• Communities

    While we sequence the genetic codes that make our cells unique, we build giant cities that look like cells from space. While we take on more personal responsibility, we divine the outlines of what can only be accomplished through groups. We build new kinds of individuality together with the networks that support them.   

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    I Built a Stable Planetary System with 416 Planets in the Habitable Zone

    This system is completely stable—I double-checked with computer simulations. But nature would have a tough time forming this system. If it exists, it could only have been built by a super-advanced civilization.Image by Sean Raymond / planetplanet.net When Frank Drake was a boy, growing up in 1930s Chicago, his parents, observant Baptists, enrolled him in […]

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    Why Is There So Much Hate for the Word “Moist”?

    A lot of people don’t like the word “moist.” Several Facebook groups are dedicated to it, one with over 3,000 likes, New Yorker readers overwhelmingly selected it as the word to eliminate from the dictionary, and Jimmy Fallon sarcastically thanked it for being the worst word in the English language. When you ask people why […]

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    What Does David Attenborough Really Think of Darwin?

    The name “David Attenborough” has, to me, always been an enchanting but disembodied voice narrating the hidden struggles and splendors of the natural world. In the last few months I’ve seen several of his documentaries (out of the 23 I could count on Netflix) from start to finish—Life, Africa, and Planet Earth. They’re mesmerizing, and […]

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    Loneliness Is a Warning Sign to Be Social

    Loneliness spurs the brain into a hyper-vigilant state, unable to relax. The lonely brain doesn’t passively take the world in, but actively interprets it as an unfriendly place.“Nighthawks” (1942)  by Edward Hopper / Wikicommons In 2002, a group of adults aged 50 and over answered a series of questions about their physical and mental health. […]

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    The Case for Making Cities Out of Wood

    An Alphabet subsidiary is planning to build a futuristic neighborhood, not out of concrete and steel, but wood—and wood is looking good.Photograph by Daici Ano / Flickr Last month, Dan Doctoroff, the C.E.O. of Sidewalk Labs, Google’s sibling company under Alphabet, answered a question about what his company “actually does” during a Reddit “Ask Me […]

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    The City at the Center of the Cosmos

    Robots and lasers are uncovering an ancient, sacred geography.

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    Why New York City Needs Its Own Cryptocurrency

    The case for making money local again.

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    How We Make Gods

    Taking lessons from the rise and fall of divinity in online games.

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    If You Can’t Smell Him, Can You Love Him?

    Most people do not know or even think that they communicate via smell as well as through words, tone, or body language. Photograph by Hans Neleman / Getty Images What are the ingredients of a good relationship? Trust? Communication? Compromise? How about a sense of smell? When researchers in the United Kingdom surveyed almost 500 […]