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  • Print Edition 39

    Issue 39 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Healthy Communication and Harmony. It includes contributions from biologist Peter Ward, plant neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso, astrophysicist Sarafina El-Badry Nance, and more. This issue also features a new illustration by Zoe Keller.   

  • Print Edition 38

    Issue 38 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Outsiders and Hidden Truths. It includes contributions from science writer Corey S. Powell, astrophysicist Caleb Scharf, history professor Erika Lorraine Milam, and more. This issue also features a new illustration by Sam Chivers.  

  • Print Edition 37

    Issue 37 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Mind and Universality. It includes contributions from psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett, award-winning geobiologist Hope Jahren, zoologist Arik Kershenbaum, and more. This issue also features new illustrations by Jorge Colombo.     

  • Print Edition 36

    Issue 36 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Escape, Rewired, and Wonder. It includes contributions from story science professor Angus Fletcher, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, and award-winning science journalist Lina Zeldovich, among others. This issue also features new illustrations by Jonathon Rosen.    

  • Print Edition 35

    Issue 35 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Forerunners and Evolving. It includes contributions from physics professor Paul Halpern, award-winning journalist Rachel Nuwer, and theoretical physicist Julian Barbour, among others. This issue also features a new illustration by Jorge Colombo.    

  • Print Edition 34

    Issue 34 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Something Green, The Amazing Brain, and Frontiers. It includes contributions from urbanist Anthony Townsend, best-selling science-fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, and physicist Jeremy England, among others. This issue also features a new illustration by Myriam Wares.    

  • Frontiers

    Science is a perennial journey to the frontiers of knowledge, where transformations of life and society begin. This month we venture from the quark to the black hole, with plenty of surprises on Earth along the way, to spotlight head-spinning research and experiments.   

  • The Amazing Brain

    Scientists—to be specific, neuroscientist David Eagleman and cognitive scientist Ann-Sophie Barwich—evoke the poet Emily Dickinson in this mini-issue of Nautilus as they explain how the brain absorbs the world, “As Sponges—Buckets—do.” In the scientists’ words, the brain’s bioelectrical ability to change and adapt, in response to environments in flux, is a marvel.   

  • Something Green

    Feeling connected to nature is important. It inspires empathy and a desire to preserve what is being lost. But empathy is not enough. Conservation is about sustaining ourselves in tune with nature. Highlighting the threads of that harmony is where science comes in, and where this issue of Nautilus follows.    

  • Something Green

    Feeling connected to nature is important. It inspires empathy and a desire to preserve what is being lost. But empathy is not enough. Conservation is about sustaining ourselves in tune with nature. Highlighting the threads of that harmony is where science comes in, and where this issue of Nautilus follows.    

  • The Dark Side

    The darkness is coming after the light. That’s what life during this pandemic feels like. Ultimately it will be science that will quench the virus and restore the light. That’s what science has always done—shown the way out of confusion and despair, illuminated nature, within and without us. This issue follows the light of science […]

  • Love & Sex

    Scientists can be in love, of course, overcome by its joys, overwhelmed by its pains. But when they put on their lab coats, love and sex are all about the caudate nucleus and dopamine. But the science of love doesn’t shuttle romance to the wilderness. Science is a light on our path to understand ourselves […]

  • Print Edition 33

    Issue 33 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Love & Sex and The Dark Side. It includes contributions from mathematician and author Aubrey Clayton, astrophysicist Caleb Scharf, and award-winning science journalist Jo Marchant, among others. This issue also features a new illustration by Jonathon Rosen.   

  • Risk

    Risk is at the heart of poker. You might win it all. You might lose it all. But nobody succeeds without taking it. The trick is to understand that internal calculus. Analyze and understand it to the point where the cliff from which you’re jumping feels safe.     

  • Energy

    Could anything be more fundamental in life and science than energy? And be more various and mysterious? Energy may be the term we use most often without quite knowing what it means. So how do you begin to plumb the many meanings of energy?     

  • Print Edition 32

    Issue 32 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Reopening, Energy, and Risk. It includes contributions from paleoclimatologist Summer Praetorius, Roomba inventor Joe Jones, and film director Walter Murch, among others. This issue also features a new illustration by Myriam Wares.   

  • Reopening

    The story is changing. The world has not reopened but there is a sense it can. In this state of hopeful limbo, things don’t look the same as they did three months ago, two weeks ago, one day ago. This mini-issue of Nautilus turns its journalistic and scientific focus on the changing view outside our […]

  • Outbreak

    It’s a time like none other for us for Nautilus, as it is for every publication. What can we do to help you understand what’s happening to us? That’s the question that drives every article we’ve done and are planning to do on the coronavirus pandemic.   

  • Print Edition 31

    Issue 31 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Intelligence and Outbreak. It includes contributions from physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, radio producer Steve Paulson, and Gaia hypothesis originator James Lovelock, among others. This issue also features new illustrations by Jorge Colombo.

  • Print Edition 30

    Issue 30 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Aliens, Maps, and Panpsychism. It includes contributions from journalist Corey S. Powell, linguist David Adger, and New York Times bestselling author Annaka Harris, among others. This issue also features a new illustration by Ralph Steadman.

  • Print Edition 29

    Issue 29 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Underworlds, Atmospheres, and Catalysts. It includes contributions from science and nature journalist Brandon Keim, paleoclimatologist Summer Praetorius, and astrophysicist Martin Rees, among others. This issue also features new illustrations by Jorge Colombo.

  • Intelligence

    When it comes to intelligence, the mind is overrated. We explore body intelligence and emotional intelligence, and finer still, cellular intelligence. We peer into the black boxes of artificial intelligence, where the future looks dangerous. The intelligences in the sciences, and of the sciences, are without bounds.    

  • Panpsychism

    The debate over panpsychism has only got hotter in the past few years, not only in Nautilus, of course, but in articles and books. In this mini-issue we head back into the debate with new perspectives on panpsychism, which don’t solve the hard problem, but do inch close to the heart of matter.   

  • Maps

    “Usefulness” may be a utilitarian term but it does the job of capturing what’s remarkable about maps, and what inspires this issue of Nautilus—illuminating the signs and symbols, notably language, that imperfect humans employ to represent reality.   

  • Aliens

    The search for extraterrestrial life is a funny thing in science. It’s like a private hobby, best not discussed at work with colleagues, nor with friends at parties. It’s OK now and again to illuminate the search for alien life, an interlude in the symphony of scientific work. And that’s just what we’re offering in […]

  • Catalysts

    This month’s issue offers multiple perspectives on catalysts in science, from cosmology to medicine, neuroscience to physics. It illuminates the elusive agents of change that spark ever-emergent worlds.      

  • Atmospheres

    This month we are turning our magnifying glasses on atmospheres. With global warming upon us, the time is now for a closer look. Can what we do in our cultural and personal atmospheres change what happens in Earth’s atmosphere?    

  • Print Edition 28

    Issue 28 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Story and Language. It includes contributions from journalist M.R. O’Connor, neuroscientist Robert Burton, award-winning fiction author Ted Chiang, and linguist David Adger, among others. This issue also features new illustrations by K. Cantner.   

  • Print Edition 27

    Issue 27 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Quandary, Play, and Networks. It includes contributions from neuroscientist Grigori Guitchounts, anthropologist Barclay Bram, and award-winning science writer George Musser. This issue also features original art by K. Cantner.   

  • Print Edition 26

    Issue 26 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Context, Patterns, Variable, and Flow. This issue includes contributions from journalist Moises Velasquez-Manoff, environmental journalist Heather Hansman, evolutionary biologist David P. Barash, and mathematician John Baez.  

  • Underworlds

    Science is a journey into the unseen, the hidden, the unknown. It’s a journey into the human brain to uncover the neural connections that guide our behavior in the dark, outside the light of conscious awareness. Seismic forces, slowly shifting tectonic plates, the earth remaking itself, are happening beneath our feet, and we above want […]

  • Language

    We look at how language elevates our spirits and lets them down. We delve into its origins in our animal ancestors and show that while language may distinguish us from our animals, it also links us to them. Language, we show, shapes our thoughts, but also frees them.   

  • Print Edition 25

    Issue 25 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Connections, Systems, Horizons, The Unseen, In Plain Sight, Clockwork, and Reboot. This issue includes contributions by: journalist Justin Nobel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Powers, cognitive neuroscientist Heather Berlin, and microbial ecologist Miranda Hart.

  • Story

    This month we look at the innate nature of storytelling and why AI will need to learn how to tell stories. But that’s not all: This issue is also about the beautiful power of stories themselves.   

  • Networks

    That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind. Yes, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Arpanet, a network that linked four computer nodes in 1969, the prototype of today’s Internet, a giant leap for humankind. (That moon landing was pretty significant, too.)     

  • Play

    Nature loves to play. And play is the thing throughout this issue. Indre Viskontas takes us inside the concert hall to explain how musical ensemble tap into brain wells of creativity and empathy that can’t be reached by going it alone. We also look at a dark side of play. Barclay Bram shares his everyday […]

  • Quandary

    This month’s theme, “Quandary,” features articles that rebalance the fear that science is out of control, that playing God has set humanity on an inexorable path of destruction. This issue presents new essays, articles, and interviews that crack open quandaries in manifold fields of science.    

  • Flow

    Engineers tell us flow describes how fluids or gases behave in relationship to their environment. Flow can be smooth or turbulent. But when it’s turbulent, scientists are baffled about what in the world’s going on. Then again, flow can be a transcendent feeling. It can lift you out of time, make you feel one with […]

  • Variables

    Controlling variables in search of a hypothetical result is one of the most important methods in science. But the concept of variables is not limited to methodology. A variable is a reminder that a shift in perception can spring us from cliché and deepen our knowledge and understanding.     

  • Patterns

    There is something beguiling about the possibility that the letters making up our DNA are also used somewhere far away. On the other hand, the lack of any such message may make the stronger point, telling us that the meaning we’re looking for is scattered across a much broader canvas, and ours to discover.    

  • Context

    Among its many peculiarities, the human brain has a habit of not responding in the same way to identical inputs. This may be due to the fact that our eyes and ears are noisy instruments, or because signals move in a stochastic fashion from neuron to neuron. It may also simply be a matter of […]

  • Reboot

    Behind the scenes, our world is constantly rebooting. Rebooting is not just frequent, it is structured and varied. We are engineering this kind of granularity not just into computers, but also ourselves.      

  • Clockwork

    The natural world is more relative and fluid than we’d imagined, and our human world is run through with its own mechanisms, many of them our own creation. Physicists talk of many landscapes of physical laws and universes, and our most human characteristics are echoed and copied by both nature and technology.    

  • In Plain Sight

    Cognitive distortions like selective attention are how we keep ourselves happy. As we age, we increasingly focus on happy memories, and place more emphasis on emotional regulation than on information accuracy.     

  • The Unseen

    For something like 5,000 years, astronomy was the analysis of starlight. In the mid 20th century, cosmic rays were added to the mix, and then neutrinos. Two years ago came gravitational waves. Science advances, not just by seeing better, but by inventing whole new categories of seeing.   

  • Horizons

    For sheer color, you can’t do much better than a black hole event horizon. It swallows everything without a trace, but it also evaporates. It may contain a wall of fire created by disentangling virtual particles. Unless it’s a fuzzball made of fundamental strings, in which case it has “hair” instead of a firewall.   

  • Systems

    Systems can surprise us. Out of neurons comes consciousness. Out of cars, traffic jams. Just as interesting as these emergent properties, but less discussed, are submergent properties, in which the causal arrow points down rather than up. The group changes the individual.    

  • Print Edition 24

    Issue 24 of the Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Perspective, Communities, and Self. This issue includes contributions by: archaeologist and medieval historian Alexander Langlands, Japanese artist Hideki Nakazawa, and psychology professor David P. Barash. This issue also features original artwork from Guilio Bonasera, Daniel Greenfeld, and more.

  • Coordinates

    The more we learn about coordinates, the more we understand their tendency to melt into each other. Far-flung bits of space can get entangled. At the tiniest scales, space and time dissolve into a complex foam. In the brain, grid cells that mark our location in space also help us demarcate time.

  • Searches

    Searching has a cost. It takes time and energy, and distracts us from other opportunities. It is also a quickly growing part of modern life.      

  • Connections

    Connection has an exponential, multiplicative power to create complexity. It’s where the meat of the hardest problems—like consciousness—lies. It can also make problems harder than they first seem to be.   

  • Nov./Dec. 2017

    The November/December 2017 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on The Unspoken and Trust. This issue includes contributions by: linguist Julie Sedivy, neuroscience professor and author Stuart Firestein, and anthropologist Dorsa Amir. This issue also features original artwork from Michela Buttignol, Rebecca Mock, and more. 

  • Self

    What interesting stories are out there that involve the self but do not involve people? Complex systems seem to resist the privileged perspective necessary to define a “self.” If nature preaches a deep relativism, is our attachment to the idea of self a human foible?  

  • Communities

    While we sequence the genetic codes that make our cells unique, we build giant cities that look like cells from space. While we take on more personal responsibility, we divine the outlines of what can only be accomplished through groups. We build new kinds of individuality together with the networks that support them.   

  • Perspective

    The importance of perspective in science cannot be understated and yet often is. From the outside, science can seem like a common noun, a smooth and untextured monolith containing the Truth. But science is a method and not a body of knowledge, and it is practiced by fallible humans.   

  • Trust

    Trust appears to be in decline. Trust in government around the world is on the ebb, and is at historic lows in the U.S. We’re awash in stories of abuse of trust by leaders from all walks of life. The institution of science has a special role to play in the trust wars. Feynman told us, […]

  • The Unspoken

    The philosophers knew it first. “Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together,” wrote Thomas Carlyle in 1831. Since then, science has redefined the word.    

  • Monsters

    Do monsters have an expiry date? They’re not just dangerous, after all, or evil, or frightening. They challenge our categories. They are perversions of the natural order.     

  • Sept/Oct 2017

    The September/October 2017 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on The Hive and Monsters, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: bestselling author and MIT professor Max Tegmark, tropical ecologist Mark Moffett, and journalist Regan Penaluna. In addition, this issue features original artwork […]

  • The Hive

    We like to make the hive personal. While we undermine the hive in stories, we build ever-better versions of it in reality. As our neighborhoods grow denser, public conversations move to social media, and blockchain decentralizes authority, we move closer to discovering whether the personal hive is really a contradiction in term.     

  • Limits

    There are the limits that are formally unbeatable: things like the speed of light and quantum indeterminacy. They’re interesting because they describe an unexpected border between the philosophical and technological. And because we are still trying to beat them.     

  • Emergence

    At each level of complexity in nature, “entirely new properties appear,” wrote Nobel Laureate Philip Anderson in 1972. In other words, we should expect new scientific foundations to emerge from complex systems.     

  • July/August 2017

    The July/August 2017 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Emergence and Limits, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: theoretical physicist Geoffrey West, distinguished psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett, and author Jonathan Waldman. In addition, this issue features original artwork from Wenjia Tang, Kati Szilagyi, […]

  • May/June 2017

    The May/June 2017 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Chaos and The Absurd, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: neuroendocrinologist and author Robert Sapolsky; award-winning physics writer Amanda Gefter; and comic artists Steven Nadler and Ben Nadler. In addition, this issue features original […]

  • March/April 2017

    The March/April 2017 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Balance and Consciousness, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: Prominent physicist Lawrence Krauss, writer Samantha Larson, who at 18 became the youngest person to climb the highest mountain on each continent, award-winning author Philip Ball, […]

  • The Absurd

    The absurd has a way of crystallizing our thinking. Satire spurs social change. Extreme coincidences in the fundamental constants of physics challenge us to reconsider our metaphysics. We got where we are with the help of the absurd. Without it, life would be strange indeed.   

  • Consciousness

    Consciousness is a hard problem because it is emergent, mixes software and hardware, and is dizzyingly self-referential. It’s harder still because, in a sense, it impossible to study directly.   

  • Chaos

    At the borders between chaos and order are seeds for new insights into information, war, physiology, and physics. Structure is not just visible—it’s created, transformed, and destroyed.   

  • Space Colonization and the Meaning of Life

    Colonizing the galaxy is the highest good humanity could achieve.

  • The Surprising Importance of Stratospheric Life

    The science of bacteria in the atmosphere is getting its moment in the sun.

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    Why Hasn’t Natural Selection Eliminated Heritable Disease?

    John Charles Martin “Johnny” Nash was a teen when he first started hearing a voice in his head. A born-again Christian, he interpreted this voice as God speaking to him. Once, he walked into the middle of a busy highway because the voice said he should. He was an accomplished chess player and math whiz, […]

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    How Climate Change Makes Social Learning Among Animals More Important

    Put yourself in the mind of a killer whale. Let’s say you’re the little guy in the picture below. So far, you’ve lived off of a diet of only marine mammals: seals, sea lions, porpoises, even otters on occasion. Your family has taught you how to hunt these animals. You spend hours swimming alongside your […]

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    7 DIY Treatments to Avoid the Doctor

    A South American legend has it that, centuries ago, a native, suffering from high malarial fever, got lost in the Andes. Thirsty, he drank from a pool of stagnant water. The bitter taste prompted a ghastly realization: The surrounding cinchona trees, whose bark was thought to be poisonous, must have contaminated the water. He thought […]

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    Leesa Mattresses Will Help You Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

    Buyer’s remorse. It’s that sickening feeling you get when you come home from the store, unwrap your purchase, and start thinking about should-haves and could-haves. A 2014 Psychology and Marketing review identifies some of the reasons that spur this most uncomfortable of consumer emotions: getting new information after purchase, for example, or using the product […]

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    The Social Physics of Trump’s Shock Tactics

    Even as some describe his campaign as being in “melt-down mode,” political scientists and pundits are still searching for ways to explain the “Trump phenomenon.”1 They attribute his success in the Republican primaries to a host of factors, from the American public’s frustration with establishment politics to their belief that he can provide national and […]

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    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 […]

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    Feel Different: Breaking Your Cell Phone’s Hold

    Unreliable rewards trap us into addictive cell phone use, but they can also get us out.

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    The Real Reason You’re Voting for Clinton or Trump

    The Lebanese-Canadian professor of marketing Gad Saad (both sound like “sad”) can readily defend evolutionary psychology against the charge that it’s a convenient, “just-so story.” (Before diving in, he said, “Forgive me, it’s going to be a bit long-winded, because your question is an important one.”) He founded and developed the field of “evolutionary consumption” […]

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    Look Through This Microscope and Tell Us What You See

    As you look closer and closer at the world, you find more and more levels of organization. And at many of those steps, the view is fantastic. From butterfly wings to snowflakes, zooming in on the world around us can reveal incredible symmetries and patterns, and sometimes pure chaos. Seen at a microscopic level, things […]

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    Why Freshwater Fish Are Awesome

    Think of your favorite animal. Perhaps Harry Potter’s snowy owl comes to mind.  Or, maybe the lion, king of the jungle? If we were to take our thought experiment under water, you might think of the massive whale shark, or the majestic sea turtle. Perhaps not. But I bet I can guess what wouldn’t come […]

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    What Do Women Want in a Political Career?

