• Maps

    “Usefulness” may be a utilitarian term but it does the job of capturing what’s remarkable about maps, and what inspires this issue of Nautilus—illuminating the signs and symbols, notably language, that imperfect humans employ to represent reality.   

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    Should Scientists Use the Phrase “Quantum Supremacy”?

    Forget for a moment that you know the meaning of “quantum supremacy,” the idea of a quantum computer outdoing its conventional counterpart. What does the phrase instantly bring to mind? Perhaps the idea that the quantum world, with its electrons, neutrons, and quarks, is, somehow, better than ours—more dazzling and awe-inspiring. Or perhaps it’s the […]

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    Why Doesn’t Everybody Have Dark Skin Today?

    Questions and answers about the science of skin color.

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    What Really Inflamed the Coronavirus Epidemic

    Censorship didn’t worsen the deadly virus outbreak. Incompetence did.

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    Color-Changing Material Unites the Math and Physics of Knots

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. One sunny day in the summer of 2019, Mathias Kolle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took a couple of eminent colleagues out sailing. They talked about their research. They had some drinks. Then Kolle noticed something was off: A rowboat tied to his boat had […]

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    There’s No Homunculus In Our Brain Who Guides Us

    Why the cognitive-map theory is misguided.

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    Why We Love to Be Grossed Out

    Disgust may not be a straightforward extension of the immune system’s aversion to harmful substances, but rather “a psychological nebula, lacking definite boundaries, discrete internal structure, or a single center of gravity,” says psychologist Nina Strohminger.Photograph by Star Stock / Flickr Nina Strohminger, perhaps not unlike many fans of raunchy comedies and horror flicks, is […]

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    How Geology Can Ease Your Mind

    Take comfort that we live on a very old, durable planet.

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    Mapping Gay-Friendly Cities Through History

    A data analyst uncovers a timeless message about correlation.

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    Why Shouldn’t a Horsefly Be Named After Beyoncé?

    At best, names for species derived from celebrities and scientists become maps to hidden treasure, rewarding those who follow the trail of clues with stories of fascinating people and human history.Photograph by Ronald Woan / Flickr David Bowie and Beyoncé never shared a stage, but they share the distinction of having cleverly eponymous species names […]