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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
The Lessons of a Ghost Planet
Vulcan shows us science beyond the scientific method.
The Fly in the Primordial Soup
Hydrothermal vent models transform the origins of life from unlikely to near-inevitable.
The Perfect Wave Is Coming
Surfers have dreamt it—now engineers are delivering.
El Niño Has Ended Kingdoms and Civilizations
On a damp, foggy January morning in 1793, Louis XVI, besieged monarch of France, stood before a guillotine. To some 20,000 of his angry subjects, Louis declared: “I die innocent of all the pretended crimes laid to my charge. I forgive all those who have had any hand in my misfortunes, and I pray that […]
Copyrighting DNA Is a Bad Idea
A few years ago, molecular biologists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, along with a team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, were the first to file a patent for CRISPR-Cas9. It’s a DNA-editing technology adapted from the prokaryote immune system. Cas9 is a protein that can seek out and “cut” targeted gene strands […]