    On New Year’s Day, perhaps as a way to celebrate, the National Women’s Political Caucus endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. The NWPC, based in Washington, D.C., is a grassroots organization aiming to increase the presence of women in politics—well under one quarter of our nation’s politicians are women. Paula Willmarth, the NWPC’s Vice President of […]

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    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, […]

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    Bacteria Are Masters of Tai Chi

    The remarkable science that helped me understand what it means to be a physicist.

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    The Surprising Importance of Stratospheric Life

    The science of bacteria in the atmosphere is getting its moment in the sun.

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    Physics Makes Aging Inevitable—A Response to Comments

    When I published Life’s Ratchet four years ago, I was focused on how life can create and sustain highly ordered systems in the presence of the surrounding molecular chaos—how molecular ratchets, in other words, “extract order from chaos.” To my surprise, the book generated great interest in the area of aging research. Aging, says Ed […]

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    Are We in the Anthropocene Yet?

    In the early 1990s, a few miles west of El Kef, a town in Tunisia, geologists set a small golden spike in between two layers of clay that remains there to this day. They wanted to mark the tiny yet striking layer of iridium—a hard, dense, silvery-white metal—sandwiched in the middle. It was deposited by […]

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    The Real Secret of Youth Is Complexity

    Our physiological processes become increasingly simple as we age.

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    Spark of Science: Robbert Dijkgraaf

    The director of the Institute for Advanced Study on the wonders of his childhood attic.

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    Retiring Retirement

    A growing portion of the elderly look and act anything but.

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    The Strange Blissfulness of Storms

    Is there a biochemical reason that extreme weather makes us happy?

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    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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    Learning Chess at 40

    What I learned trying to keep up with my 4-year-old daughter at the royal game.

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    How to Survive Doomsday

    The high technology that could help us live through the sun’s inevitable transformation.

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    Why Is Hawaii Evolving So Many Species of This Wingless Beetle?

    Two Mecyclothorax beetles abandon their relatives on the forest floor to climb up a tree. They settle into a moss home, eat, mate, and die. A couple hundred years or so pass until one of the original beetles’ offspring walks back down. But all the close relatives it once had there are already gone. There’s […]

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    Epilepsy Patients Are Helping Us Read Minds

    Irvin Yalom, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, dreamt about peering into minds. “A series of distorting prisms block the knowing of the other,” he wrote in Love’s Executioner: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy, in 2012. “Perhaps in some millennium, such union will come to pass—the ultimate antidote for isolation, the ultimate scourge […]

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    Why It’s Hard to Recognize the Unlikely

    Whenever I fly, I like to talk to the person sitting next to me. Once in a while, I find that we know at least one person in common. If you are like me, perhaps coincidences such as this happen in your life as well. The most unusual coincidence in my life took place when […]

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    Being (Almost) Eaten Alive Can Make You a Diehard Environmentalist

    In his Oscar acceptance speech, Leonardo DiCaprio said, “Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world.” Perhaps the film’s most gripping illustration of this was when a grizzly bear nearly mauls DiCaprio’s character, an American fur trapper, to death. To be eaten by a predator, after all, may be the most apt […]

  • emissions_HERO

    Here’s How Industrial Emitters Can Pinpoint Their Carbon Footprint

    Given how hazardous greenhouse gases (GHGs) are to our atmosphere and climate, it is perplexing to find hardly anyone talking about how those gases are measured. Even among those who do, you seldom spot anyone who mentions—amid the small fonts and tables, graphs, and charts—how data is collected in the field. Why? Because the tools […]

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    The Loophole in the Hedonic Treadmill

    When Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, in The House of the Dead, that “Man is a creature that can get accustomed to anything,” he was talking about the cruelties and deprivations of life in Siberian prison camp. But the human tendency to adapt or “get accustomed” to situations is more profound than even Dostoyevsky may have realized. […]

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    This College Student Is Writing Women Back into the History of Science

    Emily Temple-Wood has written approximately one Wikipedia article every ten days since she was 12 years old, totaling around 330. The work of the 21-year-old undergraduate, studying molecular biology at Loyola University of Chicago, unabashedly exposes sexism—and in the process, has exposed her to some of it. Temple-Wood’s output has made her the target of […]

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    How Birds Spot a Fraud and Choose the Right Gender for a Mate

    Humans have marvelous powers of recognition. No one’s surprised when parents identify their child in a crowd by a glimpse of her face or echo of her voice. But we aren’t unique in this regard. Other creatures have evolved impressive powers of discrimination. Take birds. “Their recognition system is really quite remarkable,” says Mark Hauber, […]

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    Are You More Likely to Be a Baker If You’re Named “Baker”?

    You may like to imagine that your major life choices—where you live, who you marry, what you do for a living—are based on rational weighing of options. In your relationships, for example, you might seek someone that jives with your personality and shares your life interests, beliefs, and Netflix preferences. So the fact that you […]

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    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 […]

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    Why Do Taxonomists Write the Meanest Obituaries?

    The open nature of the science of classification virtually guarantees fights.

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    Why Do Taxonomists Write the Meanest Obituaries?

    The open nature of the science of classification virtually guarantees fights.

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    Your Roommate Is Changing Your Immune System

    Our veins are swimming with immune cells of many different kinds. Some bear the memory of previous infections, in case we should encounter them again; some are actively fighting invaders; others are merely on the look-out. Counting all of the varieties of cells and what molecules they are producing gives researchers a profile of someone’s […]

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    Spark of Science: Sean B. Carroll

    One biologist’s love for science got kickstarted by snakes.

  • Laughlin_HERO_F

    Can a Living Creature Be as Big as a Galaxy?

    Why life is constrained to be about the sizes we see on Earth.

  • Bikle_Montgomery_HERO

    Junk Food Is Bad For Plants, Too

    How a steady diet of fertilizers has turned crops into couch potatoes.

  • rocking chair dude

    Your Happiness Is Like a Rocking Chair

    Imagine that, for once just for kicks, you decided to play the lottery and, not long after, you saw that the winning numbers were yours. You’re now millions of dollars richer. Do you think you’d be happier? Most of us think so. Now imagine that, instead of winning the lottery, you got into an accident […]

  • gowanus

    In the “Black Mayonnaise” of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, Alien Life Is Being Born

    On a late fall morning, Joseph Alexiou fastened his life jacket and stepped into an eight-foot fiberglass boat floating on the Gowanus Canal. A licensed New York City tour guide, and an amateur historian, Alexiou was preparing to take a passenger on an unsanctioned tour of the waterway he’d spent three years researching for his […]

  • face transplant

    How to Adapt to Your Face Transplant

    Just last month, Carmen Blandin had a remarkable dream. In it she saw, for the first time, not her old face in the mirror—the one she had for the first 38 years of her life—but the new face she received in a transplant three years ago. “I actually saw me with my new face,” she […]

  • mouth mountain

    How a Country’s Land Shapes Its Language

    To Hawaiian speakers, vowels reign supreme. Only eight consonants exist in the language’s 13-letter alphabet, so most of its meaning is derived from oohs and aahs, ohs and eehs. One might say Hawaiian sounds a lot like the sea that surrounds it; the bulk of its words are simple and spare, flowing smoothly from vowel […]

  • neil tyson HERO

    Annotations on a Tweet-Storm Directed More-or-Less Toward Neil deGrasse Tyson

    On Saturday afternoon, while I really should have been working on other things, this happened: What’s going on here? It might be obvious if you have a background in biology, but there’s a lot of context, and science, behind that tweet. It all started last Friday, when astrophysicist and popular science personality Neil deGrasse Tyson […]

  • Zorich_FSR_BR

    Can Life Ever Be Perfectly Adapted to Its Environment?

    Can an organism ever become perfectly evolved? In Richard Lenski’s lab at Michigan State University, scientists are trying to see if that’s possible. The idea grew out of the lab’s Long-Term Evolution Experiment, started in 1988, with Escherichia coli; in 2010, they celebrated 50,000 generations (500 occur every 75 days). The lab has 12 populations […]

  • brain_play

    Your Brain’s Music Circuit Has Been Discovered

    Before Josh McDermott was a neuroscientist, he was a club DJ in Boston and Minneapolis. He saw first-hand how music could unite people in sound, rhythm, and emotion. “One of the reasons it was so fun to DJ is that, by playing different pieces of music, you can transform the vibe in a roomful of […]

  • crow head

    Why Neuroscientists Need to Study the Crow

    The animals of neuroscience research are an eclectic bunch, and for good reason. Different model organisms—like zebra fish larvae, C. elegans worms, fruit flies, and mice—give researchers the opportunity to answer specific questions. The first two, for example, have transparent bodies, which let scientists easily peer into their brains; the last two have eminently tweakable […]

  • octopus HERO

    What It Feels Like to Be an Octopus

    On a recent Sunday, at my local Italian market, I considered the octopus. To eat the tentacle would be, in a way, like eating a brain—the eight arms of an octopus contain two-thirds of its half billion neurons. Delicious for some, yes—but for others, a jumping off point for the philosophical question of other minds. […]

  • mosquito on arm

    Could We See the End of Malaria?

    The Nobel laureate Baruch Blumberg once estimated that malaria has killed half of the people who have ever lived. In 2015 alone, it killed almost half a million people, 70 percent of which were children. Today, about 3.2 billion people are, according to the World Health Organization, at risk of contracting it, most of whom […]

  • holding sea snail

    Does Singing to Sea Snails Really Draw Them Out?

    As a child in Maine, I spent a lot of time exploring the tide pools jutting out from Rice Point, the beach where my extended family hosted noisy lobster picnics. Every so often I would unstick a periwinkle (Littorina littorea), a common kind of sea snail, from a rock, let it tumble into my palm, […]

  • loving noses

    If You Can’t Smell Him, Can You Love Him?

    What are the ingredients of a good relationship? Trust? Communication? Compromise? How about a sense of smell? When researchers in the United Kingdom surveyed almost 500 people with anosmia (the loss of sense of smell), more than 50 percent of them reported feeling isolated, and blamed their relationship troubles on their affliction. “I worry I […]

  • quentin wheeler

    Meet the World’s Most Notorious Taxonomist

      In 2005, the taxonomist Quentin Wheeler named a trio of newly discovered slime-mold beetles after George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney. He believed the names could increase public interest in the discovery and classification of new species, and help combat the quickening pace of extinction. (Species go extinct three times faster than […]

  • elsa and albert einstein

    Love Can Make You Smarter

      Love is supposed to make you stupid. We’re used to seeing the lover as a mooning fool, blind to his lover’s faults and the goings-on of the outside world, or even as a person who has lost all sense of rationality or propriety, driven to a kind of madness. There’s science to back this […]

  • foam search

    This Is How to Check Whether Spacetime Is Foamy

    In 1944, John Wheeler received a haunting postcard. It was from his younger brother, Joe, who had written only two words: “Hurry up.” Wheeler was involved with the United States’ atomic weapons effort, and Joe wanted him to finish the bomb so he could come home from fighting in Italy. But by the time Hiroshima […]

  • couple texting

    Why You Shouldn’t Swipe Left Too Quickly

      When Eric Klinenberg, an NYU sociologist, was waiting at Penn Station with an armful of groceries, he got a call from a publisher at Penguin. “Hey,” said the publisher, “I have a random question for you: Have you ever heard of a comedian named Aziz Ansari?” “I was like, Yea,” said Klinenberg, “Aziz Ansari […]

  • Pavlus_HERO-F.

    Spark of Science: Childhood Discovery

    Kirk Johnson’s mom gave him 5 minutes at a rest stop. It was enough to find an arrowhead.

  • Grossman_HERO

    Why Our Intuition About Sea-Level Rise Is Wrong

    A geologist explains that climate change is not just about a global average sea rise.

  • altruism

    Would the World Be Better If Everyone Were a Do-Gooder?

    The do-gooder, MacFarquhar says, “puts the rest of us in a worse position, makes us feel guilty and irritated for the implicit criticism of the way we’re living our lives.” Wikicommons You’re taking a walk and you pass a shallow pond, where you find a drowning child. You would not harm yourself if you saved […]

  • nasa balloon

    5 Ways NASA Enabled Today’s Super Bowl

    The shiny silver cloaks athletes now don to keep warm on the sidelines are actually aluminized mylar, which NASA’s Echo I, the agency’s first communications satellite, sported.NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Getting us into space is NASA’s raison d’etre. But the agency’s innovations don’t always stay inside NASA. They have a tendency to affect fields like […]

  • Keim-HERO

    What Pigeons Teach Us About Love

    The sweet, avian romance of Harold and Maude.

  • twin tower beams

    This Is Why Americans Are Irrationally Anxious About Terrorism

    On September 11, 2001 I was living and teaching in Providence, Rhode Island, a town that is on the short flight path between Boston, where terrorists boarded two passenger airliners, and New York, where these planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. In the following days, the whole campus seemed […]

  • Fisher_HERO-2

    Love Is Like Cocaine

    From ecstasy to withdrawal, the lover resembles an addict.

  • Titan Saturn System Mission hero

    Here’s What We’ll Do in Space by 2116

    In a mere 60 years, we of Earth have gone from launching our first spacecraft, to exploring every planet and major moon in our solar system, to establishing an international, long-lived fleet of robotic spacecraft at the Moon and Mars. What will we do in the next 100 years? With such rapid expansion of capability, […]

  • infinite clock

    Why Our Universe Doesn’t Have a Birthday

      The main elements of the Big Bang model are “easily listed,” says Jim Peebles, the Albert Einstein Professor Emeritus of Science at Princeton. The model holds that the large-scale structure of the cosmos is expanding faster and faster and that, on average, the universe looks close to the same no matter where you look. […]

  • pythagoreans

    How a Mathematical Superstition Stultified Algebra for Over a Thousand Years

    Hooked on numbers: Pythagoreans celebrate sunrise (1869), a painting by Fyodor Bronnikov (1827–1902).Wikicommons Like most people, my high-school training in mathematics involved next-to-no history, barely touching on the names of a few mathematicians, like Pythagoras, and their theorems. I graduated only vaguely aware that geometry came from ancient Greece and algebra came from the Babylonians. […]

  • 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 […]

  • Space_HERO

    Space


  • bowheadwhale

    The Oldest, Coldest Mammals May Be Some of the Best Prepared for Climate Change

    Tim Melling/Getty Images The Arctic they grew up in is unrecognizable, but bowhead whales are oddly calm. They appear to be unexpectedly benefitting from the warmer, less icy climate that has emerged over the past decade. Last month, it was announced that the Arctic in 2015 reached the warmest temperatures ever observed, and that it is warming twice as […]

  • spacesuit on sMars

    Stress on Simulated Mars Was Not What I Expected

    Welcome to sMars: Christiane Heinicke stands on a hillside southwest of the dome. The solar array that powers the habitat is to her right. To her left are the backup hydrogen fuel cells and the solar water heater.Photograph by Christiane Heinicke/Sheyna Gifford, 2015 For 6 crewmembers who have supposedly traveled 150 million miles—and were, beforehand, […]

  • walking dead

    Here’s Where “The Walking Dead” Goes Wrong With Zombies

    Bill Clark/Getty Images 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 […]

  • 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.

  • Santa Claus lotus position

    Is Santa Claus a God?

    InnervisionArt via Flickr Santa Claus occupies a strange place in Christian belief. On the one hand, only children seem to really believe he exists; on the other, he gets a great deal more attention than many other purported supernatural beings, such as angels or Satan.  Does Santa Claus count as a god of the Christian […]

  • bullbear

    A Real-Life Trader Talks About “The Big Short”

    After watching The Big Short, I felt I had a decent grasp on the causes of the 2008 financial crisis. The film, which is being released across the United States today, is based on the book by Michael Lewis, and describes how a few prescient financiers bet against the debt bubble and made millions. Still, […]

  • Van Turkey frozen falls

    Don’t Believe the Hype: Winter Does Not Begin Tonight

    Tonight, at 11:48 PM Eastern Time, is the moment of the winter solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is pointed as far away from the sun as it ever gets. It will be the longest night of the year, and tomorrow will be the day with the fewest hours of sunlight. As most people know, this […]

  • morestress

    Do You Actually Need More Stress?

    PathDoc/Shutterstock There’s a New Yorker cartoon that shows a doctor telling the patient lying in bed, “I don’t think you’re getting enough stress.” The cartoon is funny because it plays on the idea that stress is bad—how absurd is it that a doctor would prescribe more of it? Why not just offer the patient poison? […]

  • public speaking hero

    Your Speech Is Packed With Misunderstood, Unconscious Messages

    Imagine standing up to give a speech in front of a critical audience. As you do your best to wax eloquent, someone in the room uses a clicker to conspicuously count your every stumble, hesitation, um and uh; once you’ve finished, this person loudly announces how many of these blemishes have marred your presentation. This […]

  • Curry_HERO-F.

    Why Living in a Poor Neighborhood Can Change Your Biology

    The sheer stress of an environment contributes to obesity and diabetes.

  •  Newland_HERO

    When Plants Go to War

    In the fight against insects, plants have evolved an arsenal of ingenious chemical defenses.

  • Wood_HERO

    The Volcano That Shrouded the Earth and Gave Birth to a Monster

    Three years of darkness and cold spawned crime, poverty, and a literary masterpiece.

  • Wood_HERO

    The Volcano That Shrouded the Earth and Gave Birth to a Monster

    Three years of darkness and cold spawned crime, poverty, and a literary masterpiece.

  • Henderson_HERO.

    What I Learned from Losing $200 Million

    The 2008 financial crisis taught me about the illusion of control, and how to give it up.

  • japanstorm

    Is Japanese Culture Traumatized By Centuries of Natural Disaster?

    “Nichiren Calming the Storm,” a 19th century painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.Hulton Fine Art Collection/Getty Images Ayumi Endo remembers the 2011 earthquake and tsunami with exquisite detail. She ran downstairs to screaming coworkers. The phones in Tokyo had stopped working, and the trains outside stopped running. To kill time, she went to a pub, and saw […]

  • birdcity

    Rising Skyscrapers Are Sentencing Hundreds of Millions of Birds to Death a Year

    Siegfried Layda/Getty Images On a chilly day in Toronto, Michael Mesure, executive director of a local bird conservation group, leads me up several flights of stairs in City Hall. We walk down a hallway and there stands a large, white chest—a freezer—with a lid straining to close against its contents. Mesure removes a heavy Rubbermaid […]

  • indiawetricefield

    I Went to India and Saw the Future of Climate-Smart Farming

    Damara Dhanakrishna/EyeEm Earlier this fall, I traveled to central Gujarat and northern Punjab, in India, to meet with rural farmers who were trying new techniques to combat climate change. Sitting under a mango tree, I spoke with 65-year-old Raman Bhai Parmar, who told me about his solar-powered irrigation pump that was whooshing with water, deep […]

  • 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, […]

  • HHMI_video_HERO-4

    What Alzheimer’s Feels Like from the Inside

    An investigative reporter chronicles the progression of his own disease.

