There are the limits that are formally unbeatable: things like the speed of light and quantum indeterminacy. They’re interesting because they describe an unexpected border between the philosophical and technological. And because we are still trying to beat them.
Why We Had to Change the Meaning of Nothing
Nothing” isn’t what it used to be. It used to be something self-evident: the opposite, or the absence, of something. We still use the word this way colloquially, of course. When I’m asked, on the sidewalk, if I can spare some change or a dollar, I say, if I have neither, “Sorry, I got nothing.” […]
The Problem with the Mutation-Centric View of Cancer
Smoking is doing to the lung what the dinosaur-killing meteor did to Earth. It’s stimulating evolution—somatic cell evolution—that can lead to cancer.Photograph by NIH Image Gallery / Flickr To better understand and treat cancer, physicians need to stop oversimplifying its causes. Cancer results not solely from genetic mutations but by adapting to and thriving in […]
Why A.I. Is Just Not Funny
Although A.I. robots can pick up on jokes, they have a lot to learn about telling them.Queen Mary University of London / YouTube In the 2004 film I, Robot, Detective Del Spooner asks an A.I. named Sonny: “Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?” Sonny responds: […]
Getting Googled by Your Doctor
Will mental health clinicians become liable for missing your latest Facebook post?
Sexism Killed My Love for Philosophy Then Mary Astell Brought It Back
How one woman philosopher reinvigorated another.
Scientist Fran Bagenal on what’s next for space exploration.
What the Rumored Neutron Star Merger Might Teach Us
In a sense, neutron star mergers are the largest hadron colliders ever conceived.Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr This month, before LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, and its European counterpart Virgo, were going to close down for a year to undergo upgrades, they jointly surveyed the skies. It was a […]
The Case for Cosmic Pantheism
Einstein, a professed pantheist, wrote that he experienced a “cosmic religious feeling,” a persistent awe at the “sublimity and marvelous order” of the universe. He was not alone.Credit: Internet Archive Aren’t those opposites?” people often ask me, when they discover I study science and religion. As a professor of religious studies, I am particularly drawn […]
When Dark Humor Stops Being Funny
Experiencing small doses of negative emotions, elicited by an offensive joke, may make us more resilient to future, more serious set backs.Photograph by Barry Brecheisen / Getty Images In either ninth or tenth grade, my friend Dan and I found a book of “Truly Tasteless Jokes” on the cafeteria floor. Our teenage psyches were quickly […]