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veronique greenwood

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    Welcome to the Unpredictable Era of Editing Human Embryos

    Headlines and apocalyptic notions about designer babies proliferated last month after Chinese scientists published the results of a curious set of experiments on human embryos. The researchers were looking to understand whether gene-editing technology could correct, before birth, a malformed gene that can cause a potentially devastating blood disease. They found that the method introduced new […]

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    Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking

    How Julian Jaynes’ famous 1970s theory is faring in the neuroscience age.

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    A Material So Dark That It Looks Like a Black Hole

    Even when applied to a highly reflective surface like aluminum foil, Vantablack renders the entire surface, including creases, all but invisible.Surrey Nanosystems via Wikipedia Color is such a powerful and evocative sensation—one of the first that we learn to describe as children—that we don’t often think about what it really is. In a sense, color […]

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    Food Vibrations—Spiders Are Total Virtuosos With Their Webs

    A single thread of spider silk flexes deforms under impact from a plastic bullet traveling around 400 meters per second, or 900 miles per hour.OxfordSilkGroup Few materials are as fascinating as spider silk. It’s stronger than steel, flexible rather than brittle, and light enough to float on the breeze. And vibrations in webs tell spiders, […]

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    The Powerful Emotional Pull of Old Video Games

    Patrick Gensel via Flickr Lately I’ve been hearing a kind of spectral music in the background of my daily life. It’s a syncopated, repeating MIDI ditty that conjures a feeling of excitement and invigorating challenge. I recently recognized it, and in the process experienced an intense wave of nostalgia. It’s the battle theme from the […]

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    How Humans Made Squirrels a Part of the Urban Environment

    This engraving of a gray squirrel was included in the December 1841 issue of Robert Merry’s Museum. One day in 1856, hundreds of people gathered to gawk at an “unusual visitor” up a tree near New York’s City Hall. The occupant of the tree, according to a contemporary newspaper account, was an escaped pet squirrel, […]

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    Sleep: When Brain Cells Shrink & Neuro Trash Is Flushed Away

    This image from a mouse brain shows the fluid channels (purple) and glia cells (green) flush out the brain’s waste into blood vessels.Jeffrey Iliff1 and Maiken Nedergaard For humans, sleep is an absolute requirement for survival, almost on par with food and water. When we don’t get it, we not only feel terrible, but our […]

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    Reading Lines in the Earth Like Lines in a Book

    Light snow on Mt. Jumbo highlights the different shorelines of prehistoric Lake Missoula.Photo by Don Hyndman, courtesy of the University of Montana You may not realize it, but all around you lie coded messages about the past. The curve of a hill, the shape of a lake, or the almost dinosaurian spine of that ridge […]

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    Teaching Your Body to Fight the Enemy Within

    Some cancer therapies focus the attention of the immune system like a spotlight over Hollywood.Everett Collection / Shutterstock In early May, 1891, William Coley, a New York surgeon, had before him an interesting case. The patient, a 35-year-old Italian man, had sarcoma tumors in his neck and tonsils, and was slowly starving to death as […]

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    All Cells Bulletin: How Fame Powers Your Immune System

    When talking about our health, we tend to refer breezily to “the immune system,” as if it were as simple as an electric fence keeping out invaders. And there’s certainly an electric fence component: The innate immune response is an ancient, relatively nonspecific kind of defense that triggers inflammation and the deployment of attack cells […]