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Arts

257 articles
  • Scharf_HERO

    What Is Life?

    An astrobiologist finds the heart of his work in a new novel by Richard Powers.

  • Nance_HERO

    My Personal Quest to Study Supernovae on Mars

    Overcoming sexist naysayers and self-doubt in astrophysics.

  • Miller_HERO

    This NFT Painting Is a Work of Art

    Machines are the new descendants of Picasso.

  •  Murch_HERO-3

    The Natural Harmony of Faces

    How the golden ratio might contribute to cinema’s hold on us.

  •  Berger_HERO

    We’re More of Ourselves When We’re in Tune with Others

    Music reminds us why going solo goes against our better nature.

  • Film Contest Gives Young Environmental Activists a Voice

    Middle schoolers Annabelle VanderMarck and Piper Lasater won the Nautilus Science Prize in the Redford Center Stories film contest.

  •  Berger_HERO

    What Makes Music Universal

    Music brings us together to show us how different we are.

  • Berger_HERO

    I Am Not a Machine. Yes You Are.

    Debating the impact of machine-created art.

  • Hoel_HERO

    Blackout in the Brain Lab

    What will happen to the organoids? A work of fiction.

  •  Berger_HERO

    Literature Should Be Taught Like Science

    This renegade professor says literature is a machine that accelerates the human brain.

  •  Fletcher_HERO-2

    Why Computers Will Never Write Good Novels

    The power of narrative flows only from the human brain.

  • What Merpeople Say About Us

    How changing perceptions of mermaids and mermen reveal deeper understandings of myth, religion, science, wonder and capitalism.

  • Scharf_nutshell app_HERO

    The App That Offers Cosmic Awe

    Like any good version of Powers of Ten, use this app and you can find yourself getting that feeling of cosmic awe—it might take a little attention, but that’s always going to be true.Photograph by RollingCamera / Shutterstock One of the weirdest things about our human experience of the world is how remarkably narrow it […]

  • Robinson_HERO-2

    Los Angeles Is Gone

    In an excerpt from his new novel, the author drowns La La Land.

  • 3-D Printed Statues in Central Park Shine a Light on Women Scientists

    The pop-up sampling is part of a larger exhibit of 120 depictions of women scientists.

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    3-D Printed Statues in Central Park Shine a Light on Women Scientists

    A new exhibit in Central Park features six statues of women scientists—the first statues of real women to be found in the park.Courtesy of Lyda Hill Philanthropies’ IF/THEN Initiative Forged in metal or chiseled in stone, statues almost always depict dead men. A recent analysis of 12 major American cities turned up only six physical […]

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    Most of the Mind Can’t Tell Fact from Fiction

    Even after you understand how an illusion operates, it continues to fool part of your mind. This is the kind of double knowledge we have when we consume fiction.Photograph by KieferPix / Shutterstock Stories, fiction included, act as a kind of surrogate life. You can learn from them so seamlessly that you might believe you […]

  • How Art Helps Science Advance

    Jasmine Sadler on STEAM and problem solving.

  • Perkowitz_HERO

    Only Disconnect! A Pandemic Reading of E.M. Forster

    The astonishing relevance of the British writer’s story, “The Machine Stops.”

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    Why Philip Pullman Is Obsessed with Panpsychism

    In the first book of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, The Golden Compass, Lord Asriel (played by James McAvoy in HBO’s adaptation of the book) discovers a mysterious substance, called Dust, that exists everywhere and seems to be implicated in consciousness. For Pullman, Dust is an expression of his fascination with panpsychism, the philosophical idea […]

  • Keim_HERO

    The 5 Most Popular Nautilus Feature Articles in 2019

    Readers’ favorite articles explore tree smarts and the end of the gene as we know it.

  • On “Learning the Trees”

    Exploring Howard Nemerov’s poem, “Learning the Trees.”

  • Berger_HERO

    I Am Not a Machine. Yes You Are.

    Debating the impact of machine-created art.

  • Miller_HERO

    Best Screenplay Goes to the Algorithms

    Learning to appreciate the future of literature.

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    Doc Holliday Is Dead But Tuberculosis Is Still Killing Us

    In 2002, David M. Morens, now Senior Scientific Advisor at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, wrote an essay called “At the Deathbed of Consumptive Art.” It featured a photograph he took of Robert Louis Stevenson’s resting place atop Mount Vaea on Upolu, an island in Western Samoa. In 1894, at 44, Stevenson, […]

  • On Observation and Imagination

    Exploring Galway Kinnell’s poem, “The Gray Heron.”

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    Most of the Mind Can’t Tell Fact from Fiction

    Even after you understand how an illusion operates, it continues to fool part of your mind. This is the kind of double knowledge we have when we consume fiction.Photograph by KieferPix / Shutterstock Stories, fiction included, act as a kind of surrogate life. You can learn from them so seamlessly that you might believe you […]

  • Does Science Diminish Wonder or Augment It?

    Two great poems composed over 200 years apart examine the relationship between reason and imagination.

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    Butterfly Wonk Robert Pyle Pens His First Novel 44 Years in the Making

    Ecologist Robert Michael Pyle’s imaginative treatment of the nonhuman world—he includes a butterfly and a mountain among his cast of characters—is both a surprise and perhaps a natural result of his artistic development.Counterpoint Press Last year marked a first for 71-year old Robert Michael Pyle, the acclaimed author, naturalist, and ecologist: the publication of his long-awaited first novel, Magdalena […]

  • Chiang_HERO

    The Great Silence

    A parrot has a question for humans.

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    How to Collapse the Distinction Between Art and Biology

    What Xenotext does is cause its audience to reevaluate their ideas of creation, both literary and biological.Illustration by GiroScience / Shutterstock Language,” the Beat writer William S. Burroughs supposedly once exclaimed, “is a virus from outer space.” Burroughs was making a metaphorical extrapolation about the ways in which words, phrases, idioms, sentences, lines, and narratives […]

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    The Science Behind “Blade Runner”’s Voight-Kampff Test

    Is a fictional test designed to distinguish between replicants and humans, called the Voight-Kampff test, feasible?Universo Produção / Flickr Rutger Hauer, the Dutch actor who portrayed Roy Batty in the film Blade Runner, passed away recently. To celebrate his iconic role, we are revisiting this piece on the Voight-Kampff test, a device to detect if a […]

  • ensemble_HERO

    We’re More of Ourselves When We’re in Tune with Others

    Music reminds us why going solo goes against our better nature.

  • Death & Rebirth in Forests

    On the Lives of Trees

  • “You’ll Know Her by Her Foot”

    An ornithologist reflects on Emily Dickinson’s “You'll know her by her foot.”