  • 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 […]

  • bearcloseup

    Conservationists Are Learning How To Use a Pretty Face

    This August, German photographer Kerstin Langenberger posted a photo to Facebook of a frail polar bear, evidently starved, adrift among the disappearing ice. In the photo’s caption, she blamed global warming for the bear’s malnutrition and for the death of many others she’d seen. Articles featuring Langenberger’s commentary and photo followed soon after, with headlines […]

  • survivor

    Why Is “Survivor” Still on Television?

      Exactly four months and 31 days into what was, at that time, still being called “The New Millennium,” CBS aired the first-ever episode of Survivor. Bill Clinton was still in office, the NASDAQ Composite Index had just peaked at 5,048, and the twin towers still stood in New York City. Since then America has […]

  • blackfriday

    How Black Friday Got Its Name

    Shutterstock/PremiumVector As legend has it, it takes most of the year for a retail business to become profitable. After months of being “in the red,” in November they are finally “in the black.” This phrase has been used in this way since 1922. But why black? Darkness, and the color black, is typically associated with […]

  • young workers

    Here’s Why Millennials Really Aren’t That Different

    Shutterstock/Rawpixel.com By the year 2020 five separate generations will occupy the workplace: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen 2020. In just five years, the newest person hired at a company could be working right next to her great grandfather. This half-century age gap is unprecedented. And with Millennials now the biggest proportion of […]

  • Pincott_HERO

    When Stress Comes with Your Mother’s Milk

    Stress hormones in breast milk may help prepare us for a turbulent world.

  • Pincott_HERO

    When Stress Comes with Your Mother’s Milk

    Stress hormones in breast milk may help prepare us for a turbulent world.

  • placeholder

    How Our Words Affect Our Thoughts on Race and Gender

    Can a person who is biologically male really be female? What about someone who is born white but doesn’t feel that way—can she become black? Intelligent adults can disagree passionately on these questions of identity, as evident in the back-and-forth discussion over the recent cases of Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender woman, and Rachel Dolezal, a […]

  • Francis_HERO_still

    The Inside of a Neutron Star Looks Spookily Familiar

    Exotic ultra-compressed matter can look like pasta, among other things.

  • agn

    This Is Why It’s Hard to Recognize a Black Hole

    Black Beauty: The supermassive black hole at the center of this galaxy, around 11 million light years away toward the constellation Centaurus, is currently classified as a quasar. It is roughly 55 million times more massive than our Sun. Its collimated jets, in blue, surpass the diameter of the entire galaxy, extending up to 13,000 […]

  • brooding man

    Can a Wandering Mind Make You Neurotic?

    I have two children, and they are a study in contrasts: My son works at a gym designing and building rock-climbing walls; In his spare time, he climbs them. My daughter is a Ph.D. student in immunology; In her spare time, she writes novels. My son is the sort of person you want around in […]

  • Piore_HErO

    Why We’re Patriotic

    Whether it’s our country or our football team, we need to belong.

  • Berger_salmon-HERO-4

    Is Farmed Salmon Really Salmon?

    The staple fish is having an identity crisis.

  • nixon

    How Chemistry Is Rescuing Our Audio History from Melting

    Our cultural history is crumbling. Not because of bad education—though one might make that argument—but because of chemistry. Between the late 60s and the late 80s, much of our culture—from the Nixon trials on television to unreleased music from famous artists like the Beatles—was recorded on magnetic tape, and this tape is starting to disintegrate. […]

  • 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.

  • Brodner_HERO-3

    Blowing Off the Grid

    Samsø runs on renewable energy—and makes money doing it.

  • placeholder

    These Animals Use Personal Names, But Never Gossip

    Four-year old Simon is lost. His mother was in front of him just a moment ago, standing right there next to the grocery-store pyramid of apples, but now she’s gone. He looks past the lemons, the pears, the bananas, but still can’t see her. “Mom?” he cries, hoping she’ll come to his rescue. “Mom? Mom!” […]

  • arraysidelong

    This Floating Contraption Could Scoop Out Absurd Amounts of Ocean Plastic

    A 21-year-old named Boyan Slat says he can solve one of the greatest ecological disasters of our age: the build-up of vast amounts of plastic in our oceans. The young Dutchman, often photographed in a t-shirt and shorts, says he’s designed a structure that will harvest and recycle much of that waste. Made from a […]

  • 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 […]

  • Gelfand_HERO-tat

    Drums, Lies, and Audiotape

    When I was invited to drum in Ghana, I gladly accepted. Then something went wrong.

  • Ouellette_HERO

    What’s Your Story?

    The psychological power of narrative.

  • youngfrank

    How Bioprinting Has Turned Frankenstein’s Mad Science Sane

    In the United States alone more than 120,000 people are waiting for organ transplants, and many will die before their turns come. What if they didn’t have to wait, because doctors could print out replacement organs on demand? That’s the ultimate goal of bioprinting, a seemingly sci-fi spinoff of the burgeoning industry of 3D printers. […]

  • Firestein_HERO

    Why Scientists Need To Fail Better

    The rush for success is driving science into a corner, apart from wider culture.

  • Sedivy_HERO

    The Strange Persistence of First Languages

    After my father died, my journey of rediscovery began with the Czech language.

  • handgrave

    Here’s How to Make Climate Change Extra Scary

    Thirty thousand years ago, a woolly mammoth in Siberia shed a giant virus. It soon became encased in ice and, for tens of thousands of years, the virus slept. As global temperatures warm and the permafrost begins to melt, the virus stirs. It is sucked into the nostril of a researcher where it injects its […]

  • placeholder

    Here’s Why Most Neuroscientists Are Wrong About the Brain

    Most neuroscientists believe that the brain learns by rewiring itself—by changing the strength of connections between brain cells, or neurons. But experimental results published last year, from a lab at Lund University in Sweden, hint that we need to change our approach. They suggest the brain learns in a way more analogous to that of […]

  • placeholder

    Why Uber Has To Start Using Self-Driving Cars

    In the span of nearly 5 years, Uber has gone from a limited launch in San Francisco to offering rides in more than 300 cities worldwide. In China alone, despite existing in a legal gray zone, the company claims it arranges 1 million rides per day. That means 35 Chinese people hop into an Uber […]

  • placeholder

    The World’s Most Inspirational Iceberg Is a Fake

    What do the Volkswagen diesel scandal and the European migrant crisis have in common? They’ve both been referred to as the “tip of the iceberg.” The popular expression reflects the fact that, as impressive as the visible portion of an iceberg is, the vast majority of it (usually about 90%) is underwater. Over the past […]

  • Rees_HERO

    Why Alien Life Will Be Robotic

    If life off Earth exists it has probably transitioned to machine intelligence.

  • Powell_HERO

    Will Quantum Mechanics Swallow Relativity?

    The contest between gravity and quantum physics takes a new turn.

  • Powell_HERO

    Will Quantum Mechanics Swallow Relativity?

    The contest between gravity and quantum physics takes a new turn.

  • Roberts-HERO4

    How to Build a Search Engine for Mathematics

    The surprising power of Neil Sloane’s Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences.

  • warrior

    Which Comes First, Big Cities or Big Gods?

    Warriors among the Kwara’ae, a collection of tribal communities indigenous to the Solomon Islands, sacrificed pigs before battle. The tradition granted the combatants, so the belief went, aid from heroic ancestral spirits—like the mighty A’orama, a fierce fighter in Kwara’ae folklore. For every man who prepared to shed blood, a hog met its end.1 Any […]

  • Lightman_HERO

    Is Life Special Just Because It’s Rare?

    Vitalism in the age of modern science.

  • Lightman_HERO

    Is Life Special Just Because It’s Rare?

    Vitalism in the age of modern science.

  • Hsu_HERO-4

    The Galaxy That Got Too Big

    From atoms to brains, bigger isn’t always better.

  • Cole_HERO-2

    Why You Didn’t See It Coming

    When scale confounds our perceptions, stories can clarify them.

  • Cole_HERO-2

    Why You Didn’t See It Coming

    When scale confounds our perceptions, stories can clarify them.

  • kilo

    Your Weight Is About to Be Redefined

    A physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology once said, “If somebody sneezed on [the] kilogram standard, all the weights in the world would be instantly wrong.” He was referring to a cylinder, sometimes called Le Grand K, which is housed in a vault in Paris and handled like a priceless gem. The […]

  • SpaceMice_hero

    Why the Russians Decapitated Major Tom

    The story of the genetically engineered mouse cosmonaut.

  • placeholder

    What to Do When Your Girlfriend Is 70 Times Bigger Than You

    Out in the clear waters near the Great Barrier Reef, a common blanket octopus male swim toward a female. This male need not worry about showing his brightest colors or engaging in a showy battle of strength in hopes of winning the female’s permission to approach. In fact it’s unclear if the female even notices […]

  • placeholder

    The Author of “The Martian” Explains How the Book Behind the Movie Came About

    The story of Andy Weir is a strange mix of fact and fiction. There’s the fairy tale success of his book, The Martian, which he self-published on his blog for free, intended for the few thousand fans he’d accumulated over years of hobby writing. Some of those fans wanted an electronic book version, which he made, […]

  • Musser_HERO-anim-loop

    The Case for Fewer Dimensions

    At small scales, gravity seems to blow up—but not if space becomes 1-D.

  • BALL_HERO_anim

    How Big Can Schrödinger’s Kittens Get?

    Scientists are slowly scaling up quantum effects from atomic to human size.

  • O'Dwyer_HERO

    The Hidden Power Laws of Ecosystems

    As nature scales, complexity gives way to universal law.

  • placeholder

    Has Science Realized This 350-Year-Old Alchemist Wish List?

    Robert Boyle, a founding member of the Royal Society, was part of an “invisible college” of natural philosophers and physicians who lived by the motto: “nullius in verba,” or, “nobody’s word for it.” This gang of 17th century intellectual rebels questioned the dominant views of the time and stuck by the principle that truth could […]

  • 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 […]

  • rosedale

    The Man Who Created Second Life Thinks We Can Make an Earth-Sized Virtual World

    Over 10 years ago, a digital experiment called Second Life launched, and excitement surged about the idea of interacting in online virtual worlds. Created by Linden Lab, a company founded by Philip Rosedale, the platform gained popularity as people swarmed to participate in a new form of social connection. But, Second Life’s period of rapid […]

  • Kucharski_HERO-1

    Will the Earth Ever Fill Up?

    We’ve predicted and broken human population limits for centuries.

  • Kucharski_HERO-1

    Will the Earth Ever Fill Up?

    We’ve predicted and broken human population limits for centuries.

  • Krauss-HERO-1

    The Trouble with Theories of Everything

    There is no known physics theory that is true at every scale—there may never be.

  • Taxis

    Are Museums the Perfect Climate Change Education Tool?

    When Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of the New York and New Jersey coastlines, in October 2012, the looming threat of climate change abruptly became personal for a large portion of the East Coast—specifically Miranda Massie, a former public-interest lawyer. Seeing her city wasted, she realized that there was nowhere for the public to assemble and […]

  • Keats_HERO-1

    Let’s Play War

    Could war games replace the real thing?

  • earthrise

    Climate Change Is the Moonshot of Our Times

    Consider this scenario: Suppose astronomers had tracked an asteroid, and calculated that it would hit the Earth in 2080, 65 years from now—not with certainty, but with, say, 10 percent probability. Would we relax, saying that this is a problem that can be set aside for 50 years, since people will by then be richer, […]

  • Nalls_HERO_1

    An Appetite for Innovation

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

  • Velasquez_HERO-2

    When Evolution Is Infectious

    How “probiotic epidemics” help wildlife—and us—survive.

  • Cameron_HERO

    Five Veteran Scientists Tell Us What Most Surprised Them

    Fifty years ago, who knew we’d learn to clone genes and find water on Mars?

  • Lauren_HERO

    The Genius of Learning

    MacArthur Fellow Danielle Bassett says learning works best when you don’t overthink it.

  • Lauren_HERO

    The Genius of Learning

    MacArthur Fellow Danielle Bassett says learning works best when you don’t overthink it.

  • lion

    How I Became a Crowd-Sourced Zoologist

    In the center of the photo, standing amid dry brush and trees, is something’s butt. I have 50-some animals to choose from, and I’m really not sure whose butt it is—maybe a duiker’s, a small, deer-like creature. “If you see an animal, please mark it,” the instructions say, “even if you’re not sure, or have […]

  • Puget Sound from Space Needle

    Why Narrating the Future May Be Better Than Trying to Predict It

    In 1972 the Club of Rome, an international think tank, commissioned four scientists to use computers to model the human future. The result was the infamous Limits to Growth that crashed into world culture like an asteroid from space. Collapse, calamity, and chaos were the media take-aways from the book, even though the authors tried hard to explain […]

  • hydrothermal vent

    We Are About to Start Mining Hydrothermal Vents on the Ocean Floor

    Forty years ago, scientists found alien life. Not on another planet, but on Earth, in the deep sea, in places where plumes of steam and nutrients heated by volcanic activity fed entire ecologies of creatures adapted to harness chemical energy rather than energy from the sun. The discovery redefined life’s biophysical possibilities, and scientists and […]

  • Carr_DOC_HERO-F

    How to Restart an Ecosystem

    Economics and conservation are converging to resurrect one of the planet’s greatest parks.

  • Savulescu_blog

    The Moral Argument for Doping in Sports

    To almost all sports fans, doping in sports is an issue of near-religious importance, says Julian Savulescu. According to the Australian bioethicist and moral philosopher, fans celebrate people of extraordinary physical ability who dedicate themselves to training to perform an athletic feat to perfection—but when they augment their abilities with drugs and enhancers, fans can […]

  • Sussman-HERO_1

    This Used To Be the Future

    A look inside NASA’s Ames Research Center.

  • Vanderbilt_HERO-anim

    Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot

    We predicted cell phones, but not women in the workplace.

  • Scott Aaronson

    What if Solving Math Problems Were as Easy as Checking Solutions?

    If you think computers have gotten really good at solving problems—like voice recognition, or self-driving cars—then your mind would be blown by what they could do if P = NP. Internet cryptography would come crashing down. Voice and image recognition would become near-perfect. Mathematical proofs would be greatly simplified. The stock market would dramatically change. […]

  • paywall_art

    A Letter To Our Readers

      Dear Nautilus reader, With your help, we’ve had an amazing first two years: Two National Magazine Awards, a Webby for best science website, and more than a dozen other awards. Nearly 10 million readers through our website. Print subscribers in 40+ countries. What a great start! But it’s just the beginning. There are many […]

  • 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 […]

  • Paulson_HERO_2

    The Philosopher Who Says We Should Play God

    Why ethical objections to interfering with nature are too late.

  • Sapolsky_HERO-F1

    Caitlyn Jenner and Our Cognitive Dissonance

    While biology shows us gender can be fluid, our brains struggle to see it that way.

  • Sapolsky_HERO-F1

    Caitlyn Jenner and Our Cognitive Dissonance

    While biology shows us gender can be fluid, our brains struggle to see it that way.

  • Yellowstone National Park

    The Supervolcano Under Yellowstone is Alive and Kicking

    The wind shifts. The stench of rotten eggs makes it nearly impossible to breathe and the hot fog clouds my view. I hold my breath and close my eyes, imagining the fog growing thicker, crushing me. Then without warning the wind clears and I’m enveloped once again in the cold, dry air. The heat feels […]

  • Dark room

    How Utter Darkness Could Heal Lazy Eye

    The email from a professor offered an unusual spring break adventure: Come spend five days in complete darkness. To Morgan Williams, then a sophomore at Swarthmore College and a psychology major, it sounded like a great way to spend his vacation week. “I’m not really one for going to the beach,” he says. For those […]

  • Snailfish

    This Legendary Deep-Sea Fish Sighting Continues to be Debated After 60 Years

    Once, while fishing for salmon, I hooked a clam. It fought bravely, and when I finally pulled it from the water I could see that I hadn’t just snagged it, as you might expect, but that it had taken the bait willingly. These are minor points; what matters here is that the clam, so different […]

  • Annular eclipse

    The Search for Eclipses as Perfect as Earth’s

    This classic Facts So Romantic post was originally published in September, 2013. Roughly twice a year, the apparent positions of sun and moon coincide, and a fortunate few observers are treated to a solar eclipse. Watching such an event provides the opportunity to contemplate a strange coincidence: From the surface of Earth, the apparent sizes […]

  • Chung.png

    Finding a Metaphor for the Perfect Amount of Creativity

    As an illustrator, I often struggle to decide how far I should push the boundaries of creativity. I’ve noticed that there is a fine line between art that is accessible to my peers and art that is accessible to everyone. And I don’t always know where to draw that line. In a Nautilus post, Jim […]

  • Epley_HERO

    Why We Can’t Get Over Ourselves

    Exposing the reasons we fail to understand the minds of others.

  • Martel_HERO-3

    What to Eat in Atlantis

    Five menus for five mythical cities.

  • hero toaster anim

    The Dawn of Life in a $5 Toaster Oven

    How a homemade piece of lab equipment is recreating chemical evolution on early Earth.

  • hero toaster anim

    The Dawn of Life in a $5 Toaster Oven

    How a homemade piece of lab equipment is recreating chemical evolution on early Earth.

  • Erlich_HERO-1

    The Dreams of the Man Who Discovered Neurons

    Santiago Ramón y Cajal recorded his dreams to prove Freud wrong.

  • Erlich_HERO-1

    Read the Lost Dream Journal of the Man Who Discovered Neurons

    An exclusive look at the dreams Santiago Ramon y Cajal recorded to prove Freud was wrong.

  • placeholder

    How Radio Enthusiasts Are Listening to Earth’s Secret Symphony

    Stephen McGreevy looked nervously at the sky. Outside his camper van in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, angry black clouds gathered on the horizon as 30-mile-per-hour winds whipped across the flat expanse. At his feet, an array of copper wire—hundreds of feet of it—writhed like snakes. As rain beat against the roof, McGreevy hastily gathered the […]

  • placeholder

    Why The World Isn’t As It Seems

    Take a close look at the floor tiles in the scene below. First, focus your attention on the tile directly below the potted plant, in the shadow of the table. Then, look at the tile to the right, outside of the table. Which of these tiles is brighter? The left one? Wrong. In fact, as […]

  • FSR_081115_BR-1

    The Caveman Guide to Parenting

    Every evening as the sun sets, Robb Wolf begins his nightly ritual: While his two daughters play, he slowly dims the lights, just a few lumens every 20 to 30 minutes, until the house, in Reno, Nevada, is dark. The family is asleep before 8 p.m. and awake before dawn, as Wolf imagines our ancestors […]

  • 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.

