38 articles
  • Juno over Jupiter_HERO

    Our Solar System Would Be Weird Even If It Didn’t Harbor Life

    What would our solar system look like if an alien were to spot it from another planet, orbiting a distant star? How improbable would it appear? For the first time in human history, thanks to advances in exoplanet hunting, we can now answer that question. We can even put numbers on it. If that alien […]
  • beluga whale_HERO

    Listen to the Large Hadron Collider’s Weird, Whale-Like Sounds

    To refer to the Large Hadron Collider merely as the world’s largest machine, or the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, would be to engage in prosaic understatement—the Collider is nothing less than a scientific and engineering wonder of the world. Nominally an underground ring 27 kilometers in circumference, the Collider is tasked with accelerating, in […]
  • Article Recirculation Lead Image

    Fireworks Displays Can’t Include a Perfect Red, White, and Blue

    Mother Nature can be a handful when she wants to be,” says John Conkling, the former technical director of the American Pyrotechnics Association and a professor emeritus of chemistry at Washington College. Except he used a stronger, more colorful word than “handful.” When it comes to fireworks, “she just doesn’t want to give you that […]
  • alaska duck_HERO

    Alaska Is a Perfect Place for Birds to Spread Disease Worldwide

    Last May, as wild birds from around the globe converged on Alaska’s western shores for the summer breeding season, local citizen scientists did, too. Armed with sterile polyester-tipped swabs and screw-top vials, the amateur biologists descended upon dozens of homes belonging to hunters in villages such as Kotlik, Pilot Station, Chefornak, and Eek. In exchange […]
  • Geib_HERO-1

    The Ocean Gets Big Data

    A new array of cameras, vehicles, and sensors promises to change ocean science.
  • Article Image

    How Big Can Life Get?

    An illustrated trip from smallest to biggest.

  • pouring tea_HERO

    The Strange Physics of Tea Leaves Floating Upstream

    It’s been said that the true harbinger of scientific discovery is not “Eureka!” but “Huh… that’s funny….” That certainly proved to be the case for Sebastian Bianchi: a simple cup of tea led him to some intriguing, counter-intuitive insights into the surface tension of water.Back when he was an undergraduate physics major at the University […]

  • dolphin skin_HERO

    Put Yourself in a Dolphin’s Skin

    Humans have come to fetishize dolphins: their smiles, their penchant for heavy petting, and they imbue their frolicking with moral assertions about one’s duty to live with abandon. These projections endear them to us.But the truth about what’s going on inside a dolphin’s head has very little to do with our human experience. Just as […]

  • Henderson_HERO

    Can Topology Prevent Another Financial Crash?

    New regulations are applying network science to restructure global finance.

  • dark laptop_HERO

    Why Won’t This Inspirational Email Chain Letter Leave Me Alone?

    A few times each year, a particular chain letter pops up in my inbox. “We’re starting a collective, constructive, and hopefully uplifting exchange,” it starts, exhorting me to send a “favorite text / verse / meditation” to a previous participant in the chain, and to forward the message to another 20 friends. In my personal […]

  • Article Image

    Would You Have Any Cosmetic Neurology Done?

    Like some other futurists, Ray Kurzweil thinks the best way to avoid aging is to avoid biology altogether. With a sufficient understanding of the brain, he says, we’ll be able to upload our minds to (presumably non-organic) structures and become digitally immortal. This might sound plausible enough, if a bit speculative, since the pace of […]

  • ants marching_HERO

    Traffic Wouldn’t Jam If Drivers Behaved Like Ants

    As someone so flummoxed by traffic I wrote a book about it, I have a near-clinical aversion to vehicular congestion. My global default strategy is to simply drive as little as possible, but there are times when I simply must put foot to gas pedal. Like many, I have become increasingly dependent on the Waze […]
  • sperm entrance

    These Feminine Smells Get Sperm Moving

    Sperm are the cheetahs of the microscopic world: Made of little more than molecular muscle and batteries, tipped with a payload of genetic information, they are optimized for speed. But to orient themselves before their epic, seven-inch sprint (it’s more impressive if you’re less than one three-thousandth that size), they first need to sniff out […]
  • electric eel_HERO

    That Time in 8th Grade When an Electric Eel Almost Killed Sarah

    When you’re a kid, it’s easy to take things for granted—to assume, for example, that your experiences, however unique, are relatively common. But then you find out way later in life that no, in fact not everyone tested the “Mary Poppins Theory of Gravity” by jumping off their hay barn clutching an umbrella, as I […]
  • Vulcan_HERO

    The Lessons of a Ghost Planet

    Vulcan shows us science beyond the scientific method.
  • Comfort_HERO-3

    The Fly in the Primordial Soup

    Hydrothermal vent models transform the origins of life from unlikely to near-inevitable.