  • A Natural, Reviving Violence

    A reflection on Marianne Moore’s “The Fish.”

  • The Mushroom’s Small Stature and Subtle Strength

    A microbial ecologist reflects on Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms.”

  • Richard Dawkins on Poetry

    The evolutionary biologist reads Robert Frost.

  • Einstein Among the Daffodils

    A science historian and English professor discuss how physics and poetry mix.

  • How Doctors Use Poetry

    A Harvard medical student describes how he is learning to both treat and heal.

  • Honing_HERO

    What Makes Music Special to Us?

    Clarifying the differences between what animals and humans hear.

  • Berger_HERO

    Gustav Klimt in the Brain Lab

    What is neuroscience doing to art?

  • Batkie_HERO

    Echos

    What happens when a person is simultaneously lost and found?

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    Butterfly Wonk Robert Pyle Pens His First Novel 44 Years in the Making

    Ecologist Robert Michael Pyle’s imaginative treatment of the nonhuman world—he includes a butterfly and a mountain among his cast of characters—is both a surprise and perhaps a natural result of his artistic development.Counterpoint Press The acclaimed author, naturalist, and ecologist Robert Michael Pyle has been investigating the butterfly for about 60 years. In that time […]

  • LINGGONEGORO_HERO

    How Doctors Use Poetry

    A Harvard medical student describes how he is learning to both treat and heal.

  • house piano_HERO

    The Heart of Musical Experience Is Expectation

    In “Half-Wit,” an episode of House, Gregory House, a brilliant Sherlock Holmes-like doctor (and a decent musician) wheels a piano into a patient’s room. It’s a delightful moment: The patient is a musical savant named Patrick, played by the musician Dave Matthews—a painful muscle contraction in his hand, suffered during a performance, brought him in. […]

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    The Case for Dancing Astrophysics

    Cosmology is the story of the fundamental particles, forces, and energies that shape and govern our universe. And that story is one of rhythm and motion.Screengrab via Paul M. Sutter / YouTube For millennia, cosmological and religious systems of thought were intertwined—and usually indistinguishable. European artwork of, say, the arrangements of planets and stars often […]

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    Each Piece of Trashed Plastic Can Find a New Life as Art

    Artist Sayaka Ganz converts consumer castoffs into meaningful work. She makes sculptures entirely of second-hand plastics that are in sum much greater than their parts.“Emergence,” 2013 / Sayaka Ganz In one important way, grocery stores were very different during my childhood. Catsup was only packaged in glass bottles. Soda came in either aluminum cans or […]

  • North_HERO

    The Cost of Blood

    When corporations run the government and any crime can be bought.

  • Cemin_HERO

    The Rhythm of Sculpture

    How science has informed one sculptor’s view of time.

  •  Phillips_HERO

    The Spacetime of Fine Art

    For the painter Matthew Phillips, past, present, and future meet at the tip of a brush.

  • Aharoni_HERO_FINAL

    Making Time Machines From Taxi Meters

    A sculptor explains how his art upends time.

  • Time_HERO-3

    A New View of Time

    Introducing the Nautilus Time Project.

  •  Powers_HERO

    The Woman Redeemed by Trees

    A story about connection by the National Book Award winner.

  • Berger_HERO-F

    Why Do So Many Scientists Want to be Filmmakers?

    The problem with C.P. Snow’s famous two-cultures hypothesis.

  • Al_Gore_HERO-F2

    Al Gore Does His Best Ralph Waldo Emerson

    The former vice president reads the transcendentalist poet—and reminds us of one.

  • Campo_HERO

    Meet Harvard’s Own Poet-Physician

    Rafael Campo on finding the humanity in medicine and science.

  • Nakazawa_HERO

    Waiting For the Robot Rembrandt

    What needs to happen for artificial intelligence to make fine art.

  • Leckie_HERO

    Buying Freedom

    What happens when you barter a jail break for the wrong person?

  • Artemis_HERO-F

    Andy Weir Visits the Moon

    The best-selling writer of “The Martian” has a new book out, and it’s set closer to home.

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    Why Beauty Is Not Universal

    We’re all human—so despite the vagaries of cultural context, might there exist a universal beauty that overrides the where and when? Might there be unchanging features of human nature that condition our creative choices, a timeless melody that guides the improvisations of the everyday? There has been a perpetual quest for such universals, because of […]

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    How Absurd Do You Like Your Art?

    fStop Images – Caspar Benson / Getty Images Some art makes a lot of sense. If we look at a painting or a photograph of a gorgeous view, its beauty feels natural. The reason for this is that the kinds of landscapes people tend to like correspond to places that would have been a good […]

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    Where “The Walking Dead” Goes Wrong With Zombies

    Rick Grimes is cornered. A walker shuffles toward him, thoughtless yet eager for flesh. Sweat drips through Grimes’ thick beard, grown in the hundreds of fearful days and nights since the dead started to roam the earth. He quickly reaches for his knife—a weapon he never used in his days as a cop—and sinks it […]

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    How Science Makes “Rick and Morty” Great

    “Rick and Morty” explores both profound or wacky what-ifs, and more humanistic concerns, like dealing with a divorce or failing high-school. Adult Swim / Turner Broadcasting System The season finale of “Rick and Morty,” the Internet Movie Database’s fourth most-popular TV show of all-time, runs tonight. What started as a graphic parody of Back to […]

  • Tegmark_HERO-2

    The Last Invention of Man

    How AI might take over the world.

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    The Jazz Pianist Vijay Iyer Played “Remembrance” for Us on 9/11

    Iyer analyzes the morphology of jazz with the precision of a scientist.Photograph by Bruno Bollaert / Flickr When we visited Vijay Iyer three years ago, on Sept. 11, at his home in Harlem, the monthly Nautilus theme was Genius. The jazz pianist was glad to talk about the subject and play signature pieces by Thelonious […]

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    Why A.I. Is Just Not Funny

    Although A.I. robots can pick up on jokes, they have a lot to learn about telling them.Queen Mary University of London / YouTube In the 2004 film I, Robot, Detective Del Spooner asks an A.I. named Sonny: “Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?” Sonny responds: […]

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    The Case for Treating Gatsby as a Real Person

    If we lean too much on the text itself, or the history surrounding it, and view with suspicion why people read, and what happens when they do, then we threaten to ignore some of the most interesting questions this weird thing called literature poses. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a reader in possession […]

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    The Typewriter’s Love of the Desert

    Reflections on Sam Shepard’s time at the Santa Fe Institute I was first introduced to Sam by our mutual friend Valerie Plame Wilson. Sam had played Valerie’s father in the cinematic adaptation of her book, Fair Game. On the phone inviting Sam to SFI his first question to me was whether there would be sufficient desk […]

  • Vandermeer_HERO usorig

    As the World Collapses

    An exclusive glimpse into Jeff VanderMeer’s new apocalyptic novel, “Borne.”