  • FSR_081015_BR

    Is It Time to Embrace Unverified Theories?

    In the world of modern physics, there is change afoot. Researchers are striving so hard to leap beyond the mostly settled science of the Standard Model that they’re daring to break from one of science’s crucial traditions. In pursuit of a definitive, unifying description of reality, some scientists are arguing that scientific theories may not […]

  • adam eve serpent michelangelo sistine chapel

    The Hidden Connection Between Morality and Language

    Tragedy can strike us any time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of it. When Frank’s dog was struck and killed by a car in front of his house, he grew curious what Fido might taste like. So he cooked him up and ate him for dinner. It was a harmless decision, […]

  • Oconnor_HERO-4

    Big Data Is for the Birds

    The mysteries of avian migration at night are being solved with computational power.

  • finished-yeast hero

    How Can Microscopic Yeast Draw the Nautilus Logo? The New Art of Bio-Pointillism

    Behold this magazine’s logo in glorious living color! Each dot of pigment is a cluster of yeast cells growing on the “canvas” of a Petri dish. This organic painting was created by Michael Shen, who’s currently working on his PhD in the NYU synthetic biology lab run by Jef Boeke*. It’s the latest work in a new […]

  • Parkes peryton signal bottom hero

    6 Graphs That Showed Landmark Discoveries—but Were Later Debunked

    It begins with the smallest anomaly. The first exoplanets were the slightest shifts in a star’s light. The Higgs boson was just a bump in the noise. And the Big Bang sprung from a few rapidly moving galaxies that should have been staying put. Great scientific discoveries are born from puny signals that prompt attention. […]

  • operating theater white coats

    How White Came to Be Synonymous With Clean and Good

    White has a physical purity. White light contains roughly equal amounts of every color in the visual spectrum, and activates all three types of cone cells in our eyes related to color. As a result, we perceive materials that don’t absorb color, and reflect light back to us, as achromatic—white. The union of white and […]

  • 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 […]

  • goth chicken ayam cemeni hero

    Inside the Goth Chicken: Black Bones, Black Meat & a Black Heart

    In the historical novel The Black Tulip, written by Alexandre Dumas, an honest and decent Dutch tulip fancier is nearly brought to ruin by his quest to breed a purely black flower. More precisely, his misadventure is due to the dastardly schemes of his neighbor, who, frantic with spite and jealousy over the plants, frames […]

  • 88 butterfly hero

    A Riot of Color Lurking in the Amazon

    Imagine a tropical rainforest and the picture that appears in your mind’s eye is probably filled with green and brown. It’s true that those colors dominate the landscape, but a closer look at some of the jungle’s inhabitants reveals tremendous variation. I just returned from a trip to the Amazon, and here are some of […]

  • Clancy_HERO

    Here’s Why Your Brain Seems Mostly Dormant

    The brilliant compromise between efficiency and ability in your head.

  • cats1

    Splotchy Cats Show Why It’s Better to Be Female

    If you’ve never really noticed the wide range of colors that can adorn the domestic cat, you might want to spend some time skimming through the official color charts of the Cat Fanciers Association website. According to the association, which claims to maintain the largest registry of pedigreed cats, cats can come in seal lynx […]

  • 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 […]

  • Secret Garden adult coloring book hero

    Is Coloring Within the Lines the New Meditation?

    I sit motionless on the hardwood floor. My legs are crossed in a full lotus position and the back of my hands rest on top of my knees with my pointer fingers pressed slightly against my thumbs. My posture reflects the small Buddha statue in front of me. And together, our shadows dance on the […]

  • blue water quarry photo hero

    The Powerful Allure of the Deep Azure

    There was a place in Iowa in 1995, tucked away in the dark-green fields of soybeans and corn, where a flooded rock quarry shimmered aquamarine. I stood on its edge one hot summer day with two friends. Like most teenagers, we were drawn to the rebelliousness of it. To get there, we had to trespass […]

  • Urken_HERO-1

    Chasing James Bond’s Hummingbird

    I venture to Cuba in search of the world’s smallest bird.

  • Chirimuuta_HERO

    The Reality of Color Is Perception

    An argument for a new definition of color.

  • Blood Falls hero

    6 Places Where Earth Has Gone Color Crazy

    The Grand Prismatic Lake in Yellowstone National Park is rightfully famous for the beautiful colors produced by its unique chemistry. But there are also other places where chemistry and geology combine to create vivid natural colors, in hot springs, rock formations, and even normally monochrome glaciers. Chinoike Jigoku, or Bloody Hell Pond, is one of […]

  • Wald_HERO-5

    Why Red Means Red in Almost Every Language

    The confounding consistency of color categories.

  • Cartensen_HERO-1

    The Ambiguous Colors of Nanotechnology

    Kate Nichols’ nanoparticle paints have changed how she sees color.

  • helicopter spraying Agent Orange

    A Chemical Attack That Killed a Countryside & Scarred a People

    Mangroves are sturdy trees. Recognizable by their extensive root systems, these trees can thrive in muddy soil, sand, peat, even coral. They tolerate water much saltier than most other plants and survive flooding during severe storms. It is perhaps their sturdiness that led mangroves to be one of the most significant targets in the Vietnam […]

  • butterfly wing

    A Butterfly’s Beauty Comes From Organized Chaos

    This classic Facts So Romantic post was originally published in June, 2013. Take a look at a butterfly’s wing, and you can learn a lesson about life. Not that it’s beautiful, or fragile, or too easily appreciated only when it’s fading—though all that is true, and evident in a wing. Look very close, at the […]

  • Bullfight Picasso

    Why the Dark Side of the Force Had to Be Dark

    You don’t have to look very hard to see that our culture has some pretty powerful associations between colors and feelings. As a recent example, the new Pixar film Inside Out has characters representing emotions, and the color choices for these characters—red for anger, and blue for sadness—feel right. Red, specifically, is one of the […]

  • 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.

  • death-and-wife-hero

    The Split Personality of the Color Yellow

    Why does the color we associate with wholesome things like bananas, sunshine, and honeybees—“the color of hope, joy, and optimism,” according to one of the world’s foremost color experts—also signify the creeping presence of illness and death? Not death in the abstract: the dark-cloaked, scythe-brandishing spirit of Victorian art, or the symbolic black vestments worn […]

  • af am woman mouth

    Rachel Dolezal & the Science of “Sounding Black”

    Unless you’ve been on a media blackout this summer, you likely have heard the story of civil-rights activist Rachel Dolezal, an ethnically white woman who has long presented herself as black. The story provoked curiosity and controversy, prompting some to object that she was clothing herself in a racial identity that was not rightfully hers. […]

  • looking over the tabu

    A Fijian Village Adapts Tradition to Try to Save Its Ailing Reefs

    The day that conservation biologist Joshua Drew, his two students, and I arrive in the Fijian village of Nagigi, the wind is blowing so hard that the coconut palms are bent sideways. “Trade winds,” we are told. And, “El Nino.” The villagers here also know that climate change is affecting the weather, but their more […]

  • Weir_HERO

    The Girl Who Smelled Pink

    A mother wonders if we are all born with synesthesia.

  • Vanderbilt_HERO-F2

    The Colors We Eat

    Food color does more than guide us—it changes the experience of taste.

  • Marijuana grow operation Humboldt County

    Water & Vice: Producing Intoxicants in an Era of Extreme Drought

    California is thirsty. The state is in its fourth year of a drought that is especially severe, by any measure. For instance, an April 1 snowpack measurement, a key indicator of surface-water supplies, was lower than any year on record, going back at least to 1950. Dry statistics aside, you can grasp the scope of […]

  • John Keats Philip Larkin hero

    Does Science Diminish Wonder or Augment It?

    In its pursuit of explaining things that previously seemed beyond words, does reason stifle the imagination? Can rationalism coexist with a reverence for mystery? Two great poems with opposing views, composed over 200 years apart—“Lamia” by John Keats and “Water” by Philip Larkin—address these vexed questions through the entangled concepts of water and light. The romantic […]

  • quiz

    How Much Science Is In The Constitution?

    Welcome to the Nautilus science news quiz! This week, we are testing your knowledge of science and the United States Constitution, ask if you can tell which Benjamin Franklin invention is a fake, and find out how much you know about all those fireworks being set off around the U.S.!

  • 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 […]

  • John Conway WINNIE

    This Early Computer Was Based on a Urinal Flush Mechanism

    John Horton Conway, a Fellow of the Royal Society who hails from Princeton via Cambridge, England, is notorious for many things—perhaps most for his promiscuous curiosity and his lifelong love affair with playing all manner of games. He’s also celebrated for his Conway groups in mathematical symmetry, for his surreal numbers, and for inventing cellular […]

  • Quiz

    Play the Skinny Jeans and Vaccines Quiz

    It’s time again for the weekly Nautilus science news quiz! This week, we test your knowledge of vaccines, fine art, and skinny jeans. Think you know it all? Take the quiz and prove it!

  • Piore_HERO-2

    Bring Us Your Genes

    A Viking scientist’s quest to conquer disease.

  • Sharon Jones walking to boat hero

    [TEST QUIZ]

    [QZ-4] Heirloom Portland cornhole, ugh organic shabby chic messenger bag VHS before they sold out farm-to-table locavore fingerstache retro actually. Austin Tumblr 3 wolf moon asymmetrical, bicycle rights Godard master cleanse cornhole mixtape tattooed Echo Park pickled. Sustainable try-hard lumbersexual health goth, Shoreditch bitters 90’s banjo. Readymade YOLO Banksy flannel Vice, locavore Blue Bottle American […]

  • Green_HERO-1

    The Last Drop of Water in Broken Hill

    In the Australian outback, the future of drought has come early.

  • Green_HERO-1

    The Last Drop of Water in Broken Hill

    In the Australian outback, the future of drought has come early.

  • Sharon Jones walking to boat hero b+w

    Can New Research & Old Traditions Save Fiji From Ecological Collapse?

    I look out the windshield of the taxi and see that the road through the tropical forest ends, but our journey does not. We continue on a rutted dirt road, then ford a small stream, and eventually emerge from the thick vegetation at the edge of a vast and empty beach. Here, we wait. A […]

  • Lake Urmia hero

    The Tragedy of Iran’s Great Salt Lake

    This classic Facts So Romantic post originally ran in August, 2014. The last time my cousin Houman traveled to Lake Urmia was 11 years ago. He and four of his friends piled into his car and drove for roughly 12 hours, snaking west from the capital of Tehran. Iran is shaped like a teapot; its […]

  • solar system Trojans hero

    The Mystery of the Missing Planets

    There is an unsolved problem I want to tell you about: The case of the missing Trojans. You might be thinking of the mythical horse with soldiers hidden inside. Or maybe you’re thinking of a sports team. Or a type of computer virus, or, let’s be honest, of the condoms. (Note that I said, “Case […]

  • coriolis swirl toilet

    Watch Water Levitate, Flow Up, & Swirl the Wrong Way in the Other Hemisphere

    The conventional wisdom is all wrong. Countless parents and teachers have gotten it twisted. The BBC and PBS aired bogus explanations. Even textbooks have botched the story. The Earth’s rotation, and the Coriolis effect that results, do not cause water to circle the drain in opposite directions in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Well, actually, […]

  • Quiz

    The Nautilus Weekly Science News Quiz

    Think you’ve got what it takes to ace our science news quiz? This week, we want you to tell us why Saharan silver ants are so special, how baboons mimic the political process, and more. Go on, test yourself.  NB. If you are interested in seeing more of Science Friday’s octopus episode, please follow this link.

  • Penaluna_HERO-1

    Is This New Swim Stroke the Fastest Yet?

    The surprising performance and physics of the fish kick.

  • Penaluna_HERO-1

    Is This New Swim Stroke the Fastest Yet?

    The surprising performance and physics of the fish kick.

  • French_HERO

    The Curious Case of the Bog Bodies

    Why do so many corpses found in Europe’s peat bogs show signs of violent death?

  • blindfold test

    The Best Way to Reduce Research Bias Is Hiding in Plain View

    In the late 1970s, groups of soda marketers descended on the nation’s malls. They gave shoppers two unmarked cups, one filled with Coke and one with Pepsi. Tasters were asked which they preferred. The Pepsi Challenge was a marketing gimmick, but it was based on a classic scientific tool, the blind experiment. If a person […]

  • water flight ray's stark bar

    The Chemistry and Psychology of Turning Water Into Wine

    Penn and Teller famously skewered the bottled water craze on their myth-busting Showtime series, Bullshit, setting up a hidden-camera sting operation in a fancy New York restaurant. A fake “water sommelier” stopped at each table, offering diners a special selection of high-end bottled water at $7 a pop. The catch: All the bottles were identical, […]

  • Matrix fight left right

    Why Tinder Charmers and Movie Heroes Move the Same Way

    Tinder—in case you’re not active in the young-person dating pool—is a dating application that shows you pictures of other Tinder users in your area. If you are not interested in meeting the person you see, you swipe their picture to the left. If you are interested, you swipe right. If two people right-swipe each other’s […]

  • Quiz_HERO

    The Nautilus Weekly Science News Quiz

    Illustration by Jackie Ferrentino Welcome to the weekly Nautilus science news quiz! This week, we test your turtle sex knowledge and ask you to weigh in on a dinosaur’s slim-down. Put your science news knowledge to the test!

  • Folger_HERO

    Why Discovering Martians Could Be Disappointing

    There are two kinds of extraterrestrial life with very different implications.

  • Folger_HERO

    Why Discovering Martians Could Be Disappointing

    There are two kinds of extraterrestrial life with very different implications.

  • Powell_HERO

    Why Europa Is the Place to Go for Alien Life

    NASA is scheduled to probe the Jovian moon in 2023.

  • Bang_Breaker1

    Humanity’s Most Problematic Attempts to Get All the Water

    Survival shows are running amok. The contestants are naked; they’re two out-of-shape guys in the woods; they’re stuck on an island. Despite differences in attire or setting, one thing remains constant: For every survivor, finding potable water is the first order of business. But the challenge doesn’t end there: First they find water; then they […]

  • Boundaries

    If rules only exist to be broken, then so do boundaries. After all, a boundary is just a rule in space. Boundaries end up facilitating exchanges as much as blocking them, and some of the most productive activities happen in their vicinity.   

  • 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.   

  • Noise

    It’s hard to imagine any signal coming from space that would be of no interest. Our modern definition of noise, as unwanted sound or signal, is a relatively recent one—the word used to mean strife, and nausea. Is the new meaning useful? Or does it encourage us to dismiss what we can’t interpret?     […]

  • Currents

    There is a miles-long solitary wave trundling its way across an ocean right now. It will travel for days on end before dissipating its billions of joules of energy. From motes of methane pushed by distant starlight, to words smuggled out of a silent place, our world is full of unseen currents that carry and […]

  • Sport

    When we think of sports science and technology, the physics of a curveball might come to mind—the hardware. But there is also a high technology, of sorts, in the software of sport. Without it, would we understand sportsmanship, and what it means to love playing more than winning?   

  • Learning

    Have you seen the videos of the crow solving an eight-stage puzzle? Or of Lee Sedol losing to DeepMind? Learning seems to extend everywhere from the mobile above an infant’s crib to machines to, some argue, evolution and physical law. As we discover and build new learning systems, the biggest lessons may be about how […]

  • Selection

    Even Mother Nature can seem reluctant to choose, keeping cats both dead and alive, and running up a large multiverse tab. By some accounts, there is no such thing as time, or events, which means that what we experience as choices are just mathematical solutions to distant boundary value problems.    

  • Fakes

    We are more concerned than ever with fakes, maybe because it’s easier than ever to manufacture them. From fake diamonds to fake journals, we inhabit a space created by technology, complexity, and a fracturing of authority, and spend plenty of time making stuff up.   

  • Heroes

    Where have all the real heroes gone? It’s a refrain you find in articles on our celebrity culture, movie reviews wondering why modern superheroes need to be so flawed, and in our own private conversations.    

  • Luck

    They say it’s better to be lucky than good. But shouldn’t statistics have put the idea of “being” lucky to bed? Or is luck really all about story, rather than statistics?   

  • Power

    Problems of power resist solution. As other aspects of our lives have been entirely transformed for the better—the ability to communicate with each other, for example—just a little over a tenth of the world lives in a full democracy, and democratization has stalled or reversed in many parts of the world. Why is power a […]

  • Balance

    Peel back one balance, and you find another. In this issue, each balance leans against the next: mental against physical, evolutionary against ecological, one infinity against another. The web of balances that make up our world is intricate, full of tiny stable points and unexpected transitions.   

  • sandwich hero not hero sandwich

    Why Is There So Much Hate for the Word “Moist”?

    A lot of people don’t like the word “moist.” Several Facebook groups are dedicated to it, one with over 3,000 likes, New Yorker readers overwhelmingly selected it as the word to eliminate from the dictionary, and Jimmy Fallon sarcastically thanked it for being the worst word in the English language. When you ask people why […]

  • Weekly_Quiz_HERO

    The Nautilus Weekly Science News Quiz

    Welcome to the Nautilus Weekly Science News Quiz. Think you are up-to-date with the latest in dinosaur nicknames, endangered fish breeding habits, and more? We’re putting your science news knowledge to the test!

  • gizzard shad hero

    Florida’s Special Sponge for Soaking up Pollution: Fish

    In the swampy center of Florida, 15 miles northwest of Orlando, lies Lake Apopka, a 30,000-acre monument to the transformative power of fish. Apopka may be almost exactly the same size as nearby Disney World, but it’s far from a tourist attraction. For decades the lake served as an agricultural dumping ground for adjacent citrus […]

  • Preston_HERO-3

    The Deadly Plant Sneeze

    High-speed cameras capture how bouncing rain spreads crop disease.

  • Preston_HERO-3

    The Deadly Plant Sneeze

    High-speed cameras capture how bouncing rain spreads crop disease.

  • Montgomery_HERO-1

    The Real Landscapes of the Great Flood Myths

    In Tibet, a geologist learns how folk stories may record actual catastrophes.

