Fake News Is an Old Problem
In a presidential campaign that seemed to break rules of political decorum daily, one of the more alarming developments was the rise of a new kind of media: fake news. “Obama FURIOUS After Judge Jeanine Calls Him A Terrorist On Live TV!!!” proclaimed TrumpVision365.com, a fake-news site run by young people in Macedonia. “STOP HER […]
How Will Our Religions Handle the Discovery of Alien Life?
What would your priest, rabbi, or imam say if we discovered alien life? For the religious, knowing that life on Earth is not unique may demand radical new ways of thinking about ourselves: How special and sacred are we? Is Earth a privileged place? Do we have an obligation to care for beings on other […]
How a Genius Is Different from a Really Smart Person
The most intelligent two percent of people in the world. These are the people who qualify for membership in Mensa, an exclusive international society open only to people who score at or above the 98th percentile on an IQ or other standardized intelligence test. Mensa’s mission remains the same as when it was founded in […]
A New Threat to Oceans: Deep-Sea Mining for Precious Metals
Around 500 miles southeast of the bright turquoise waters at Honolulu Harbor, and two and a half miles down to the dark ocean floor, a massive carpet of potato-sized rocks stretches thousands of miles on the seabed. These rocks, called polymetallic, or manganese, nodules, are made up of manganese, nickel, copper, and cobalt. The nodules’ […]
The True Nature of an Internet Troll
Although the phrase “to troll” only recently entered the mainstream lexicon—partially thanks to the rise in popularity of online discussion forums like 4chan and Reddit, as well as massive multiplayer online games—trolling dates back to chatrooms in the ‘80s. Back then, “trolls” referred to online instigators of disparaging and, essentially, pointless arguments, or “flamewars.” Nowadays, […]
Is Poaching Causing Elephants to Evolve Without Tusks?
Spotting evolution can be trickier than you might think. Take African elephants. Usually they boast massively overgrown (and ever-growing) teeth—their tusks. For male elephants, these are weapons in sexual competition, but all elephants also use their tusks to scrape bark off trees, uncover roots, and dig for water during dry spells. Humans have their own […]
We’re Still Waiting for Hollywood to Depict a Plausible Alien Ecosystem
You might expect scientists to heap scorn on Hollywood’s depiction of aliens, but they’re generally forgiving. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist at the Technical University of Berlin, remarks that most science-fiction aliens are either riffs off the weird life we see in Earth’s deep ocean, such as the squid-like creatures of Arrival, or versions of now-extinct […]
Spark of Science: Lisa Becking
A marine biologist talks about the wonders of hidden lakes.
Why Presidential Elections Aren’t Really About the Candidates
Political pundits have had some explaining to do since the Presidential election. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver and other analysts have come under fire for assigning a high likelihood to Hillary Clinton’s victory—their predictions ranged from a 70 percent to 99 percent chance of her winning the Electoral College. Clinton’s loss prompted people to question the trustworthiness […]
Why Abstract Art Stirs Creativity in Our Brains
Are art and science of distinctly different cultures? The former often seems fixated on human experience, the latter on physical processes. In his most recent book, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures, published this year, the Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel argues that such a separation no longer exists. The best-known […]