  • Robinson_HERO-3

    New York Under Water

    Your future commute to work is on a boat.

  • Grey_HERO

    Defy the Stars

    What’s the real difference between man and machine?

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    God Created Consciousness in Fiction

    Given his grandeur, pettiness, and complexity, and his capacity for introspection, he’s the major exception to the flatness of ancient characters—God.Illustration by Humphrey King / Flickr Many modern novels do something that the earliest literature sometimes seems incapable of doing—representing the inner life of the individual, in all its complexity. The history of literature has […]

  • musical notes_HERO

    This Is What Musical Notes Actually Look Like

    A few months ago, I sat poolside with friends in Palm Springs. Amid the quiet desert sublime, we reminisced about all the live music we’ve experienced over the years, just about every big and small act since the mid-80s: Prince, David Bowie, Guns ‘n Roses, Bruce Springsteen, and the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs among the them. […]

  • Sedivy-HERO

    Why Doesn’t Ancient Fiction Talk About Feelings?

    Literature’s evolution has reflected and spurred the growing complexity of society.

  • Sedivy-HERO

    Why Doesn’t Ancient Fiction Talk About Feelings?

    Literature’s evolution has reflected and spurred the growing complexity of society.

  • Drawing Physics

    How visualizations deepen our understanding.

  • science movies_HERO

    Science Is Finally Getting Its Close-up

    In case you hadn’t noticed, science is enjoying a renaissance on screen. Not science fiction—that’s always been a silver screen staple—but actual scientists doing actual science. As Nautilus explained in December, in “How We Got from Doc Brown to Walter White,” the fictional scientist, in particular on TV, has evolved from the nutty genius to […]

  • video game guilt_HERO

    Video Games Do Guilt Better Than Any Other Art

    The idea that motion pictures can be works of art has been around since the 1920s, and it hasn’t really been disputed since. It’s easy to see why—cinema shares characteristics with theater in terms of acting, direction, music, set design, narrative, and so on. Now we have whole academic departments dedicated to film appreciation, to […]

  • Why an Expert on Black Holes Reads the Bhagavad Gita

    These ancient Indian traditions have something to teach modern cosmology.

  • How Art Can Make the Data Pop

    A new generation of artists breathes life into cosmological data.

  • Hustvedt_HERO

    The Novelist and Critic Siri Hustvedt Raises an Eyebrow at Science

    What separates the sciences from the humanities? What unites them? And how can they each illuminate the nature of mind and self? These were some of the questions on Siri Hustvedt’s mind as she began her new book of essays, A Woman Looking At Men Looking At Women. Hustvedt herself has an omnivorous professional history that […]

  • Padua_HERO_02

    Will Lovelace and Babbage Save the Economy?

    A fictional tale starring the inventors of the first computer.

  • Berger_HERO

    Five Scientists on the Heroes Who Changed Their Lives

    Meet the inspiring people—none named Einstein—who helped these scientists find their calling.

  • Klocek-Lim_HERO-1

    The Stars Are a Comforting Constant

    A poet blends the personal with the cosmic.

  • Mullen_FSR_LEAD-Aliens

    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 […]

  • What Hollywood Doesn’t Get About Aliens

    Movies get alien bodies right, but not alien ecosystems.

  • StGeirge_HERO-2

    The World’s Most Inspirational Iceberg Isn’t What It Seems

    The professional photographer who created a popular poster image takes it apart.

  • false story_HERO

    Why Do We Get Transported by Stories We Know Aren’t True?

    In Jasper Fforde’s lighthearted “Thursday Next” series of books, people can use a “prose portal” to enter the world of a book, to change the plot or kidnap a character. The prose portal is an imaginative metaphor for a familiar experience: feeling taken away by a narrative, sucked into a good book so that we […]

  • retracted study_HERO

    Your Study Has Been Retracted

    We are retracting your study. I wanted you to know before the announcement. What’s the problem? There are anomalies in your data. Is that bad? Not if you can explain them. Hang on, let me Google “anomalies.” It appears you faked some of the data. I prefer to say we “enhanced” it. What? We are […]

  • FINAL-HERO-1

    Fakes

    Fake is a concept on the rise. The percentage of scientific papers retracted for fraud or error increased for three decades starting in the early 1970s. There are seven ’80s movies and series in the Internet Movie Database with the keyword “fake” attached to them. That number rises to 14 in the ’90s, and 52 in […]

  • wilson hall_HERO

    Is an Engineer an Artist?

    One of my favorite moments from the history of science comes from a man whose name may be hard to improve on: Robert Rathburn Wilson. In 1967, in the midst of the space race with the Soviet Union, he became the first director of the National Accelerator Laboratory (later to be renamed, in honor of […]

  • Segal_HERO

    Ingenious: Richard Dawkins

    The evolutionary biologist reads Robert Frost.

  • Kahaney_HERO

    The Weaker Sister

    When we have to evacuate Earth, only the strong will survive.

  • Selection-HERO-1

    Selection

    They say real choices are hard to make. Another way to put that is real choice-making is hard to find. Whether we are choosing a breakfast cereal, politician, or life partner, what seem like free choices often follow from unconscious cues and self-confirming biases. Even Mother Nature can seem reluctant to choose, keeping cats both […]

  • Marvel_HERO1

    The Parallel Universes of a Woman in Science

    In physics and in life, choice and possibility play against each other.

  • Ebenstein_HERO-1

    The Brief, Mystical Reign of the Wax Cadaver

    Early medical models of human anatomy shrouded death in feminine beauty.

  • SPORT_HERO

    Sport

    At this year’s press conference announcing Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley’s second win of the NBA Sportsmanship Award, the questions from the press were downright nostalgic. “What in today’s game defines sportsmanship?” one reporter asked. “Maybe you don’t see guys do it as much anymore.” Another complained about players’ public behavior. “You don’t see guys […]

  • piano cosmos_HERO

    DJs Are Dropping Beats From Deep Space

    Interpreting something from the universe awakens a unique inspiration and curiosity,” says the Swiss electronic musician Lucien Nicolet, who goes by Luciano. He wasn’t waxing mystical. That awakening lead to ALMA Sounds, his latest album, released this month, which features audio derived from one of the world’s biggest astronomy telescopes, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array […]

  • 12 notes_HERO

    This Is What Musical Notes Actually Look Like

    A few months ago, I sat poolside with friends in Palm Springs. Amid the quiet desert sublime, we reminisced about all the live music we’ve experienced over the years, just about every big and small act since the mid-80s: Prince, David Bowie, Guns ‘n Roses, Bruce Springsteen, and the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs among the them. […]

  • Berger-HERO-1

    How Noise Makes Music

    We use music to make sense of the squawks, creaks, and roars around us.