  • apple watch

    Apple Watch Shows the Benefits of Engineering Perfection—and of Flaws

    Apple is famous for its obsessive care for design and manufacturing, and its new, much-hyped watches are no exception. But, ironically, the watch can only be created by introducing errors into exquisitely crafted materials. One familiar material used in Apple’s latest device is silicon, the bedrock of all modern electronics. Engineers first must purify silicon […]

  • May/June 2015

    The May/June 2015 Nautilus print magazine combines some of the best content from our issues on Slow, Dominoes, and Error, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations.  This issue includes contributions by: award-winning science journalist Adam Piore; Helen Fisher; author Abby Rabinowitz; pilot and author Jeff Wise; and Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky. It also features original artwork from John […]

  • July/August 2015

    The July/August 2015 Nautilus print magazine combines some of the best content from our issues on Water, Color, and Dark Matter, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: author Peter Moore; journalist Michael Green; best-selling author Tom Vanderbilt; and award-winning author Mark Peplow. Plus, original artwork from Gerard DuBois, Brian Stauffer, JooHee Yoon, Scott […]

  • Sept./Oct. 2015

    The September/October 2015 Nautilus print magazine combines some of the best content from our issues on 2050 and Scaling, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: writer and experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats; radio producer Steve Paulson; award-winning author Philip Ball; and MIT physicist and best-selling author Alan Lightman. In addition, this issue […]

  • Nov./Dec. 2015

    The November/December 2015 Nautilus print magazine combines some of the best content from our issues on Identity and Stress, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: author Gillen D’Arcy Wood; linguist Julie Sedivy; award-winning illustrator and journalist Steve Brodner; and award-winning journalist Chelsea Wald. In addition, this issue features original artwork from Wesley […]

  • Jan./Feb. 2016

    The January/February 2016 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Space and Attraction, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: award-winning author George Musser; biological anthropologist Helen Fisher; best-selling author Tom Vanderbilt; and popular comedian Aziz Ansari. This issue also features original artwork from Tim O’Brian, Rebecca […]

  • March/April 2016

    The March/April 2016 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Adaptation and Boundaries, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: award-winning scientist Hope Jahren; prominent biologist Sean B. Carroll; award-winning author Philip Ball; and science journalist Amy Maxmen. Plus, original artwork from Angie Wang, Aad Goudappel, Julia […]

  • May/June 2016

    The May/June 2016 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Aging and Currents, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: environmental journalist Jonathan Waldman; photo editor and author Rebecca Horne; best-selling author Tom Vanderbilt; and award-winning journalist Justin Nobel. In addition, the issue […]

  • July/August 2016

    The July/August 2016 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Noise and Sport, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: science journalist Sally Davies; best-selling author J.B. MacKinnon; environmental journalist Courtney Humphries; and author Moises Velasquez-Manoff. In addition, the issue features original artwork […]

  • Sept./Oct. 2016

    The September/October 2016 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Learning and Scaling, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: award-winning science writer James Gleick; research scientist Kate Marvel; award-winning author Philip Ball; and best-selling author Tom Vanderbilt. The issue also features original artwork from […]

  • Nov./Dec. 2016

    The November/December 2016 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Fakes and Heroes, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: non-fiction writer Margot Lee Shetterly; neuroendocrinologist and author Robert Sapolsky; award-winning physics writer Amanda Gefter; and radio producer Steve Paulson. The issue also […]

  • Jan./Feb. 2017

    The January/February 2017 Nautilus print edition combines some of the best content from our issues on Luck and Power, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by: best-selling author Michael Lewis; linguist Julie Sedivy; writer and photographer John Wendle; and author Alan Burdick. The issue also features original artwork from […]

  • Moore_HERO-1

    The Dueling Weathermen of the 1800s

    This bitter dispute set the stage for the modern weather forecast.

  • Moore_HERO-1

    The Dueling Weathermen of the 1800s

    This bitter dispute set the stage for the modern weather forecast.

  • Marvel_HERO-F

    The Hidden Importance of Clouds

    A climate scientist asks whether nature can save us from ourselves.

  • Ball_HERO-1

    Will ET Drink Water?

    The intricate compatibility of water and life on Earth may not extend to other planets.

  • Weekly_Quiz_HERO

    The Nautilus Weekly Science News Quiz

    Welcome to the Nautilus Weekly Science News Quiz. Can you tell your enzyme activity from your neurons? We’re putting your science news knowledge to the test!

  • curling iron #fail

    Why Do We Love #Fail Videos?

    If the Internet has shown me one thing, it’s my own astounding capacity to waste time. The rabbit holes online are deep and rich and usually absolutely fruitless. But I’m fascinated by anything that’s addictive, and my personal black tar heroin is, without doubt, “fail” videos. You know the sort—a 10-minute compilation of six-second clips […]

  • Sohn_HERO

    Counting Animals Is a Sloppy Business

    In 1989, scientists at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Zoo published a study on migratory songbirds with alarming results. The study relied on 22 years of data from annual surveys of more than 60 neotropical species, birds that breed in North America and overwinter in Central and South America. And […]

  • kant hero

    How Science Can Learn From Writing That Is “Not Even Wrong”

    “…when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” –Nietzsche For some people, this quote is very evocative. It feels important, and beautiful. Others feel like it doesn’t mean anything at all, because the idea of a deep hole looking at something is absurd. Many people have both reactions. What are […]

  • Brown_HERO-5

    How Math’s Most Famous Proof Nearly Broke

    Andrew Wiles thought he had a solution to an age-old puzzle. Until it began to unravel.

  • Brown_HERO-5

    How Math’s Most Famous Proof Nearly Broke

    Andrew Wiles thought he had a solution to an age-old puzzle. Until it began to unravel.

  • Greenwood_HERO-2

    Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking

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

  • monkeys

    Our Ancestors Were Babysitters

    When anthropologist Alyssa Crittenden began studying the Hadza people of Tanzania 10 years ago, she was surprised to see an 8-year-old girl head out to forage for golden kongolobe berries with her 1-year-old niece swaddled snugly on her back. The behavior starkly contrasted Crittenden’s own experience growing up in the United States, where mothers often […]

  • Barash_HERO

    How Necking Shaped the Giraffe

    The private life of the African giant offers a remarkable view on evolution.

  • Barash_HERO

    How Necking Shaped the Giraffe

    The private life of the African giant offers a remarkable view on evolution.

  • Autopsy at Hotel-Dieu by Henri Gervex

    We Need More Autopsies, to Help Save the Living

    When Italian authorities confirmed that James Gandolfini had just died in Rome of an apparent heart attack in 2013, many reports in American media fronted the fact that Gandolfini’s body would be autopsied, “as required by Italian law.” They emphasized this news for understandable reasons—an autopsy on someone who died in medical care seemed unusual. […]

  • Scanlon_COFFEE

    Will Coffee Cure You or Kill You?

    Depending on whom you ask, coffee is either the next super food or the next public health hazard. Consult the latest news headlines or scientific studies, and you’ll find that coffee “fights heart disease,” reduces the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and multiple sclerosis, and “could keep Alzheimer’s at bay.” One recent study by researchers […]

  • counting votes in Worcester Mass

    Why Were the UK Election Polls So Wrong? A Statistical Mystery

    Workers count votes at a polling place in Worcester, Mass.SuperStock via Getty Images Last Thursday the UK’s Conservative Party stomped to an electoral victory that fairly shocked the country. The Tories won a comfortable majority of seats in parliament, enabling them to govern the nation without a coalition partner. That result contrasted sharply with the […]

  • FSR-Daredevil_eye-BR

    Daredevil’s Powers Are More Realistic Than You Think

    In an early episode of Daredevil, Netflix’s new series about Marvel Comic’s blind superhero, there’s a telling scene in which the crime-fighting protagonist tends to an injured friend. Although he lost his eyesight in a traffic accident as a boy, Daredevil can nevertheless perceive her wounds. From across his apartment, he senses that a cut […]

  • Dominoes

    One dreary Tuesday, Leó Szilárd took a walk. Crossing the street, he realized that nuclear reactions could be maintained by the neutrons they themselves produced. A self-sustaining nuclear reactor became a reality nine years later, and the bomb in another three. This issue, we watch dominoes fall in human lives, across the oceans and under cities. They […]

  • Error

    Nature is full of “mistakes,” from improperly copied genes to animals deceiving each other. Even foundational physics has shed some of its air of mathematical inevitability, and wrestles with why we live in a universe that is “right” for life. Is there a “wrong” universe out there? And how does the scientist negotiate this hall […]

  • Water

    What could we not know about water? As it turns out, plenty. It covers most of the Earth, but is regularly in short supply. It is intimately involved in the processes of life, but life on other planets may not need it. It is inscrutable and unpredictable, but we try to price it. The debates […]

  • Color

    Envy is green, anger is red, and exoplanet artist renderings are usually swirly brown. Purple used to mean royal, until the chemists figured out how to make it cheaply. Blue is usually the last color to be introduced into a language. And for the philosopher? It’s all qualia.

  • Dark Matter

    While the cosmological version is the most famous, it is far from the only dark matter story in science. There are silent neurons, missing fossils, and nighttime animal migration; death and conception; algorithms both genetic and man-made. Seeing, it turns out, isn’t the only path to believing.                 

  • 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. People have constructed over 10,000 active time capsules. Despite all of this frenetic activity, the future is more often than not a surprise.     […]

  • Scaling

    How things become bigger or smaller reveals a lot about them. How big can a city get and still be a city? What about a classroom? Can a “theory of everything” describe our universe at all possible scales? “How much,” we learn, is often just as important as “why” or “how.” 

  • Identity

    Science has taken many of our putative identities and melted them together. But we are jealous of our human identities. Those, we’d like to think are different. We’d like to keep them intact and persistent. Given what we know, is that a fool’s errand?

  • Stress

    Stress is a complicated adversary. It is a silent killer, but a little bit is good for you. Pushing things and people past their usual boundaries has made the world the way it is, and naturally involves the unknown. Would we want it any other way?             

  • Space

    Try imagining a universe without color, or time. Unusual, but possible to visualize. Now try imagining a universe without space. What does it look like? Without space, we seem not to be able to start. READ ONLINE

  • Attraction

    Opposites attract. Or is it birds of a feather flock together? Our brains could be chaotic storms governed by strange attractors. Or is the chaos ungoverned, and less important than we think? When it comes to attraction, nothing is simple. 

  • Adaptation

    Adaptation is hard—everywhere. Organisms responding to a changing environment may cycle through failed designs, or perish by evolving too slowly. A self-driving car moving down an unfamiliar road will suddenly try to take an imaginary exit. It’s harder to make someone change their mind than it is to tell them they’re right.  

  • Oransky_HERO

    How the Biggest Fabricator in Science Got Caught

    Yoshitaka Fujii falsified 183 papers before statistics exposed him.

  • Ball_HERO

    The Trouble With Scientists

    How one psychologist is tackling human biases in science.

  • Ball_HERO

    The Trouble With Scientists

    How one psychologist is tackling human biases in science.

  • deutsch_733x550

    David Deutsch Explains Why It’s Good To Be Wrong

    Making a mistake on a science exam is bad. So is publishing a paper with flawed reasoning. But what about being fallible in the first place? That, says David Deutsch, should be embraced. Deutsch is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a pioneer in quantum computing, and a popular science book author. He is also […]

  • March/April 2015

    The March/April 2015 Nautilus print magazine (our seventh print edition) combines some of the best content from our issues on Illusions, Creativity, and Information, with new original contributions and gorgeous full-color illustrations. This issue includes contributions by Swedish author and hoverfly collector Fredrik Sjöberg; Tom Vanderbilt; Robin Marantz Henig; Phil Ball; and Alex Wright. Plus, […]

  • FSR_50515_BR

    How Enormous Dominoes Can Help You Rethink Saving for Retirement

    A still from Prudential’s commercial, showing the largest domino to ever be toppled. The point was to make a spectacle of the power of compound interest.Courtesy of Prudential It’s a clear warm day in early August, and the Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert is lucky it isn’t windy. Towering right behind him stands a 30-foot tall […]

  • Cameron_Definance_BR2

    How the Languages in Game of Thrones, Defiance, and Thor Were Created

    A still from the television show Defiance, showing a pair of Irathients, an alien race. Their language, Irathient, was created by David J. Peterson and currently stands at a 2,000-word vocabulary.Syfy David J. Peterson is perhaps the most well known linguist in Hollywood. Since 2011, he has created numerous languages for television and films, including […]

  • Henderson_HERO2-offWH

    The Admiral of the String Theory Wars

    After a decade, Peter Woit still thinks string theory is a gory mess.

  • FSR_Penaluna_BR

    Why Expectant Mothers Can Just Chill Out

    Sodapix/Getty When philosopher Nicolas Malebranche peered at a fetus floating in a glass jar, in a shop of curiosities in Paris in 1672, he blamed its monstrous shape on the mother. At the time it was believed that a mother could deform her fetus simply by looking at something vivid. Malebranche had heard that this […]

  • Bang_HERO-1

    Meet the 17-Year-Old, Award-Winning, Rube Goldberg Parts Manufacturer

    Tommy George and the Agents of SHIELD shot a Nerf ball and erased a whiteboard.

  • Roberts-HERO

    In Mathematics, Mistakes Aren’t What They Used To Be

    Computers can’t invent, but they’re changing the field anyway.

  • Nisbett_HERO-1

    The Bugs in Our Mindware

    Many obstacles lie on the path to rational thought.

  • Nisbett_HERO-1

    The Bugs in Our Mindware

    Many obstacles lie on the path to rational thought.

  • Rowe_HERO-1

    Top 10 Design Flaws in the Human Body

    From our knees to our eyeballs, our bodies are full of hack solutions.

  • Tornadoes_BREAKER-4

    What Facebook, Blue Jeans, and Metal Signs Taught Us About Tornado Science

    Screen capture of Patty Bullion’s “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes” Facebook page. On April 27, 2011 a monstrous EF5 tornado traveled 132 miles across northern Alabama and into southern Tennessee, missing one of the nation’s largest nuclear power plants by less than two miles, and also skirting the grounds of […]

  • 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 […]

  • ICESCAPE pond

    Intemperate Planet: How Natural Systems Magnify the Effects of Global Warming

    As Arctic ice warms and forms dark melt ponds, it absorbs more sunlight, accelerating global warming.Kathryn Hansen, ICESCAPE mission, NASA Besides a few lucky astronauts, the entire human experience is contained within a narrow envelope of gas maintained in a relatively narrow temperature range on a single rock hurtling through the vacuum of space. That […]

  • Clancy_HERO-1

    How to Unlearn a Disease

    Medicine’s latest cure is forgetting you’re sick.

  • Dianthidium floridiense

    Forget the Ordinary Honeybee; Look at the Beautiful Bees They’re Crowding Out

    All of the images in this post are borrowed from the amazing Flickr feed of the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. Any day now, the apple trees on my deck will bloom, bringing with them the first honeybees of spring. It’s a moment I’ll greet with mixed feelings. To which bee-lovers everywhere may respond: […]

  • Zeldovich_HERO-3B

    The Man Who Drank Cholera and Launched the Yogurt Craze

    Ilya Metchnikoff laid the foundation for modern probiotics.

  • 31_Tinna-therapy-HERO

    What Happens When You Can’t Talk to Yourself?

    Phillips participates in an aphasia communication workshop in Speechless, a documentary by Guillermo F. Flórez that profiles people with the condition.Guillermo F. Flórez What would you do if you lost your inner monologue? You know, the one where you tell yourself “I don’t want to get up yet,” or “This is one delicious burger.” That’s […]

  • Dasgupta_BREAKER

    Nobody Knows the Real Price of a Forest—and That’s a Problem

    Sir Partha DasguptaJohn Steele Wealth itself is observable and objective, a measure a value. And something has value if it is desired. But isn’t desire inescapably subjective? If it is, how can economics determine wealth? Almost 250 years after Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, the answer to this question remains unclear. “These are still […]

  • Kushner_HERO

    The Sinkhole Hunters

    In sprawling Florida, one group of geologists is never short on business.

  • Kushner_HERO

    The Sinkhole Hunters

    In sprawling Florida, one group of geologists is never short on business.

  • Krakauer_HERO

    Five Short Stories About the Life and Times of Ideas

    A complexity theorist explores how science and culture co-evolve.

  • Hollier_HERO

    The Hidden Ocean Patch That Broke Climate Records

    Why the recent global warming hiatus may have ended.

  • big ol collision

    The Genetics of the Earth and Moon

    Imagine that two very similar-looking neighbors undergo a genetic test. The exam shows that the pair’s genetic fingerprints are virtually identical. They feel a flash of shock and excitement. What does this mean? Could they be long-lost twins, separated in a hospital mixup? The Earth and Moon share a similar issue, one that poses a […]

  • call of duty advanced warfare

    Thank You for Buying “Call of Duty” & Helping to Fight Cancer!

    No still image can show the amazing realism of the Call of Duty games—but this can give you an idea.Activision If you’ve seen the latest ads for the video game Call of Duty, they are almost guaranteed to have left an impression. First-person view, blasting through doors, dodging bullets, jumping off buildings with Taylor Kitsch […]

  • Curry_HERO

    Yes, You Can Catch Insanity

    A controversial disease revives the debate about the immune system and mental illness.

  • 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. This issue is full of people chasing slow. Slow living, slow […]

  • 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, […]

  • Weintraub_HERO-3

    The Executioner We Can’t Live Without

    You’re dead meat without special molecules that kill rotten proteins.

  • Ellenberg-HERO-3

    The Amazing, Autotuning Sandpile

    A simple mathematical model of a sandpile shows remarkably complex behavior.

  • Kent_HERO2

    How a Snowflake Turns Into an Avalanche

    Meet the avalanche engineers of the Subzero Laboratory.

  • Foday Sahr

    How Slow Responses Made the Ebola Outbreak So Deadly

    As a rule, huge organizations move sluggishly, bogged down in democratic decision-making processes and bureaucratic policies. Ebola, on the other hand, moves fast. People become desperately sick and contagious within a few weeks of infection. By the time international agencies effectively responded to the ongoing Ebola outbreak, it had spiraled out of control in West […]

  • Maxmen_BLOG

    [Ebola]

    TK TK

  • Jupiter Great Red Spot

    Give Thanks to Jupiter, our Little Planet’s Big Protector

    Jupiter is famous for its Great Red Spot, but the stormy planet may also be responsible for keeping the inner solar system calm.NASA/JPL You are special, just like your parents used to tell you. You are a rare flower, a unique snowflake. Just like everyone else. How about our solar system? Is it special? Earth […]

  • Bang_HERO_3

    A Photographer Who Tinkers with Time

    How Adam Magyar slows down in the most impatient places.

  • Piore_HERO5

    The Impossible Physiology of the Free Diver

    The amazing underwater athletes are rewriting the science of the body.

  • Gallagher_HERO-2

    The Endless Storm Over Jupiter

    Why the Great Red Spot refuses to die.

  • Gallagher_HERO-2

    Jupiter Is a Garden of Storms

    Why the Great Red Spot refuses to die.

  • Keats_HERO-7

    The 315-Year-Old Science Experiment

    How counting sunspots unites the past and future of science.

  • Eichelberger_HERO

    Whiskey Can’t Hide Its Age Either

    Anxious distillers are trying to make bourbon old before its time.

  • Schultz_HERO-3

    The Gravekeeper’s Paradox

    People want permanent tombstones that also show decay.

  • Schultz_HERO-3

    The Gravekeeper’s Paradox

    People want permanent tombstones that also show decay.

  • 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.

  • Rosen_HERO

    The Secret History of the Supernova at the Bottom of the Sea

    How a star explosion may have shaped life on Earth.

