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    The End of Reductionism Could Be Nigh. Or Not.

    Quantum mechanics seems to have a problem with the order of time, which might signal the need for an entirely new type of law.Illustration by Ekaterina Kulaeva / Shutterstock The history of science so far has been a triumph of reductionism. Biology can be reduced to chemistry, chemistry can be reduced to atomic physics, and […]

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    My Lab Uses Ultrasound to Stimulate Unconscious Patients

    Ultrasound can be a neuromodulator—to increase or decrease the likelihood that neurons will fire. Exactly how this works remains unclear, but it likely results from the physical “shaking” of neurons.Illustration by Jackie Niam / Shutterstock A few years ago, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, I escaped the noisy midday hustle and bustle, ducking into […]

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    We Already Know How to Stop SolarWinds-Like Hacks

    Last year, hackers made headlines after they breached SolarWinds, a software company that specializes in network monitoring software. About 33,000 organizations, including the Pentagon, the U.S. State Department, and some intelligence agencies, use Orion, one of SolarWinds’ products. Orion was designed to monitor the users’ networks to make sure they were functioning properly and, ironically, […]

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    The “Lab Leak”: It’s Not Enough to Say Accidents Happen

    So far no one has come up with any clear account of how a coronavirus escaped biosafety level 4 barriers. Photograph by MihasLi / Shutterstock Disasters evoke a search for who to blame. Mishandled disasters make that search vital for anyone whose actions or inactions may have amplified the catastrophe’s damage. As the official United […]

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    How Maxwell’s Demon Continues to Startle Scientists

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. The universe bets on disorder. Imagine, for example, dropping a thimbleful of red dye into a swimming pool. All of those dye molecules are going to slowly spread throughout the water. Physicists quantify this tendency to spread by counting the number of possible ways the dye molecules […]

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    Do We Have Free Will? Maybe It Doesn’t Matter

    It’s hard to change people’s beliefs about free will. So, it can feel like a relief to realize that even when you can change people’s beliefs, it seems to make no moral difference anyway.Illustration by Triff / Shutterstock Belief is a special kind of human power. Agustin Fuentes, an anthropologist at the University of Notre […]

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    Here’s How We’ll Know an AI Is Conscious

    Zombies are supposed to be capable of asking any question about the nature of experience. It’s worth wondering, though, how a person or machine devoid of experience could reflect on experience it doesn’t have.Photograph by Ars Electronica / Flickr The Australian philosopher David Chalmers famously asked whether “philosophical zombies” are conceivable—people who behave like you […]

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    COVID Experts: We’re Putting Out Campfires but the Forest Fire Rages

      After I got my second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a wave of euphoria infused me along with the modified messenger RNA. Many friends describe the same feeling. This is the end of the pandemic for me. Life returns to normal.  But then my usual, pessimistic view of life returned along with an examination […]

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    How Coronavirus Mutations Arise and New Variants Emerge

    This piece was produced in cooperation with the Nib. Maki Naro is an award-winning feral cartoonist and science communicator. You can reliably find him online, where he tweets from the handle @sciencecomic Diana Kwon is a freelance science journalist based in Berlin, Germany. She primarily covers the life sciences and health, and her work has appeared in Scientific American, The Scientist, Nature, Knowable […]

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    The Link Between Bioelectricity and Consciousness

    “It’s really hard to define what’s special about neurons,” says Tufts molecular biologist Michael Levin. “Almost all cells do the things neurons do, just more slowly.”Illustration by jijomathaidesigners / Shutterstock Life seems to be tied to bioelectricity at every level. The late electrophysiologist and surgeon Robert Becker spent decades researching the role of the body’s […]