  • Horne-HERO

    These Nature Photographs Aren’t What They Seem

    The visual playfulness of Simen Johan.

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    Art That Exposes the Strange World We Live In

    The environmental artist Ned Kahn, a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” awardee, gravitates toward phenomena that lie on the edges of what science can grasp—“things,” he tells me over the phone, “that are inherently complex and difficult to predict, yet at the same time beautiful.” The weather, for example, has, because of its chaotic yet orderly […]

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    Scientists Have No Defense Against Awe

      Eileen Pollack, author of The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club, hinted at the complexity of the relationship between science and the soul in a recent essay: “We need scientists who recognize the reality of this illusion we still call the soul and artists who know how intimately […]

  • Currents_HERO

    Currents

    There is a miles-long solitary wave trundling its way across an ocean right now. It will travel for days on end without changing its shape, before dissipating its billions of joules of energy onto some unseen shore or trench. If you had traveled with it, it would have seemed like the ocean is moving backward, […]

  • Nabokov butterfly net_HERO

    How Butterfly Genitalia Inspired Nabokov’s Masterpieces

    By 1967, Vladimir Nabokov had published 15 novels and novellas and six short story collections. But as he told the Paris Review that year, “It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology”—the study and classification of butterflies—“and never written any novels at all.” […]

  • Gehring portrait_HERO

    These Moving Portraits Offer an Uncanny View of the Human Body

    Some time after he completed his first portrait, in 1909, Oskar Kokoschka realized that “in my haste, I painted only four fingers on the hand he lays across his chest.” He was referring to The Trance Player, a painting of his friend, an actor. “Did I forget to paint the fifth?” Kokoschka wondered. “In any […]

  • Aging_HERO

    Aging

    Aging may be the only universal process. Everything does it: living things, rocks, maybe even protons (we’re not sure yet). Despite that—or because of it—we humans have long dreamed of conquering it. Even the hero in our oldest known piece of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, seeks and fails to find eternal life, “for when the […]

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    Science Should Be Totally Beautiful

    Felice Frankel lives between the lines. Along with being a part-time science photographer, she’s a researcher at the Center for Materials Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “As a photographer,” Frankel says, “I look for edges.” Her previous career, as a photographer of architecture, taught her how to capture the most striking […]

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    Is Multilingual Rap Eroding Canada’s French Language?

    Recently a Quebec arts foundation required the Francophone rap group Dead Obies to give back an $18,000 grant they’d been awarded to record their newest album. The problem? A word count determined that the group had stirred too much English into their distinctive multilingual lyrics, falling short of the rule that 70 percent of the […]

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    Watch Carl Sagan Discuss Aliens in This Wonderfully Animated Radio Interview

    When Carl Sagan, the late astronomer and original Cosmos host, published his first novel, Contact, in 1985, Studs Terkel, the long-time radio broadcaster, asked him a month later to chat with him. Their subject, of course, was aliens, and the question of whether we’d ever establish good relations with them. In their conversation—which Blank on Blank, […]

  • Boundaries_HERO

    Boundaries

    If rules only exist to be broken, then so do boundaries. After all, a boundary is just a rule in space. And there are no absolute boundaries. Why would there be? The cell membrane needs to keep out biological riffraff, for sure, but also to ingest and excrete. Academic disciplines stultify when their borders become […]

  • Gross_HERO-anim

    When You Listen to Music, You’re Never Alone

    Technology hasn’t diminished the social quality of listening to music.

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    The Man Who Changed How Artists and Scientists Work Together

    Richard Loveless believes trans-disciplinary collaborations can inspire creativity and pioneer new ways of thinking. That’s why, in 1991, he became the founding Director of the Institute for Studies in the Arts, a premiere arts research group in the College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. During his nine-year tenure, he’s funded over 200 projects […]

  • Hope_HERO

    My Family, My Science

    One girl’s scientific coming of age.

  • Attraction_HERO

    Attraction

    Opposites attract. Or is it birds of a feather flock together? Massive objects draw each other together by exchanging graviton particles. On the other hand, maybe gravity is not quantum, so that gravitons don’t exist. Our brains could be chaotic storms governed by strange attractors. Or is the chaos ungoverned, and less important than we […]

  • star wars cropped poster

    Yoda Is Dead but Star Wars’ Dubious Lessons Live On

    We didn’t say “break the Internet” back in 1999, but if we did we could certainly say that science-fiction author David Brin broke the Internet when he wrote in Salon that “Stars Wars belongs to our dark past. A long, tyrannical epoch of fear, illogic, despotism and demagoguery that our ancestors struggled desperately to overcome, […]

  • Space_HERO

    Space


  • fink thumb

    You Have At Least This Many Identities

      Liana Finck’s cartoons appear in the New Yorker. Her graphic novel, A Bintel Brief, was published in 2014.

  • Shvartsman_HERO-3

    Whom He May Devour

    Saving her planet would ban her from paradise.

  • Stress_HERO

    Stress

    Stress is a complicated adversary. It is a silent killer, but a little bit is good for you. You can be stressed without knowing it, or feel more stressed than you are. Genetic and environmental factors combine in obscure ways to predispose some of us to stress, but not others. Stress isn’t so straightforward elsewhere, […]

  • FSR_Friedman_HERO

    Inside the Mind of a Caricaturist

    The “Caricature Generator” is a computer program that takes an image of a person’s face, finds its differences as compared to the “average” male face, and then exaggerates them in a novel rendering of the original portrait. Each face is broken up into 37 lines and 169 points—the differences come when the subject’s points don’t […]

  • HERO-green

    How I Tried to Transplant the Musical Heart of Apocalypse Now

    Oscar-winning editor Walter Murch describes the surprising idiosyncrasies of film scoring.

  • Identity_HERO-1

    Identity

    Before the scientific method begins, before the hypothesis is conceived, identity needs to be confronted. Reagents and particles, agents and actors, dependent and independent variables require labeling. Dotted lines are drawn and boundaries established. Getting those identities right helps. But sometimes the greatest progress comes from realizing they’re incomplete. The discovery that light, electricity, and […]

  • Loops_HERO2

    The Cello Music of the Spheres

    Experience mathematical beauty and symmetry in a multimedia work.

  • 029_Scaling_HERO-2

    Scaling

    There is a classic set of Soviet jokes about how different cultures scale. One Englishmen, it goes, makes a gentleman. Two make a bet, and three a parliament. A single Frenchman, by comparison, makes a lady’s man, two make a duel, and three a Paris commune. These jokes have a kernel of truth (regardless of […]

  • Nalls_HERO_1

    An Appetite for Innovation

    Harvard’s David Edwards talks to Nautilus about how ideas can change the world.