  • Rosen_HERO

    The Secret History of the Supernova at the Bottom of the Sea

    How a star explosion may have shaped life on Earth.

  • Nobel-HERO-2

    Los Angeles Should Be Buried

    A day in the war between the city and its mountains.

  • Nobel-HERO-2

    Los Angeles Should Be Buried

    A day in the war between the city and its mountains.

  • placeholder

    Announcing Nautilus Prime

    Nautilus is proud to announce the launch of Nautilus Prime, our digital subscription service. Free for print subscribers, and a buck or two a month on its own, Nautilus Prime delivers PDFs of each of our print magazines to read on your tablet or desktop; eBooks of each of our issues; and exclusive subscriber-only feature […]

  • 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 […]

  • Muybridge The Horse in Motion

    Time Trial: See If You Can Clock These Time-Warped GIFs

    When Eadweard Muybridge captured the movement of a galloping horse in individual frames in 1878, he managed to settle a long-running debate over how that animal runs—specifically, whether there was any moment when it had all four feet off the ground. His pioneering stop-motion photographs showed how slowing the world down provided a powerful way […]

  • Ebersole_HERO-4.

    How to Turn Your Dog Off

    Suspended animation is becoming a life-saving medical procedure.

  • Rabinowitz_HERO-1

    Why Egg Freezing Is an Impossible Choice

    I don’t want to surrender to a lottery. But will I regret not playing?

  • Wald_HERO

    Why Your Brain Hates Slowpokes

    The high speed of society has jammed your internal clock.

  • Livio_HERO

    Mario Livio on 25 Years of Hubble

    The astrophysicist looks at the history of the world’s most famous telescope.

  • Goldstein_HERO_F.

    The Thrill of Defeat

    What Francis Crick and Sydney Brenner taught me about being scooped.

  • Winter 2014

    The second issue of the Nautilus Quarterly combines some of the best content from our online issues on The Unlikely, Fame, and Secret Codes, with new original contributions from the world’s best thinkers, and gorgeous full-color illustrations. The issue includes contributions by actor, producer, and writer, B.J. Novak; award-winning author Mark Anderson; MIT lecturer Slava Gerovitch; best-selling […]

  • Winter 2015

    The sixth issue of the Nautilus Quarterly combines some of the best content from our issues on Nothingness, Big Bangs, and Genius, with new original contributions from the world’s best thinkers and gorgeous full-color illustrations.  This issue includes contributions by geneticist Scott Solomon; Caltech physicist and best-selling author Leonard Mlodinow; MIT physicist and best-selling author Alan Lightman; award-winning journalist and author Carl […]

  • Spring 2014

    The third issue of the Nautilus Quarterly combines some of the best online content from our issues on Waste, Home, and Time with original essays and rich, full-color illustrations.  The issue includes contributions by investigative journalist Anna Badkehn; former editor in chief of Discover Corey Powell; MIT physicist Max Tegmark; psychology professor David Barash; theoretical physicist Lee Smolin; and Time’s “Hero […]

  • Summer 2014

    The fourth issue of the Nautilus Quarterly features some of the best content from our issues on Mergers & Acquisitions, Light, and Feedback, plus new, original essays and rich, full-color illustrations.  This issue includes contributions by ecologist Nigel Pitman; best-selling novelist Daniel Kehlmann; award-winning author Philip Ball; Columbia University astrophysicist Caleb Scharf; award-winning science writer Ed Yong; and paleontologist and author Neil […]

  • Fall 2014

    The fifth issue of the Nautilus Quarterly combines some of the best content from our issues on Symmetry, Mutation, and Turbulence, with new original contributions from the world’s best thinkers and gorgeous full-color illustrations.  The issue includes contributions by science writer Lee Billings; engineering professor Barbara Oakley; journalist and NYU professor Jessica Seigel; author Moises Velasquez-Manoff; and author David Berreby. It also features original […]

  • Fall 2013

    The inaugural issue of the Nautilus Quarterly combines some of the best content from our issues on Human Uniqueness, Uncertainty, and In Transit, with new original contributions from the world’s best thinkers and gorgeous full-color illustrations.  The issue includes contributions by Stanford University Primatologist Robert Sapolsky; quantum computing pioneer David Deutsch; best-selling author Tom Vanderbilt; biologist Aaron Hirsh; and best-selling author Jared […]

  • The Story of Nautilus

    Behold the humble nautilus. We became interested in it here at Nautilus because, well, we stole its name. But also because (for a mollusk) it represents a remarkable intersection of science, math, myth, and culture. Since that is exactly the kind of intersection we love to write about, we decided to put together a little “teaser” issue all […]

  • Uncertainty

    Uncertainty is baked into our modern world. We explore how everything from quantum particles to humans themselves turn out to be undetermined in ways that upset expectations. Even mathematics itself—the language of logic—includes statements that can be proven to be neither true nor false. 

  • In Transit

    This issue is all about life in motion, from electrons in microchips to proteins in cells to ocean tankers to planets wandering the cosmos. Over and over we are surprised to find that “just getting there” is an integral part of our world, and something that defines it. 

  • The Unlikely

    “What are the odds?” This is a surprisingly difficult, and loaded, question. Is the improbable event an indication of some hidden mechanism? Or is it just long odds? In this issue, we explore The Unlikely—from how to predict it, to how to live with what we couldn’t predict. 

  • Fame

    Why is “Honey Boo-Boo” a megastar? Fame can seem an empty category. But it also shows up everywhere. Daniel Dennett has described consciousness as the happy spoils of a competition among various representations of reality: “fame in the brain.” Is fame an important natural process, and our obsession with it inevitable? 

  • Secret Codes

    There were hackers long before the denial-of-service attack. Life is a script written in carbon and transmitted faithfully between generations—sometimes. Other times, it is hacked by viruses, stolen by bacteria, or mutated by cosmic rays. Join us as we pull back the curtain on nature’s information wars. 

  • Waste

    This issue tackles something we don’t like to think about. But not only is waste everywhere on our land, in our oceans, and even in space—it is also useful. It drives innovation, creates wealth, teaches us about the past, and is a kind of currency in systems from biology to physics. 

  • Home

    They say that home is the place where they have to take you in. Is it? From stellar birth clusters and allergic adaption, to symbiotic evolution and our personal microbiome, Nature has its own definitions of home. And our own ideas are shifting: Our physical homes are under renovation, and what we do at home […]

  • Time

    Remember Ben Franklin’s words: “you may delay, but time will not.” On the other hand, some physicists are telling us that time may not exist to begin with. And anyway, since quantum mechanics is challenging causality itself, what impact could your actions possibly have? As we look deeper, time looks more elastic and less defined. 

  • Mergers & Acquisitions

    Since the beginning, scientists have been dividing reality into increasingly smaller bits: atoms, quarks, proteins, genes. As the list of parts has multiplied, so have their possible interactions, making the boundaries around scientific disciplines increasingly porous. From polymers to parasites, and genes to galaxies, our world is replete with wheelers and dealers, and hosts more shotgun […]

  • Light

    Where does the story of life and light begin? Maybe with the fact that most life on Earth runs on sunlight, or that starlight may have set the direction in which all of Earth’s biomolecules spiral. But, when most of us cannot see the Milky Way, and glowing screens have shifted our circadian rhythms, have […]

  • Feedback

    This issue, we cast our gaze onto the feedback loops that regulate, control, and sometimes destabilize the world around us. We unearth them at every scale of space and time, from ants to continents, seconds to millions of years, human myths to the origins of life. Most surprising of all, we find a world carefully […]

  • Symmetry

    Symmetry, on first glance a mere detail of arrangement, has unexpected powers, aesthetic, practical—even moral. We find it in physics, families, and the brain. As shorthand, it heightens our powers of observation, helping us recognize faces and calculate particle interactions. As organizing principle, it steers genes and galaxies. Scientists, long ago convinced that it is […]

  • Mutation

    Mutations make us what we are, linking and blurring the harmful and the helpful. Even the most intricate biological mechanisms, with the most important functions, are already slipping into the future to do something else. In this issue, we trace the outlines of a world that is continually abandoning and inventing itself, often with our […]

  • Turbulence

    Is turbulence simply the breakdown of order? Or is it, in fact, order by another name? Cosmic winds, the human heartbeat, and financial markets all have it. What commonalities persist among all these examples? Can turbulence be controlled, and should we try? 

  • Nothingness

    Nothingness is a category that stands apart from all others, defying description and tracing the boundaries of our knowledge. Forever trying to banish it and explain it away, we are also endlessly fascinated with it. From virtual particles filling the vacuum, to the invention of zero, to Sartre’s claim that nothingness lies at the heart […]

  • Big Bangs

    Where do we start? Often, with a bang. Take our modern universe. It didn’t grow slowly and linearly, but was instead a violent departure from what came before. Big Bangs like this aren’t exclusive to cosmology: There are the sudden appearance of language and tool use, the Cambrian explosion in the diversity of life on […]

  • Genius

    Genius is a category that is both important and not well understood. Is genius accomplishment or talent? Social construct or hard fact? Derivative of intellect or something else? Restricted to humans? An evolutionary advantage, or a weed? 

  • Illusions

    Long before David Blaine, there was the mimicry of the tiger moth—it avoids bats by emitting an ultrasonic signature similar to that of a noxious species. Long before that, some physicists say, an alien civilization launched an intricate simulation of reality, which we currently inhabit. Even if that hypothesis is false, don’t we entertain our […]

  • Creativity

    While we sometimes consider creativity a hallmark of being human, it is not only a human trait. Crows can perform experiments and use induction; computers can evolve new algorithms that surprise their human programmers. Is creativity a mechanical and inanimate thing, so human creativity differs only in degree? Or is human creativity different, reflecting something […]

  • Information

    We’re living in the information age. We’ve uncovered vast stores of information in our genes, generated even more, interpreted physical law in terms of information flow—and we’re always on our phones. What is the difference between a fact and information? Does information need a consciousness to interpret it? Old notions of information, and our relationship to it, […]

  • In Our Nature

    Nature is “the phenomena of the physical world collectively … as opposed to humans or human creations,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. There’s us, and there’s our environment. Where the definition separates us from nature, the word itself reminds us how linked we are. Nature emerges not just as a backdrop, but as a character on […]

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    TESTING THE LENGTH OF HEADLINES

  • Charles Lindbergh

    Why Spaceflight Will Never Be as Safe as Modern Aviation

    Charles Lindbergh in 1923, four years before his trans-Atlantic flight. A light drizzle greeted Charles Lindbergh as he arrived at Roosevelt Field on May 20, 1927, at a little before three in the morning. Weeks of rain had ensured that the runway at the Long Island airport was in poor condition, soft and strewn with […]

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    Making Sense of Data Stored in Our Machines—& in Our Heads

    The 2008 animated movie Waltz With Bashir starts with 26 bloodthirsty dogs hurtling down a road, causing havoc and terrorizing nearby people. It turns out to be a dream: Boaz Rein-Buskila keeps seeing that image while sleeping and can’t figure out why. He shares it with his friend, Ari Folman, hoping Folman, the director of […]

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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 […]

  • The Abduction of Europa

    Finding the Perfect Amount of Creativity in Cars & Religion

    The Abduction of Europa (1716), by Jean-Francois de Troy, depicts one of the many Greek myths in which Zeus transforms into an animal.Wikipedia Creativity is an important driver of innovation, and in the arts and industry people work hard to be more creative, sometimes shelling out lots of money for creativity consultants. But is more creativity always better? Is […]

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    Is Your Theory of Everything Pure Enough?

    Fundamental theories of nature aren’t allowed to hide information.

  • Chiribella_HERo

    Is Your Theory of Everything Pure Enough?

    Fundamental theories of nature aren’t allowed to hide information.

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    Nostalgia Just Became a Law of Nature

    New theories have mixed perception and knowledge into the hardest of sciences.

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    The Future of the Web Is 100 Years Old

    In the debate between structure and openness, 19th-century ideas are making a comeback.

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    How ISIS Broke My Questionnaire

    I felt the impact of an attack by the terrorist group. So why didn’t my research data?

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    The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic

    Walter Pitts rose from the streets to MIT, but couldn’t escape himself.

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    Secrets in the Ice

    Love notes and warning messages are buried in Earth’s frozen archive.

  • Bang_HERO

    Secrets in the Ice

    Love notes and warning messages are buried in Earth’s frozen archive.

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    Humankind’s Most Ambitious Search for Life’s Beginnings

    A rendering of Hayabusa2 using its “horn” to gather materials from the crater it will make using an explosive-propelled projectile. In the lower right is MASCOT, a lander that will be left on the surface to carry out ongoing studies.Akihiro Ikeshita / JAXA From mythological tales to the exploration of Mars, humans have hunted the […]

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    Robots Can’t Dance

    Why the singularity is greatly exaggerated.

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    3 Graphs That Help Show Why Ebola Goes Viral or Dies Out

    Fighting Ebola requires lots of equipment and personnel.Morgana Wingard, USAID     In September 1854, 600 residents of London’s Golden Square died from an infamous outbreak of cholera. It was no coincidence that this occurred in one of London’s poorest neighborhoods. We now know that markers of poverty—higher population densities, decreased nutrition, lack of medical care, […]

  • Chatterjee_HERO

    Can Science Tell Us What Beauty Is?

    Neuroscientist Anjan Chatterjee takes us into the neurology of creativity.

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    The Most Dangerous Muse

    Parkinson’s disease gave her the gift of creativity.

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    To Be More Creative, Cheer Up

    The way to tap your inner Hemingway is not how you think.

  • Weir_HERO

    To Be More Creative, Cheer Up

    The way to tap your inner Hemingway is not how you think.

  • Weir_HERO

    To Be More Creative, Cheer Up

    The way to tap your inner Hemingway is not how you think.

  • PodMod Mississippi Cantrell

    Humans & Nature Can Co-Exist in “Cyborg” Ecosystems

    An illustration showing how dirt-filled PodMod containers would drift out of the Mississippi DeltaBradley Cantrell, Charlie Pruitt, Brennan Dedon, Rob Herkes Some people gaze at the Mississippi River and see the majesty of nature: a mighty waterway that carved a path through our continent, draining the vast plains between the Rockies and the Appalachians before […]

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    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 […]

  • Elephant's Foot Chernobyl

    Facts So Romantic’s Best Posts of 2014

    In its mission to explore how science is connected with culture and our lives, Nautilus’ signature tool is a well-told, beautifully illustrated feature story. But not all of the magazine’s message comes in those longform pieces; some of it comes in smaller chunks here on Facts So Romantic. (The name of the blog, by the […]

  • Dermatophagoides farinae dust mite

    A Holiday Guest Is Leaving Dangerous Poop in Your Couch

    We have long known that we can catch germs while traveling. Recent years have shown that we can also bring home bed bugs. This holiday season, a PLoS One study informs us that by merely plopping into the seat of a car or airplane, we can unknowingly pick up dust mites—microscopic 8-legged arthropods that eat […]

  • Santa Claus lotus position

    Is Santa Claus a God?

    InnervisionArt via Flickr Santa Claus occupies a strange place in Christian belief. On the one hand, only children seem to really believe he exists; on the other, he gets a great deal more attention than many other purported supernatural beings, such as angels or Satan.  Does Santa Claus count as a god of the Christian […]

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    The Mystery of the Missing Frost

    On some clear winter mornings, we are treated to one of the highlights of the season: a thin layer of white frost delicately coating surfaces like individual grass blades. But even when a veneer of ice crystals encrusts much of the outdoor landscape, you may notice it missing from certain sites—the grass beneath a pine […]

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    Brain Damage Saved His Music

    After a chunk of his brain was removed, guitarist Pat Martino got his groove back.

  • Gross

    These Are Their Brains on Silence

    How silence affects the scientists who study it.

  • Gross

    These Are Their Brains on Silence

    How silence affects the scientists who study it.

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    Art Is Long, Science Is Longer

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

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    Art Is Long, Science Is Longer

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

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    The Queen of the Cumberland River

    When I traveled south to research fire ants, I discovered a different kind of hive.

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    A New Shield Against Grammar Naziism: Science!

    spaxiax via Shutterstock   Over his career, Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has taken on a wide range of research and writing subjects, and his work has provoked big debates in most, if not all, of them. His latest book, The Sense of Style, is about another farflung topic—grammar—and his iconoclastic opinions have, predictably, drawn […]

  • Bang_HERO

    What to Eat After the Apocalypse

    Engineer Joshua Pearce explains how to feed 7 billion people after a global catastrophe.

  • Ward_HERO

    Pirates, Killer Whales, and Cheap Jewelry: A Life in Science

    Near the end of my long career, I want to save the animal that started it.

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    What the Deer Are Telling Us

    A lesson in home improvement.

  • Ketcham_HERO

    What the Deer Are Telling Us

    A lesson in home improvement.

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    Odell Beckham’s Helping Hands—the Tech Behind the Catch

    It was the catch that broke the Internet. In a game against the Dallas Cowboys last week, rookie wide receiver for the New York Giants Odell Beckham Jr. launched himself into the air backwards, arm outstretched, and managed to catch a pass using one hand—actually just the tips of a thumb and two fingers—to score […]

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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” […]

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    What to Do When Your Brain Insists You’re Always on a Boat

    Zvonimir Orec via Shutterstock   Last July, Chris Perry went on an Alaskan cruise with her family to celebrate her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. When she boarded the massive Norwegian Sun cruise ship, she felt “a little woozy and weird” from the boat’s gentle rocking, she remembers, but the sensation quickly faded. Perry didn’t feel […]

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    The Strange Inevitability of Evolution

    Good solutions to biology’s problems are astonishingly plentiful.

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    The New You

    Introducing the Winter 2015 Nautilus Quarterly.

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    Why Are We So Obsessed With Mugshot Hotties?

    On June 18, a photo of a very handsome man was posted on the Web. It wasn’t intended to “break the Internet” Kardashian-style, but that’s pretty much what happened, if only on a slightly smaller scale. Within 48 hours, the portrait garnered 62,000 “Likes” on Facebook and became an online spectacle. Today the Like count […]

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    How Star Trek May Show BAD REDUNDANT POST

    The Borg capture Captain Jean-Luc Picard and turn him into Locutus, all but erasing his previous identity.CBS Captain Picard: “How do we reason with them, let them know that we are not a threat?” Guinan: “You don’t. At least, I’ve never known anyone who did.” With this brief, ominous exchange, the heroes of Star Trek: […]

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    What Radar Guns Can’t Tell you About the Speed of Pitches

    Paul L Dineen via Flickr Baseball is a fiddly sport. There are countless arbitrary-seeming rules and odd traditions. People who are not familiar with the game sometimes find it near-impossible to understand (and, partly as a consequence, near-impossible to watch). But under the complexity is simplicity: a pitcher throwing a ball and a batter trying […]

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    Can a Card Game Stealthily Teach People Genetics?

