to study how plants are being affected by warming […]
  • Article Recirculation Lead Image

    What It’s Like Being a Sudden Savant

    Before her accident Heather Thompson was, by any measure, very successful. She lived just outside Seattle’s urban sprawl, was a CEO and a nationally respected business strategist, married, and had a two-year-old daughter. “I was at the pinnacle of my career,” she said. Then, on March 6, 2011, Thompson went to the grocery store and, […]
  • carl sagan interview

    Watch Carl Sagan Discuss Aliens in This Wonderfully Animated Radio Interview

    When Carl Sagan, the late astronomer and original Cosmos host, published his first novel, Contact, in 1985, Studs Terkel, the long-time radio broadcaster, asked him a month later to chat with him. Their subject, of course, was aliens, and the question of whether we’d ever establish good relations with them. In their conversation—which Blank on Blank, […]

  • darwin vanity fair

    Why “Natural Selection” Became Darwin’s Fittest Metaphor

    Some metaphors end up forgotten by all but the most dedicated historians, while others lead long, productive lives. It’s only a select few, though, that become so entwined with how we understand the world that we barely even recognize them as metaphors, seeing them instead as something real. Of course, why some fizzle and others […]

  • farewell europe hero

    The Loophole in the Hedonic Treadmill

    When Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, in The House of the Dead, that “Man is a creature that can get accustomed to anything,” he was talking about the cruelties and deprivations of life in Siberian prison camp. But the human tendency to adapt or “get accustomed” to situations is more profound than even Dostoyevsky may have realized.Imagine […]

  • emily temple-wood

    This College Student Is Writing Women Back into the History of Science

    Emily Temple-Wood has written approximately one Wikipedia article every ten days since she was 12 years old, totaling around 330. The work of the 21-year-old undergraduate, studying molecular biology at Loyola University of Chicago, unabashedly exposes sexism—and in the process, has exposed her to some of it. Temple-Wood’s output has made her the target of […]

  • bank swallow

    How Birds Spot a Fraud and Choose the Right Gender for a Mate

    Humans have marvelous powers of recognition. No one’s surprised when parents identify their child in a crowd by a glimpse of her face or echo of her voice. But we aren’t unique in this regard. Other creatures have evolved impressive powers of discrimination. Take birds. “Their recognition system is really quite remarkable,” says Mark Hauber, […]

  • baker

    Are You More Likely to Be a Baker If You’re Named “Baker”?

    You may like to imagine that your major life choices—where you live, who you marry, what you do for a living—are based on rational weighing of options. In your relationships, for example, you might seek someone that jives with your personality and shares your life interests, beliefs, and Netflix preferences. So the fact that you […]