  • 028_HERO

    2050

    While the near future is a choice, the distant future is an institution. Governments and non-profits produce long-term forecasts by the thousands. Fortunes change hands based on corporate earnings expectations. Courts debate wills written decades ago. People have constructed over 10,000 active time capsules. Despite all of this frenetic activity, the future is more often […]

  • Beatty_HERO_F

    Warm Fuzzies

    If you could bring a loved one back from the dead, should you?

  • Peplow_HERO-1

    The Reinvention of Black

    As the means of creating the color black have changed, so have the subjects it represents.

  • Peplow_HERO-1

    The Reinvention of Black

    As the means of creating the color black have changed, so have the subjects it represents.

  • 027_HERO_F1.

    Dark Matter

    The finding suggests that these galaxies … are very likely enveloped by something very massive.” So reflected Jin Koda, astronomy professor at Stony Brook University, on the discovery this June of more than 800 dark galaxies in the (appropriately named) Coma Cluster. Many are located in a part of the cluster subject to tidal forces […]

  • van Gogh infrared

    Looking Through Paintings to See What’s Hidden

    This post originally ran on Facts So Romantic in May, 2013. There is more to the world than meets the human eye, a fact that hit home for the 18th-century astronomer Sir Frederick William Herschel when he discovered infrared light—a wavelength of light that lies just outside the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. We can […]

  • Pantone colors of the year

    Two Ideas for Predicting the Next Color of the Year

    In each of the past 16 Decembers, Pantone has announced a “color of the year.” The company, famous for its system for standardizing colors around the world, has chosen hues as different as vibrant Fuschia Rose (2001) and understated Sand Dollar (2006) to encapsulate the visual and psychic spirit they believe will prevail during the […]

  • Vandermeer_HERO-2

    The Terrifying Uncertainty in Jeff VanderMeer’s Sci-Fi

    How the best-selling author brings his incredibly strange worlds to life.

  • Kintisch_HERO

    The Quest to Mimic Nature’s Trickiest Colors

    An artist struggles to reproduce the iridescence of the natural world.

  • Yumibe_HERO-2

    The Phantasmagoria of the First Hand-Painted Films

    How the silent screen burst to life with color.

  • 026_CURTAIN_HERO

    Color

    Twice a year, the Pantone corporation holds secret meetings in a European capital to decide on a “Color of the Year”—something that fits the mood of the time. This year, for the first time in three years, Pantone also added a brand new color to its palette: minion yellow, after the Despicable Me character. Of […]

  • HD_209458b_Sunset

    What Do Romantic Aliens See at the End of Their Alien Days?

    When it comes to exoplanets, reality is catching up with science fiction. Take Kepler-16b, a Saturn-size planet roughly 200 light-years from Earth that circles not just one star but a pair of stars. Nicknamed Tatooine, after the fictional home planet of Luke and Anakin Skywalker, this world must see sunsets that are twice as breathtaking. […]

  • fallingwater mike dipompeo

    Fallingwater: A Building That Bonds With Nature and Dances With Time

    The water flowing down the stream’s banks sends a soft and consistent murmur through the forest. The flow, however, is far from continuous. At one point the cool water swirls in eddies and gathers in still pools, but then—almost accidentally—it surges forward and slips quickly over the ledge. It crashes loudly, bubbling up in a […]

  • 024_HERO-2

    Error

    For the philosopher of science Karl Popper, the process of science came down to this equation: PS1 —> TT1 —> EE1 —> PS2. A problem situation (PS) leads to tentative theories (TT), then error elimination (EE), then another set of problems. Much of the work of science lies in the error elimination step, and the […]

  • friends and music

    Some Music Is Inherently Bad—But People Can Be Convinced Otherwise

    Artistic appreciation is a deeply subjective process, perhaps the most essentially personal thing that humans do. But are there some explanations for why we like what we do? Why, for instance, does a particular song get popular? Some of it has to do with the quality of the music—and by quality, I mean that there’s […]

  • domino spiral

    7 Videos That Show the Apex of the Art of Dominoes

    If there is one thing that having the Internet in our lives has shown most clearly, it may be that anything you can think of as a hobby is also an obsession to a not-insignificant number of people. And so it is with dominoes.  A look around online reveals that there are a lot of […]

  • Grant_HERO-1

    The Best Little Bar in Manhattan

    An experiment in belief versus bourbon.

  • 023-HERO-2

    Dominoes

    One dreary Tueseday, Leó Szilárd decided to take a walk past the British Museum in London. He was irritated by Ernest Rutherford’s recent speech dismissing the possibility of practical atomic energy. The day was gray and wet. He was annoyed by a slow traffic light. But the traffic light changed, and, as the story goes, […]

  • Ghent Altarpiece

    How to Make Art That Withstands the Test of Time

    A degraded frame from an old celluloid (aka nitrate) film, the same material used by Naum Gabo in some of his sculptures   In the 1930s, Russian-born sculptor Naum Gabo started experimenting with a thin, plastic material called celluloid. Previously used as film for photography or to make cheap jewelry, celluloid in Gabo’s hands became […]

  • Bang_HERO_3

    A Photographer Who Tinkers with Time

    How Adam Magyar slows down in the most impatient places.

  • Sussman_HERO-2

    What a 9,000-Year-Old Spruce Tree Taught Me

    How photographing the world’s oldest living things pushed me outside the boundaries of science.

  • Sussman_HERO-2

    What a 9,000-Year-Old Spruce Tree Taught Me

    How photographing the world’s oldest living things pushed me outside the boundaries of science.

  • 022_HERO-F.

    Slow

    Slow is good. That’s the message of more than a dozen modern slowness movements, from slow fashion to slow food to slow church, most of which have sprung up in the last 20 years, and most of which point a steady finger at modernity. “We do say yes to the accelerated science of the early […]

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    Information

    It’s hard to argue with the claim that we are living in the information age. We have uncovered vast stores of information in our genes, generated even more ourselves, interpreted physical law in terms of information flow—oh, and we’re always on our phones. Philosophers like Luciano Floridi have gone so far as to claim that […]

  • Eye Benches WCMA Arthur Evans

    6 Pieces of Art That Open Minds—and Get Stuff Done

      The modern artist David Hockney once said that “art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus.” Such a polemic statement implies that there can be no blurring between pure art and usefulness. But an artwork’s function and the viewer’s interaction with it can be an […]

  • Extinction Marathon

    Art’s Biggest Wheel Turns Toward Science

    Hans-Ulrich ObristTwitter Hans-Ulrich Obrist seems to be everywhere—and it’s not much of an illusion. Widely regarded as the most influential figure in today’s art world, he’s worked with a who’s-who of major artists, from painter Gerhard Richter and sculptor Jeff Koons to performance artist Marina Abramovic and architect Rem Koolhass. From his perch as co-director of […]

  • Supko_HERO-2.