      High school biology class. You’re sitting in the back of the room. A ladder-like strip is drawn sideways across the whiteboard. There’s a strange blob seemingly tearing up the ladder from within and a comb-shaped strand sticking out beneath the blob. While looking at your phone and flicking from one social media channel to […]

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    6 Traits of Tomorrow’s Blockbuster Digital Technologies

      If history adheres to timeless long-term trends, Walter Isaacson’s recent book on the digital revolution, The Innovators, could reveal a lot about the future of our digital age. Last week Isaacson, known for his biographies of Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein, spoke about the geniuses behind the last century of innovation at the New-York […]

  • 02_Hughes_HERO

    Fooled By Your Own Brain

    Don’t be so certain your senses are telling you the truth.

  • Svaboda_HERO

    Why You Keep Dreaming About Being Naked

    Are the common elements in our dreams the result of basic biology, or something deeper?

  • Svaboda_HERO

    Why You Keep Dreaming About Being Naked

    Are the common elements in our dreams the result of basic biology, or something deeper?

  • Amato_HERO

    When Bad Things Happen in Slow Motion

    Is there more to our experience of time than the foibles of memory?

  • Amato_HERO

    When Bad Things Happen in Slow Motion

    Is there more to our experience of time than the foibles of memory?

  • Dolgin_HERO

    Stop Developing Drugs for the Cancer That Killed My Mother

    Funding drug development for rare cancers can hurt patients.

  • Dolgin_HERO

    Stop Developing Drugs for the Cancer That Killed My Mother

    Funding drug development for rare cancers can hurt patients.

  • Berger_HERO.

    The Necessity of Musical Hallucinations

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

  • Klarreich_HERO

    The Illusion Machine That Teaches Us How We See

    A mathematician is using computers to manufacture award-winning illusions.

  • Klarreich_HERO

    The Illusion Machine That Teaches Us How We See

    A mathematician is using computers to manufacture award-winning illusions.

  • Cudmore_HERO

    Five Ways to Lie with Charts

    Want to spin your data? Here’s how.

  • Cudmore_HERO

    Five Ways to Lie with Charts

    Want to spin your data? Here’s how.

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    How Your Brain Decides Without You

    In a world full of ambiguity, we see what we want to see.

  • Galison_HERO

    Einstein Among the Daffodils

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

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    [PETER TEST]

    Master cleanse farm-to-table next level, chillwave flannel Truffaut lo-fi Godard. Mlkshk kale chips squid, gastropub vegan tofu ennui YOLO brunch. Chambray meggings Carles messenger bag. Vegan umami skateboard meh, craft beer Tumblr pork belly try-hard chambray flexitarian. Drinking vinegar XOXO gentrify, gastropub Etsy Echo Park Tumblr jean shorts irony occupy heirloom. Small batch Cosby sweater […]

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    Our Cities Could Get a Whole Lot Smarter

    Pieces of SolaRoad, concrete blocks topped with solar cells, were recently installed in a bike path in Holland.SolaRoad Remember having to stay at home and wait for phone calls? (If you’re below a certain age, you can consult old movies, books, or TV shows—or just trust me on this.) It wasn’t so long ago that […]

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    How We Can Finally Start Outsmarting Single-Cell Attackers

    Imagine you are a bacterium, roughly 1/1,700,000 of your current size, residing in your own human body’s gut. You live in a diverse community, the “microbiome,” teeming with other bacteria: friendly neighbors who live next door, some ne’erdowells who occasionally vandalize the town, and your neighborhood cops who try to keep everything in check. The […]

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    How Is a Genius 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 […]

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    What to Do When Genius Fails

    Isaac Newton’s diagram of the Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that could supposedly turn base metals into gold. Geniuses, however we define the concept, often evoke particular strong feelings. Many of us develop personal affection for them, defending them from criticism as fiercely as we would friends or family. It’s not enough for them to be […]

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    Dragons, Memory & Navigating the Globe Using Only Your Wits

    “Vniversale descrittione di tvtta la terra conoscivta fin qvi,” a map of the world from 1565. Click through to see the entire amazing map, or download the super-hi-res version. Paolo Forlani Terra incognita. Unknown land. You may be familiar with this Latin phrase, which most notably appears on old maps, sometimes next to images of dragons, […]

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    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 […]

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    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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    How Nuclear Explosions Were Used to Save the Environment

    During the Cold War, the USSR and U.S. had programs to harness the power of nuclear explosions, demonstrated here in the “Baker” test, for peaceful purposes.U.S. DOD via Wikipedia In the late spring of 2010, the world watched, often in real time, a new kind of environmental disaster unfold: An oil rig operating deep under the […]

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    How Sex Is Like Your Thermostat

    “If you stroke the thermostat just like so…”starmanseries via Flickr Have you ever stopped to consider how sex is like a thermostat? Sex may not sit in a beige box on your wall (or it might, no judging) but there are some striking similarities. The common ingredient is feedback. Both sex and your thermostat depend […]

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    How Jocks and Mathletes Are Alike

    Seven sports that come down to how well your neurons play.

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    How Jocks and Mathletes Are Alike

    Seven sports that come down to how well your neurons play.

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    If You Think You’re a Genius, You’re Crazy

    Both geniuses and madmen pay attention to what others ignore.

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    The Common Genius of Lincoln and Einstein

    The president and the physicist teach us a lesson about moral genius.

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    San Francisco Is Smarter Than You Are

    The city is a big brain that can solve big problems.

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    The Twin Prime Hero

    Rags, riches, and fame in mathematics.

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    Our Neanderthal Complex

    What if our ancient relatives did “human” better?

  • Mcmahon_HERO

    From Isaac Newton to the Genius Bar

    Why it’s time to retire the concept of genius.

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    Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming

    Genetic engineering will one day create the smartest humans who have ever lived.

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    The Intelligent Life of the City Raccoon

    Adapting to the urban jungle has made Rocky smarter.

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    The Intelligent Life of the City Raccoon

    Adapting to the urban jungle has made Rocky smarter.

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    Shakespeare’s Genius Is Nonsense

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

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    What If the Universe Didn’t Start With the Big Bang?

    Last week, researchers using the Planck spacecraft to study the skies announced that the polarization of light spotted by the BICEP2 experiment could be entirely explained by dust swirling around the Milky Way. This news was a bucket of cold water on the theories of many cosmologists: It meant that BICEP2 might not have been […]

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    The Last Word with Diane Ackerman

    Magnifying our mutant, turbulent, symmetrical natures.

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    The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times

    A lithograph of the massive 1883 eruption of KrakatoaThe eruption of Krakatoa, and subsequent phenomena, 1888; Parker & Coward; via Wikipedia On 27 August 1883, the Earth let out a noise louder than any it has made since. It was 10:02 AM local time when the sound emerged from the island of Krakatoa, which sits […]

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    Earth’s Stash of Gold Comes From Colliders Fit for Gods

    Ron Dale via Shutterstock One of science’s greatest feats is having described where we came from—not as individual people, or as a species, or even as a planet, but as stuff, the very material we’re made of. The Big Bang forged all of the basic particles of our lives—electrons and the quarks that make up […]

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    Nature, Pixelated

    With our brains plugged into virtual worlds all day, what is real?

  • Ackerman_HERO

    Nature, Pixelated

    With our brains plugged into virtual worlds all day, what is real?

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    The Wild, Secret Life of New York City

    Get back to nature, right in your own neighborhood.

  • Singularity_HERO

    The Distant Future, 30 Years On

    The Fall 2014 Quarterly looks ahead.

  • Oakley_HERO

    How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math

    The building blocks of understanding are memorization and repetition.

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    How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math

    Sorry, education reformers, it’s still memorization and repetition we need.

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    The Book No One Read

    Why Stanislaw Lem’s futurism deserves attention.

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    When Eating Dairy Was a Life-or-Death Question

    Clay sieves used to filter cheese in Poland 7,500 years ago are remarkably similar to ones used in recent times.Salque et al. / Nature Perforated pottery shards sat alongside cattle bones at the Polish dig site. There archaeologists collected fragments from bowls, cooking pots, and flasks and brought them back to the United Kingdom. At […]

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    5 Things That Sound, Move, or Smell Like a Nuclear Explosion

    The Licorne (“Unicorn”) thermonuclear test; Fangataufa, French Polynesia; 1970CTBTO After most of the world’s nations signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, in 1996,  they set up a new commission to watch out for clandestine explosions. Since then the commission (CTBTO) has wired the world with hundreds of seismometers, infrasound detectors, radionuclide sniffers, and underwater microphones. The […]

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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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    The Few Tough Species That Survive the Rigors of Nothingness

    The Expose-R module attaches to the ISS and holds samples in the harsh conditions of space.NASA In the 1800s, scientists imagined that life was brought to Earth by a rock that had been knocked off of a distant, life-filled planet. Now, over 100 years later, we are able to test this idea of “panspermia”—by sending […]

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    How World of Warcraft Might Help Head Off the Next Pandemic

    Gamers are giving scientists insights into how people react to a plague.

  • Beilis-Peikoff_HERO

    At Death’s Door, He Was Put on Ice

    How a new technology is resurrecting patients from what was once certain death.

  • Weintraub_HERO

    A Deadly Virus Is Arrested in the Middle East

    Halting a MERS pandemic may hold lessons for the Ebola crisis—until the next outbreak.

  • Tenner_HERO

    The Original Natural Born Killers

    In the 1920s, two murderers were defended by science. The infamous case still echoes.

  • Tenner_HERO

    The Original Natural Born Killers

    In the 1920s, two murderers were defended by science. The infamous case still echoes.

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    Ingenious: Paul J. Steinhardt

    The Princeton physicist on what’s wrong with inflation theory and his view of the Big Bang.

  • Svoboda_HERO

    The Family That Couldn’t Say Hippopotamus

    The origins of language are not what inherited disorders seemed to suggest.

  • Paulson_HERO

    To Understand Religion, Think Football

    Sacred beliefs likely arose out of prehistoric bonding and rituals.

  • Paulson_HERO

    To Understand Religion, Think Football

    Sacred beliefs likely arose out of prehistoric bonding and rituals.

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    The Big Bang Is Hard Science. It Is Also a Creation Story.

    Even with its explanatory power, Big Bang theory takes its place in a long line of myths.

  • Powell_HERO.png

    The Big Bang Is Hard Science. It Is Also a Creation Story.

    Even with its explanatory power, Big Bang theory takes its place in a long line of myths.

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    If Half of All Species Go Extinct, Will One of Them Be Us?

    Biodiversity JengaMartin Sharman How many animal species do you think go extinct every year? Last week I conducted a highly unscientific polling of around 20 of my Facebook and Google Chat contacts, asking that same question. I’m not trying to brag, but I have some really smart friends, many of them with degrees in biology. […]

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    How a Mental Disorder Can Disappear from the World Overnight

    The dinosaur long ago renamed “Apatosaurus” is still often called “Brontosaurus.” stevegeer via iStock Over the past few decades, autism and Asperger syndrome have become prominent in the public consciousness, and that prominence has been reflected in popular art and entertainment. Autism, a mental illness characterized by repetitive behaviors and impaired social interactions, was brought […]

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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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    The Woods That Time Forgot

    In the Mist, a film about a Canary Island forest, opens the archives of Earth’s history.

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    The Pufferfish’s Lethal Poison Shows Up Right Under Our Feet

    A flatworm that lives in soil and uses TTX to hunt down much larger earthwormsPeter Ducey Lurking in the soil, even under a most peaceful and well-nurtured garden, is a surprisingly fierce predator: Bipalium adventitium, an invasive flatworm that began appearing in the United States about 100 years ago, likely hitching a ride in potted […]

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    Traffic Ghost Hunting

    When the biggest problem with traffic is nothing at all.

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    Why Do Amputees Feel the Ache of Nothingness?

    An amputation guide for surgeons from 1739The Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library For amputees, it’s adding insult to injury. They’ve already lost pieces of themselves that they thought they could always count on, limbs that they first discovered while waving the chubby things in their cribs. Yet after that life-changing loss comes a new kind of suffering: […]

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    Public, Pointed Scientific Spats—Feature, Not Bug

    Galileo is the archetypal paradigm-busting scientist telling truth to hidebound authorities.Felix Parra: Galileo Demonstrating the New Astronomical Theories at the University of Padua, 1873. There’s a common trope in science in which a lone genius stands defiantly against a backward, close-minded establishment. Galileo’s Sun-centric astronomy vs. the Catholic Church; John Harrison’s longitude-revealing watch vs. the bigwigs […]

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    Searching for Disappearing Species in the US’ Deepest Wilds

    Michael Lucid photographs samples found during the Multispecies Baseline Initiative (MBI).Ben Goldfarb In 2010, Michael Lucid, a biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, captured a surprise in a beer-baited gastropod trap—a slug that didn’t genetically resemble any of the ones he’d caught before. On a hunch, Lucid sent the mysterious invertebrate to […]

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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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    The Pretty Bacterial Dance That May Help Prevent Infections

    Imagine looking down through a microscope and seeing a big mass of bacterial cells, writhing in sync, churning in circles. You can almost hear a buzz of activity. The micron-sized organisms migrate across a plate of agar, gobbling up the nutrient-rich media, recalling the frenetic activity of bees in a hive. What you see through […]

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    The Minds & Algorithms That Make Hollywood Spectacle

    We may not have realized it at the time, but during the 1990s, Hollywood movies were infiltrated by a new presence that outshined even the biggest screen stars: Images created on computers became the main draws for movies like Jurassic Park, Toy Story, The Matrix, and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Since then, […]

  • 16_HERO.

    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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    99 Problems, and a Wild Gecko Space Orgy Is Just One

    By the time of this launch of the space shuttle Discovery in 2009, NASA knew well the dangers of lightning to spacecraft. At the launch of Apollo 12, in 1969, they were in the dark.NASA On July 19, Russia launched a satellite designed to study the effects of microgravity on, among other living beings, geckos. […]

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    Angst and the Empty Set

    We can experience nothingness, but does it actually exist?

  • Hanuka_HERO

    A Complicated Question

    A child asks, and war answers.

  • Zimmer_HERO

    Why We Can’t Rule Out Bigfoot

    How the null hypothesis keeps the hairy hominid alive.

  • Zimmer_HERO

    Why We Can’t Rule Out Bigfoot

    How the null hypothesis keeps the hairy hominid alive.

  • Lightman_HERO

    My Own Personal Nothingness

    From a childhood hallucination to the halls of theoretical physics.

  • Bee-2_HERO

    Loyalty Nearly Killed My Beehive

    My queen was a dud, and her replacement had been murdered.

  • Bee-2_HERO

    Loyalty Nearly Killed My Beehive

    My queen was a dud, and her replacement had been murdered.

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    Zombie Sponge Reefs Are Lurking at the Bottom of the Sea

    The resurrection of glass sponge reefs proves extinction doesn’t have to be eternal.

  • Jabr_HERO

    This Is Where Your Childhood Memories Went

    Your brain needs to forget in order to grow.

  • Jabr_HERO

    This Is Where Your Childhood Memories Went

    Your brain needs to forget in order to grow.

  • Gross_HERO

    This Is Your Brain on Silence

    Contrary to popular belief, peace and quiet is all about the noise in your head.

  • Gross_HERO

    This Is Your Brain on Silence

    Contrary to popular belief, peace and quiet is all about the noise in your head.

  • Dolgin_HERO

    Take Two Sugar Pills and Call Me in the Morning

    Genetic tests can predict when placebos may be the best medicine.

  • Francis_HERO

    What’s 250 Million Light-Years Big, Almost Empty, and Full of Answers?

    Astronomers are using new tools in their search for cosmic voids.

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    The Bridge From Nowhere

    How is it possible to get something from nothing?

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    Is Our Universe Like Oil & Vinegar or Homogenized Milk?

    Is our Universe inhomogeneous, lumpy and uneven on many size scales, like oil droplets in water?via Shutterstock   In the earliest moments after the Big Bang, the Universe was a turbulent mess, a high-temperature stew of quantum fluctuations. As with turbulence in water, the fluctuations acted at every level: If you could imagine observing the […]

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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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    The Beautiful Unpredictability of Coffee, Clouds, and Fire

    The International Space Station captured this photo of the Sarychev Volcano erupting on June 12, 2009. Volcanic plumes contain turbulence that extends to a wide range of size scales. NASA “Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the seat belt sign. Please return to your seats and ensure your seat belts are fastened.” So […]

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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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    Is the World Making You Sick?

    The chemicals in our everyday lives are, argues immunologist Claudia Miller.

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    How to Make a Microcosm of the Ocean

    The FloWave tank performing “party tricks” for a gathering of leaders of the UK marine-renewable-energy sector.FloWave Every day on Canada’s Atlantic coast, just northeast of Maine, a gargantuan amount of water rushes through rocky cliffs into and out of the Bay of Fundy. With currents typically reaching speeds of 12 knots, or 20 feet per […]

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    The 6 Most Surprising, Important Inventions From World War I

    British soldiers in a WWI trenchAustralian War Memorial Just over 100 years ago, on the 28th of June, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated in Sarajevo. That set into motion a chain of events that, within several weeks, culminated in the European great powers declaring war on each other. The resulting conflict […]

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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 […]

  • Berreby_HERO

    Cloudy With a Chance of War

    His weather forecasts changed the world. Could his predictions of war?

  • Vaidya_HERO

    Toad Orgies, Underwater AC, and Other Stories From the Storm

    Most creatures flee storms, but some thrive because of them.

  • Riley_HERO

    Fish School Us on Wind Power

    Record-efficiency turbine farms are being inspired by sealife.

  • Riley_HERO

    Fish School Us on Wind Power

    Record-efficiency turbine farms are being inspired by sealife.

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    In Search of Life’s Smoking Gun

    A journey to the underwater volcanoes where life may have erupted.

  • Hydrothermal_HERO

    In Search of Life’s Smoking Gun

    A journey to the underwater volcanoes where life may have erupted.

  • Nobel_HERO

    NASA Is Going to Dip This Cup Into the Sun’s Corona

    A 2018 mission will send a probe to within 4 million miles of the sun.

  • Hutson_quiz_HERO

    Are You Resilient?

    Take this quiz and learn the keys to bouncing back.

  • Anthes-HERO

    If Trauma Victims Forget, What Is Lost to Society?

    A pill to dampen memories stirs hope and worry.

  • Weir_HERO

    Can You Die From a Broken Heart?

    What happens to our bodies when the bonds of love are breached.

  • Clancy_HERO

    Your Brain Is On the Brink of Chaos

    Neurological evidence for chaos in the nervous system is growing.

  • Mackenzie_HERO

    To Predict Turbulence, Just Count the Puffs

    These tiny swirls of fluid live, die, reproduce, and spark turbulence.

  • Mackenzie_HERO

    To Predict Turbulence, Just Count the Puffs

    These tiny swirls of fluid live, die, reproduce, and spark turbulence.