    How I Taught My Computer to Write Its Own Music

    I wanted to build the ideal collaborator. Was I ever surprised.

  • Supko_HERO-2.

    How I Taught My Computer to Write Its Own Music

    I wanted to build the ideal collaborator. Was I ever surprised.

  • Man in cocoon Vocal Vibrations Le Laboratoire

    Art + Science = Innovation

    The “chapel” area at the Vocal Vibrations exhibitAmy Kraft Upon entering the Vocal Vibrations installation at Le Laboratoire Cambridge, visitors are directed to a room called the chapel, where a haunting vocal composition plays out of nine speakers positioned around the room. After relaxing on a bench to focus on the music, people are led […]

  • Hoffman_HERO-2

    How the Obits Became My Muse

    The unusual lives of a physicist and an aviator, in verse and song.

  • Chatterjee_HERO

    Can Science Tell Us What Beauty Is?

    Neuroscientist Anjan Chatterjee takes us into the neurology of creativity.

  • Peikoff_HERO

    Rent Arlington Hall’s Brain

    The implant would make him a brilliant pianist for 24 hours.

  • Segal_HERO-1

    The Hit Book That Came From Mars

    The Martian started as a self-published blog, and became a major motion picture.

  • Segal_HERO-1

    The Hit Book That Came From Mars

    The Martian started as a self-published blog, and became a major motion picture.

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    Creativity

    In 2010, IBM asked over 1,000 CEOs and global leaders what they valued most in other leaders. Humility came in eighth and openness fifth. Integrity seems important in a leader—and it was, but not enough to be in first place. That honor went to creativity. The then-CEO of IBM declared that “today, creativity itself has […]

  • Pitman-HERO

    Art Is Long, Science Is Longer

    My years surveying trees in the Amazon taught me the forest is unknowable.

  • Pitman-HERO

    Art Is Long, Science Is Longer

    My years surveying trees in the Amazon taught me the forest is unknowable.

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    Art Can Show Us What’s Wrong With Our Planet

    An ice book destined to melt into the Great Miami River in Dayton, Ohio (2012).Basia Irland Earth is on the brink of a mass extinction—the first in 66 million years, and it’s caused primarily by human activity. Scientists first detected this epochal event by calculating diversity in our forests and taking the temperature of our atmosphere, and they now outline steps […]

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    In Our Nature

    Nature,” the Oxford English Dictionary tells us, is “the phenomena of the physical world collectively … as opposed to humans or human creations.” There’s us, and there’s our environment. But the Latin root of the word, nat, meaning “born,” seems to soften the opposition by suggesting a very human beginning. The Chinese translation of “nature” […]

  • Segal_HERO

    The New You

    Introducing the Winter 2015 Nautilus Quarterly.

  • Berger_HERO.

    The Necessity of Musical Hallucinations

    That song stuck in your head is your brain doing its work.

  • Berger_HERO.

    The Necessity of Musical Hallucinations

    That song stuck in your head is your brain doing its work.

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    Ingenious: Vijay Iyer

    On the science and talent of music.

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    Einstein Among the Daffodils

    A science historian and English professor discuss how physics and poetry mix.

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    Rhythm’s the Thing

    Pianist Vijay Iyer gives us a master class in the science of rhythm.

  • 018_HERO_1

    Genius

    Genius seems to be a concept in decline. The MacArthur Foundation, which awards fellowships famously known as “genius grants,” won’t mention the word because, in its own words, “[genius] connotes a singular character of intellectual prowess [whereas] the people we seek to support express many other important qualities.” The Google n-gram for genius shows a […]

  • 019_HERO

    Illusions

    If illusions and magic tricks seem passé to you, a throwback to when sawing a swimsuit-clad assistant in half still seemed fresh, think again. Just last year, the best ratings the ABC television network earned for any program in its 9:30 to 11 p.m. time slot were for illusionist David Blaine’s magic special. We are just as […]

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    Shakespeare’s Genius Is Nonsense

    What the Bard can teach science about language and the limits of the human mind.

  • Singularity_HERO

    The Distant Future, 30 Years On

    The Fall 2014 Quarterly looks ahead.

  • Lem_HERO

    The Book No One Read

    Why Stanislaw Lem’s futurism deserves attention.

  • Lem_HERO

    The Book No One Read

    Why Stanislaw Lem’s futurism deserves attention.

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    Edgar Allan Poe, Part-Time Cosmologist/Big-Bang Philosopher

    A daguerrotype of Poe made several months before his death in 1849 During the waning months of 1847, Edgar Allan Poe sat at his desk with a tortoiseshell cat draped around his shoulders and dreamed the universe into being. Poe believed the book he wrote in that feline-festooned state to be his best work, and […]

  • Allsbrook_HERO

    The Art of Painting

    Stanley Kubrick and Johannes Vermeer try to see eye-to-eye.

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    Big Bangs

    From one perspective, the idea that nature is full of sudden starts seems relatively recent. Aristotle’s metaphysics was based on eternal forms, and some 2,000 years later, Newton’s apple had not fallen far from the tree: He believed his equations described an eternal universe, reflecting the mind of God. It would be centuries more before […]

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    “Molecular Still Lives” Show the Science in Our Food in Us

    Still Life with Gastric PeptideMia Brownell My grandfather wasn’t a big farmer, but his small garden in Kentucky was a miracle. There was rhubarb, corn, and peppers a-plenty, but mostly I remember the tomatoes. He bred his own, saving the seeds of the best specimens every year. By the time he was getting well into […]

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    Nothingness

    Aristotle filled the void with an invisible ether, Torricelli killed it, and Higgs has gone some way to bringing it back. The will to nothingness is the path away from meaning for Nietzsche, but the path toward meaning for the Buddhist. Some formalist approaches to mathematics define zero as a foundational symbol, while Gödel used […]

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    A Complicated Question

    A child asks, and war answers.

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    How Graphic Design Can Make Flying Just a Little Bit Safer

    The cause of aviation safety has had a terrible week. An Air Algérie flight crashed yesterday in Mali, reportedly killing all 116 on board. The day before, a TransAsia plane went down on the Taiwanese island of Penghu, leading to the deaths of at least 48 people. And, most notoriously, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was […]

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    Turbulence

    In one sense, turbulence is a typical subject of scientific research. Described by series of coupled differential equations, and verified by precise measurement, it lies on the harder side of the scientific spectrum. But in another sense, its irreducible complexity requires of the scientist a keen intuitive sense. This is amply clear in the history […]

  • Hua_HERO

    The First Day

    One man’s walk to his own cremation.

  • Manasi_HERO

    The Challenges of Illustrating Science

    Two Nautilus artists share their creative visions.

  • technology

    How Technology & Tradition Combine to Make Modern Movies

    In Nebraska, Phedon Papamichael used an unusual combination of digital and analog technologies to achieve a distinctive look.FilmNation Entertainment / Paramount Vantage This is part three of a three-part series about the movie industry’s switch to digital cameras and what is lost, and gained, in the process. Part one, on the traditional approach to filming movies […]

  •  Segal_HERO

    A Summer Gaze

    The Summer 2014 Quarterly tackles image and object.

  • Kehlmann_HERO

    The Great Lindemann

    The light dimmed and the murmur of conversation died away. The curtain opened. Lindemann was standing on the stage. He was plump and had a bald spot made all the more noticeable by the few sparse hairs combed over the nakedness of his skull, and he was wearing black horn-rim spectacles. His suit was gray, […]

  • 14_HERO

    Mutation

    While many genes are famous, one in particular has been prominent recently. In the early 1990s, scientists discovered that single-letter mutations in a gene named BRCA led to a higher risk of breast cancer. On June 1 of this year, a new report in Nature Genetics implicated mutations in the same gene for lung cancer. […]

  • Segal_HERO

    Ingenious: Cornelia Hesse-Honegger

    A life of science and art.

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    An Astrobiologist Asks a Sci-fi Novelist How to Survive the Anthropocene

    Kim Stanley Robinson imagines our future.

  • Issue13_HERO

    Symmetry

    Some half a billion years ago, the first animals with bilateral symmetry appeared on Earth. Rather than being shapeless or spherical, they had long axes with a “left” and “right.” Their mouths separated from their anuses, allowing their gut to run down the length of their body. Movements became more directed, and nervous systems more […]

  • Grant_HERO

    Two-Stroke Toilets

    The trouble with time travel.

  • disco

    Scientists Create Cybernetic Links Between People—by DJing

      DJ Angst kicked off the late-February show at the Root Cellar Lounge in Bloomington, Indiana, keeping in mind that, as the first DJ to play, it was his job to figure out what would lure people to the dance floor. As his name implies, he prefers austere, dark electronic music, but he gathered that […]

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    The Quest to Understand—and Mimic—Nature’s Trickiest Colors

    The West Indian Ocean coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae)AlessandroZocc via Shutterstock It was an image in a book of a sparkly blue fish—a West Indian Ocean coelacanth—that inspired German painter Franziska Schenk to begin a project that would occupy much of her adult life. “It was mysterious and beautiful,” she says, “and as a child I had […]

  • Muir_HERO

    Beacon Bugs

    Every 29 years, their light proves disastrous.

  • El Anatsui Denver

    Where Even Concrete Is Expensive, Artists Must Get Creative

    The atmosphere in El Anatsui’s studio is somewhere between a Renaissance artist’s workshop and a recycling plant. The roof is made of thin, uninsulated metal sheets that offer little protection against the hot Nigerian weather. Bags overflowing with bottle tops, bought from local distilleries, are piled all over the floor. Around a dozen young men […]

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    The Ends of Time, in Art and Science

    In Gallery 919, in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is a giant breathing machine. Its creator, William Kentridge, calls it “the elephant,” after Charles Dickens’s description of factory machines that move “monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness.” On the walls surrounding the elephant […]

  • Miller_HERO

    Magnets

    Carried through time, lovers seek their purpose.

  • Rolfe Horn

    Living in the Long: Art & Engineering Peers Into Our Future

    When was the last time you awoke right at the first peak of day? Or put away your work simply because night was falling? We are less and less tied to rhythms of natural time, living instead in the glow of computers and smartphone screens. Our days and nights roll by, marked as much by […]

  • Bang_HERO-02

    Photographing Time

    The speed of photography through the ages.

  • Berger_HERO

    How Music Hijacks Our Perception of Time

    A composer details how music works its magic on our brains.

  • Novak_HERO

    Kellogg’s

    The last wholesome fantasy of the middle-school boy.

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    Time

    There’s a ticking bomb in the corner of your awareness. The danger isn’t the bomb, though—it’s the clock. Time, that most pedestrian, over-measured, and tightly regulated quantity of our daily lives, is in a perpetual state of crisis. There’s the problem of what to do with your time, of course. We’ll leave that as an […]

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    Behind the Scenes: How This Issue’s Beautiful Art Was Made

    By now, you’ve likely noticed that we here at Nautilus care a great deal about imagery. Whether it’s our quarterly print edition or our weekly online chapters, the images that accompany each piece are crafted with care. But have you ever wondered where the images you see each week come from, and how they’re made? […]

  • Erickson_HERO

    In Science Fiction, We Are Never Home

    Where technology leads to exile and yearning.

  • Erickson_HERO

    In Science Fiction, We Are Never Home

    Where technology leads to exile and yearning.

  • Hands touching

    So Human, So Beautiful

    I look into the mirror and try to see what another human would see. My beard is months old, scraggly and dirty, my balding head covered with wisps of gray. I take out the scissors and start to clean it up. Thoughts of other people, being with other people, force their way to the surface, […]

  • Preziosi_HERO

    The Periodic Stranger

    When exile becomes home.

  • Preziosi_HERO

    The Periodic Stranger

    When exile becomes home.

  • SpaceNest_HERO

    Home

    At first glance, home may seem to be a human construct, an intersection of time, place, and emotion that is unique to our mental sphere, and disjoint from science. But animals also have homes, whether it is a beaver dam or a termite mound. So homes clearly extend beyond the human. And bacteria have homes […]

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    Big Sky, Big Data: Art Made From Atmospheric Science

    Many common air pollutants—ozone, various sulfur oxides, and even some particulate matter among them—are completely invisible to the eye. How interesting, then, that the EPA and other environmental organizations around the world, use color scales to communicate information about air quality. The US Air Quality Index, for instance, starts at green, meaning good air quality, moves […]

  • Holmes_HERO

    Up, Up, and Away With Science

    Richard Holmes gets high on ballooning.

  • Novak_HERO

    Kellogg’s

    The last wholesome fantasy of the middle-school boy.

  • Deutsch_HERO_2

    Not Merely the Finest TV Documentary Series Ever Made

    A reflection on Jacob Bronowski’s “The Ascent of Man.”

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    Preserving Yesterday’s Tech to Get a Better Grasp on Today’s

    In 2009, more than 47 million computers in the U.S. were ready for “end-of-life management”—so hopelessly outmoded that no reasonable amount of refurbishment could redeem them. Market-driven innovation, thus far hewing to the demanding prediction of Moore’s law, means that every few months, the gadgets in our pockets and on our desktops are pushed closer […]

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    Each Piece of Trashed Plastic Can Find a New Life as Art

    In one important way, grocery stores were very different during my childhood. Catsup was only packaged in glass bottles. Soda came in either aluminum cans or glass bottles, and there was no bottled water—no Fuji, Poland Spring, or Evian. Crackers were wrapped in waxed paper. Everything was bagged in paper. Now, some 30 years later, […]

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    Waste

    In the 1997 movie Fifth Element, Gary Oldman pushes a glass off his desk to prove a point. As a handful of robots stream out of a wall hatch to clean up its shattered pieces, he explains to Ian Holm that the flurry of activity shows how destruction—waste—is at the center of the circle of […]

  • 1. EKG. The artist draws at Pandemic gallery, 2013. Courtesy of the gallery.

    Taking the Pulse of the City With Graffiti Artist EKG

    Though New Yorkers are currently chasing down the next piece of Banksy street art, graffiti typically blends into the background. If you’re not a tagger, you most likely are not paying attention to the coded messages embedded in the endless stream of stylized names, faces, animals, and jokes that are constantly thrown up then torn […]

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    Science Gets Down With Miles Davis and Bernini

    Analyzing music and sculpture in the digital age.

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    Glitched Art: Is Software a Whole New Animal?

    Top row, left to right: 1) Exhibition signage. 2) Projection in the background: Jon Cates. GL1TCH.US: An unstable book for an unstable art, 2005-present. Television screen in the foreground: Holly Lay. Gentlemen Prefer Glitch, 2012. 3) Kim Asendorf. Spike’s Peak, 2013.  Bottom row, left to right: 1) Martial Geoffre-Rouland and Benjamin Gaulon. Corrupt Yourself, 2011-present. […]

  • Noroozy_HERO

    Trading Places

    If your daughter was a prisoner of a repressive regime, how far would you go to save her?

  • Erickson_HERO

    Prime

    She had to possess the secret code.

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    In Art Made From the Digital, Its Imperfections Are Revealed

    Postcards from Google Earth (one of five images in the collection)Clement Valla A wave of digital art, and its acceptance in the mainstream art world, has been building since computer technologies entered people’s lives over 20 years ago. Just last year, MoMA acquired 14 video games for its collection. Now comes the first-ever auction of […]

  • Mackenzie_HERO

    Literature by the Numbers

    Critical reading gets even better when you use your computer.

  • 006_Editorial_HERO

    Secret Codes

    Stories hidden and revealed.

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    How Much Do You Remember the Old-Fashioned Way, Sans Google?

    It began like so many creative endeavors—with a barstool discussion. “Who would be your television dad?” New York artist Amanda Tiller mused. A friend chose Cliff Huxtable, Bill Cosby’s alter ego on The Cosby Show. Later, Tiller thought a lot about Cosby and his famously be-sweatered character: We all know Cliff, a beloved father, doctor, […]

  • Coffin_HERO

    Justin Timberlake and the Whoever of Whatever

    Fame drags you down.

  • Fame_Editor_1280

    Fame

    The philosopher Daniel Dennett has long described consciousness as “fame in the brain.” He believes different representations of reality compete with one another at a subconscious level, and conscious perception begins when one representation wins. It’s a surprising concept. And one that provoked us to look more carefully at fame itself. What we found is […]

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    The Unlikely

    Life and nature are full of the non-linear: everything from compound interest to the homeostasis that maintains your body temperature. But one of the most confounding non-linearities of all is the very unlikely. Let me explain why. We intuitively understand 50/50 odds, like the chance of getting heads on a coin flip. And we can […]

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    Hardly Never in Vegas

    Fat Johnny Little and Salty Salt Sue make a break for the desert.

  • Alexa_HERO_1280x376

    Hardly Never in Vegas

    Fat Johnny Little and Salty Salt Sue make a break for the desert.

  • reading

    Why People Love to Get Lost in Books

    In the huge range of different human cultural inclinations, one of the most widespread is a fondness for stories. We just love to get lost in a good book or movie. When we do, we tend to ignore where we are and become completely absorbed in the story. Psychologists call this “transportation,” and have conducted […]

  • North_HERO_1280x376

    The Wanders

    When home is not a haven.

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    Do Other Animals Make Music, or Just Sounds?

    The question in the title of this post involves not one but two enigmas: Artistic merit is an abstract and slippery concept, and assigning intention to the actions of other species is a perpetual challenge. Thus, the question invites various, contradictory answers. Still, I find myself inspired by the activities of other animals, and believe […]

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    Looking at Art Through Different Eyes—Like a Bee

    There is more to the world than meets the human eye, a fact that hit home for the 18th-century astronomer Sir Frederick William Herschel when he discovered infrared light—a wavelength of light that lies just outside the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. We can feel its heat, but we can’t see the light—not without […]

  • 002_Jewell_fiction_HERO

    Know When to Hold ’Em

    The world is your casino. But bettors beware—the house always wins.

  • 002_Jewell_fiction_HERO

    Know When to Hold ’Em

    The world is your casino. But bettors beware—the house always wins.

  • Berger_HERO_Music

    Composing Your Thoughts

    Music that upsets expectations is what makes your gray matter sing.

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    Why Pianos, and Monkeys, Can Never Really Play the Blues

    One of the last things you’d expect to see at a physics conference is a physicist on stage, in a dapper hat, pounding out a few riffs of the blues on a keyboard. But that’s exactly what University of Illinois professor J. Murray Gibson did at the recent March meeting of the American Physical Society […]

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    What’s Your Story? The Psychological Power of Narrative

    We’re all stories in the end. — “The Big Bang,” Doctor Who In 2003, author James Frey published a bestselling autobiographical memoir, A Million Little Pieces, purportedly detailing his struggle to overcome addiction. Nearly three years later, during a riveting appearance on Oprah, he admitted that several supposedly factual details had been embellished or fabricated. All […]

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    Romance, Meaning, Science, and You

    Welcome to Nautilus’ blog, “Facts So Romantic”! The name, if you didn’t see the note on the blog’s homepage, refers to a quote from Jules Verne: “Reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them.” (Verne also helped name the magazine itself; the amazingly hi-tech submarine from 20,000 Leagues […]

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    The Candle Burned

    Welcome to the future, where people read no more.

  • The_Candle_Burned_1280x546

    The Candle Burned

    Welcome to the future, where people read no more.

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    Chambered Nautilus

    A metaphor for science.

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    A Vehicle of Wonder

    The story that launched generations of scientists