  • CHH_HERO

    Why I Traveled the World Hunting for Mutant Bugs

    A researcher who works through painting tells her story.

  • CHH_HERO

    Why I Traveled the World Hunting for Mutant Bugs

    A researcher who works through painting tells her story.

  • Manasi_HERO

    The Challenges of Illustrating Science

    Two Nautilus artists share their creative visions.

  •  Segal_HERO

    A Summer Gaze

    The Summer 2014 Quarterly tackles image and object.

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    The Astronomer Royal

    Lord Martin Rees tells us about black holes and existential risks.

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    Join Nautilus Live—Get the Truth About Sun Exposure

    Join us at noon on Monday, June 9, when editor in chief Michael Segal will host a live video chat with award-winning journalist and NYU professor, Jessica Seigel about her latest Nautilus piece, “America Is Getting the Science of Sun Exposure Wrong.” There are two ways to participate. You can send us your questions before […]

  • 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. […]

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    bird calls interactive

    [INSERT SCRIPT #1] Data source: NASA Earth Observatory and Xeno-Canto While humans appreciate their songs as enjoyable sonic flourishes, birds sing to accomplish some vital goals, like finding mates and asserting claims over their home territory. So it is no surprise that they’re good at figuring out how to tune their songs so they have […]

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    A Strange New Gene Pool of Animals Is Brewing in the Arctic

    Scientists have seen the future and it is “grolar bears.”

  • McDonnell_HERO-1

    A Strange New Gene Pool of Animals Is Brewing in the Arctic

    Scientists have seen the future and it is “grolar bears.”

  • big fat

    How The Big Wrong Fat Message Got So Widely Accepted

    Nutritional advice about eggs, naturally high in cholesterol, has been scrambled over the past 50 years.Jag_cz via Shutterstock The practice of nutritional science faces some significant problems, and they are mainly of its own making. For decades, starting in the 1950s, a consensus of experts recommended that Americans cut down on fat, cholesterol, and saturated […]

  • Zorich_HERO

    If the World Began Again, Would Life as We Know It Exist?

    Experiments in evolution are exploring what would happen if we rewound the tape of life.

  • McKee_HERO

    This Shape-Shifter Could Tell Us Why Matter Exists

    Neutrinos can flit between states effortlessly, hinting at deep new physics.

  • Kordahl_HERO

    How Physics Is Like Three-Chord Rock

    Like a set of common chords, the same math appears in diverse fields of physics.

  • Zeldovich-HERO

    10 Reasons Why You Can’t Live Without A Particle Accelerator

    Particle accelerators can make you healthy and wealthy.

  • Fitzgerald_HERO

    How the Mormons Conquered America

    The success of the Mormon religion is a study in social adaptation.

  • Fitzgerald_HERO

    How the Mormons Conquered America

    The success of the Mormon religion is a study in social adaptation.

  • Barricelli_HERO-2

    The Computer Maverick Who Modeled the Evolution of Life

    Nils Aall Barricelli showed that organisms evolved by symbiosis and cooperation.

  •  Ed_HERO

    Michio Kaku Explains Consciousness for You

    The gregarious physicist gets inside our brains.

  • Grush_HERO

    Can You Spot the Real Animal Hybrid?

    Take our quiz on nature’s mutant offspring.

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    You Can “Catch” Stress Through a TV Screen

    Your heart rate speeds up, your breathing quickens. Your muscles tighten. Your stomach ties itself in knots. All of these changes are symptoms of the condition called stress. When animals, including humans, are under acute stress, their bodies respond with a powerful neurochemical chain reaction. Glucose, the fuel for our cells, is released into the […]

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    Let’s Play a Game: “Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?”

    As you look closer and closer at the world, you find more and more levels of organization. And at many of those steps, the view is fantastic. From butterfly wings to snowflakes, zooming in on the world around us can reveal incredible symmetries and patterns, and sometimes pure chaos. Seen at a microscopic level, things […]

  • Forest-for-the-Trees

    Forest for the Trees—Why We Recognize Faces & Constellations

    A Ganado-style Navajo rugNational Park Service For many thousands of years, and across cultures around the world, symmetry has been seen as beautiful. The mirror-image accuracy of the Parthenon is seen also in the Taj Mahal and the geometric patterns of traditional Navajo rugs. We see symmetry in more fluid, modern media, too, like the […]

  • The Universe, Expanding Symmetrically

    The Universe, Expanding Symmetrically and Eternally

      Two months ago, we learned of landmark evidence bolstering the theory of inflation, a period very soon after the Big Bang when the Universe expanded at a terrific rate, stretching out and smoothing its lumps, and making it remarkably consistent on large scales. A recent study confirms that, even 13.8 billion years after the […]

  • World of Warcraft

    How World of Warcraft Might Help Head off the Next Pandemic

    On September 13th 2005, Nick Yee died. A few moments later, he came back to life. Then he died again. And he wasn’t the only one. His city was littered with bodies, bones scattered across the floor of the auction house and town square. “It was simply hilarious,” he said, “that everyone was dying and […]

  • White Holes

    “White Holes” Could Exist—But That Doesn’t Mean They Do

      A black hole is a one-way door to oblivion. According to general relativity, once anything crosses its boundary—the event horizon—it cannot return to the outside. For that particle, the black hole is the entire future. We’ll never actually get a chance to see the particle live out that destiny: Any light the particle emits […]

  • How to love

    How to Learn to Love to Practice

      In interviews, famous people often say that the key to becoming both happy and successful is to “do what you love.” But mastering a skill, even one that you deeply love, requires a huge amount of drudgery. Any challenging activity—from computer programming to playing a musical instrument to athletics—requires focused and concentrated practice. A […]

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    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 […]

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    A Reader-Powered Scrapbook of Nautilus’ First Year in Print

    It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since the launch of Nautilus. Thankfully, our readers and staff have kept a kind of scrapbook of memories from this year. So, to celebrate our first birthday, here we present some of the ways people have captured their moments with the magazine so far.  If you […]

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    Third Data Server From the Sun

    The Earth is becoming a computer visible across galactic distance.

  • Laughlin_HERO

    Third Data Server From the Sun

    The Earth is becoming a computer visible across galactic distance.

  • Jabr_HERO

    Half Male, Half Female, Total Animal

    Mixed-sex animals teach us about our own multifarious nature.

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    “We Are Visual Animals, Driven By Images”

    The head of the Max Planck Society discusses the science of creative visualization.

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    Picasso and Einstein Got the Picture

    Breakthroughs in science and art begin with an image.

  • Levin_HERO

    How to Learn to Love Your Doppelganger

    Hallucinating yourself can be both a symptom and a tool.

  • Tsui_HERO-2

    He Gave Away $30 Million Because It Felt Good

    James Doty just may embody the altruism he studies.

  • Maguelijo_HERO

    The Disappearing Physicist and His Elusive Particle

    He ushered symmetry into theoretical physics, then vanished without a trace.

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    Want to Get Out Alive? Follow the Ants

    Ants show that emergency exits can work better when they’re obstructed.

  • Mhrvold_HERO-2

    Want to Get Out Alive? Follow the Ants

    Ants show that emergency exits can work better when they’re obstructed.

  • Kaiser_HERO

    The Sacred, Spherical Cows of Physics

    Theoretical physics milks symmetry to power its newest tool.

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    Impossible Cookware and Other Triumphs of the Penrose Tile

    Infinite patterns that never repeat have moved from fantasy to reality.

  • Barrs_HERO

    Impossible Cookware and Other Triumphs of the Penrose Tile

    Infinite patterns that never repeat have moved from fantasy to reality.

  • ahead

    Austria’s Ahead-of-Its-Time Institute That Was Lost to Nazis

    In 1911, Popular Science Monthly published an enthusiastic description of a young, private experimental-biology institute in Vienna, lauding its “remarkable scientific productivity resulting from only eight years of research.” The author, zoologist Charles Lincoln Edwards, attributed the success of the Biologische Versuchsanstalt (Insitute of Experimental Biology) to its many advanced experimental devices. The institute, popularly known […]

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    Stress Gives You Daughters, Sons Make You Liberal

    We affect our children’s gender, and it affects us back.

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    Mood Ring—Cell Phones Can Hear Depression in People’s Voices

    Three examples of speech from a person with bipolar disorder. The rows show one second each of manic, euthymic (normal), and depressed speech. The colored rectangles show various features extracted from the speech, where color indicates the amplitude of that feature for that speaker. The 10 features measure qualities of the person’s voice like pitch, […]

  • 012_HERO

    Feedback

    When speakers and microphones began to appear onstage together in the 1920s, they brought with them an unwelcome guest. Place your pickup too close to your speakers, and an ear-rending screech takes the stage. Moving it further away helps, but is no guarantee of safety. It was the public’s introduction to feedback: Directing output into […]

  • DeDeo_HERO

    When Theft Was Worse Than Murder

    Hundreds of years of trial documents reveal our changing attitudes to violent crime.

  • Volcano_HERO

    The Gaia Hypothesis Is Still Giving Us Feedback

    Revisiting James Lovelock’s theory as it approaches 50.

  • Wolff_HERO

    One Percenters Control Online Reviews

    Contrary to appearances, online reviews reflect the opinions of the few.

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    Building the Perfect Painkiller

    Inside the quest to conquer addictive drugs.

  • Graber_HERO

    This Iconoclast Injected Life Into Artificial Body Parts

    Laura Niklason recognized that synthetic organs can't grow without mechanical stress.

  • Arnold_HERO

    Ants Swarm Like Brains Think

    A neuroscientist studies ant colonies to understand feedback in the brain.

  • Arnold_HERO

    Ants Swarm Like Brains Think

    A neuroscientist studies ant colonies to understand feedback in the brain.

  • Ashley_HERO

    The Vulgar Mechanic and His Magical Oven

    A Renaissance alchemist pioneers feedback control.

  • Nadis_HERO-C

    Why Aliens and Volcanoes Go Together

    Life on other planets may rely on plate tectonics.

  • Nadis_HERO-C

    Why Aliens and Volcanoes Go Together

    Life on other planets may rely on plate tectonics.

  • Keim_HERO-2

    Decoding Nature’s Soundtrack

    The health of an ecosystem in the Earth’s own words.

  • Keim_HERO-2

    Decoding Nature’s Soundtrack

    The health of an ecosystem in the Earth’s own words.

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    Sparkly Mints May Help Explain Puzzling “Earthquake Lights”

    Agriculture inspector Jim Conacher photographed these earthquake lights over Tagish Lake, in Canada’s Yukon Territory, in 1972Jim Conacher For centuries, people have been reporting mysterious lights along the ground and in the sky soon before an earthquake hits. But it wasn’t until 1966 that there was some solid evidence of the lights, when one man […]

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    Born of Meteor Dust, Unusual Clouds Appear in the Night Sky

    Martin Koitmäe via Flickr If you look to the darkening sky after the end of a long summer day, you might see tendril-like clouds with a blueish tinge that hang at the edge of space. They appear when conditions are right, generally at latitudes close to the North or South Poles, and only when the […]

  • Ketcham_HERO

    What the Deer Are Telling Us

    A lesson in home improvement.

  • Kucharski_HERO-CB1

    It’s Alive!

    The Spring 2014 Quarterly has awakened.

  • Kucharski_HERO

    Math’s Beautiful Monsters

    How a destructive idea paved the way for modern math.

  • Kucharski_HERO

    Math’s Beautiful Monsters

    How a destructive idea paved the way for modern math.

  • Earle_HERO

    Voice of the Ocean

    Sylvia Earle addresses the state of our seas.

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    This Animal Hides Using—& Is Kept Up by—Its Own Glowing Head

    The Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes)Margaret McFall-Ngai Light draws attention. Spotlights tell us what’s important on stage or illuminate an escaping criminal. The glow from a smartphone in a movie theater quickly exposes the impropriety of its owner. Light reveals things hidden in the darkness. Usually. The Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) has adopted a […]

  • Istanbul

    Can You Identify These Cities From Their Light Signatures?

    The light that a city emits is like its glowing fingerprint. From the orderly grid of Manhattan, to the sprawling, snaking streets of Milan, to the bright contrast of Kuwait’s ring-roads, each city leaves its own pattern of tiny glowing dots. See if you can ID these cities based on the way they shine.   […]

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    To Save Drowning People, Ask Yourself “What Would Light Do?”

    Imagine you’re a lifeguard and you see someone struggling to stay afloat. Being a responsible lifeguard, you want to get to them as quickly as possible. You’re pretty fast when swimming, but even faster running on sand. So what’s the quickest route to get to the swimmer? It may not sound like it, but this […]

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    The Father of Inflation Clears Up a Big Misunderstanding

    Last week researchers working on the BICEP2 experiment in Antarctica announced that they’d seen solid evidence of gravitational waves that emerged very early in the Universe’s history. This discovery lent support to inflation, a theory of cosmology long popular among physicists but still lacking in direct proof. (To learn more about the recent discovery and […]

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    How to See Quantum Drops of Light

    An illustration of wave interferenceSybille Yates via Shutterstock Though we can see in remarkably low-light conditions, humans aren’t quite sensitive enough to see individual photons—the particles that make up all types of light. In our day-to-day lives, we are so awash with light that its particle nature is just as masked as the atomic nature […]

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    We Bathe Always in the Glow of the Big Bang

    A map of the cosmic microwave background from the COBE satellite.NASA It was born when the Universe was just 10 human heartbeats old. A small burst of electromagnetic energy known as a photon. A primordial particle of light. At that time the Universe was a blazing hot mix of ionized hydrogen and helium, a sea […]

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    Streetlights That Watch Passersby & Turn Them Into Big Data

    Smart LEDs are installed in Newark Liberty International AirportThe Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Not so long ago, LEDs were like the slide rule of the lighting world, found mostly in the lovably geekiest of places: front panels of technical equipment, scientific kits for kids, and of course Radio Shack. But over […]

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    What Makes Mysterious Orbs Shine Over a West Texan Desert?

    Looking for an enigma from the Marfa Lights Viewing Platformrick valentin via Flickr It was a warm summer night when my friends and I drove out to the middle of the west Texas desert and turned off the road at a big sign proclaiming, “Marfa’s Mystery Lights Viewing Area: Night Time Only.” We walked past […]

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    The Salamander That Has Photosynthesis Happening Inside It

    Spotted salamander young come pre-equipped with photosynthetic algae, which are visible in their eggs.Courtesy of Roger Hangarter / University of Indiana Amidst life’s profligate swapping and sharing and collaborating, one union stands out: the symbiosis of spotted salamanders and the algae living inside them. Their uniqueness is no small matter. After all, mutually beneficial relationships […]

  • Cowen_HERO-2

    When the Sky Explained Everything

    How ancient astronomy sowed the seeds for science and math.

  • 011_HERO

    Light

    Where does the story of life and light begin? Maybe with the fact that most life on Earth runs on sunlight, or that starlight may have set the direction in which all of Earth’s biomolecules spiral. Or is it the ancient photosynthetic transformation of our planet? The human fascination with light offers its own set […]

  • Muir_HERO_3

    The Lightning Beneath Our Feet

    The strange lights that occur before earthquakes may originate underground.

  • Muir_HERO_3

    The Lightning Beneath Our Feet

    The strange lights that occur before earthquakes may originate underground.

  • Nobel_Hero-02

    Why the U.S. Military Is Into Bee Brain Surgery

    Bees might hold the secret to a new kind of nighttime navigation.

  • Billings_HERO

    Looking for a Second Earth in the Shadows

    Scientists are blocking out the light of distant suns to look for life.

  • Peplow_HERO-2

    Lights, Camera, Acrimony!

    Physicists and engineers face off over how to make room for more data.

  • Pitock_HERO-2

    Falling in Love With the Dark

    One astronomer has taken to U.S. National Parks to rekindle an old romance.

  • Ferguson_HERO

    The Glassmaker Who Sparked Astrophysics

    His curious discovery, 200 years ago, foresaw our expanding universe.

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    Osmos, a Physics Game Where It’s Survival of the Fattest

    A screenshot from Osmos showing the player’s mote bright blue mote surrounded by smaller blue bubbles, which you can eat, and larger red blobs, which can eat you. In an era when fashion demands thinness, the video game Osmos, in which the goal is attaining ever greater levels of corpulence, stands as a rare exception. […]

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    Will Fusion Energy Ever Come Together?

    The target assembly at the National Ignition Facility’s fusion experiment. The two triangle-shaped arms shield the cylinder until five seconds before a blast from the world’s most powerful lasers. It’s the poetry of fusion that draws us in. There in the heart of a star, in the welter of plasma, we find creation. In mindboggling […]

  • Bahcall_HERO

    John Bahcall and the Hubble Telescope

    Bringing the universe home.

  • Keats_HERO

    A Lexicon of Light

    Since the universe formed, photons have affected everything.

  • Keats_HERO

    20 Ways to See the Light

    The meaning of light through history in science, religion, philosophy, and culture.

  • Hanson_HERO

    Drowning in Light

    Technology has fed our addiction to light, and might help us end it.

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    Steal a Skull, Understand a Genius

      On May 31st, 1809, famed composer Joseph Haydn died, and he was soon buried in a simple ceremony—but his peaceful rest would not last long. Five days after his interment, a friend of his dug up his body and cut off his head. Joseph Carl Rosenbaum kept a detailed dairy chronicling his theft, noting […]

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    The Great Bioterror Threat Is Modern Society

    E. coli that tested positive for NMD-1 growing in a petri dish. The sample came from a 67-year-old man in India. Nathan Reading via Flickr After the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent anthrax mailings, the United States government started taking the possibility of biological terrorism very seriously. It spent billions of dollars […]

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    The Most Massive Object in the Universe—How Was It Created?

      The galaxy known prosaically as M87 doesn’t look like much. Unlike beautiful spiral galaxies (including the Milky Way), M87 appears as an orangish blob of stars through telescopes. Its only noticeable feature is the long streamer of gas emanating from the galactic center. The source of that jet is far from prosaic, however: It’s […]

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    Clash of the Tiny—One Pushy Squirrel & the Turf War for LA

    A resourceful eastern fox squirrel eating pizzaCourtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County In West Los Angeles, just across the 405 freeway from UCLA, sits a hospital that’s been serving veterans for more than 100 years.  Back in 1904, it housed veterans from the Civil and Spanish-American Wars and was called the “Sawtelle Veterans […]

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    The Grand Collisions That Make Snownadoes & Arctic Sea Smoke

    Lake-effect snow clearly visible over the Great LakesNASA Last December, State University of New York, Oswego, meteorologist Scott Steiger led an expedition into a snowstorm. The team called themselves OWLeS—the Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems. Researchers lofted weather balloons and tethered blimps into snowy clouds to gather temperature and humidity data. A trio of flatbed trucks […]

  • Asigau yellow warbler

    Biologists Work to Protect a Cathedral of Biology

    The isolated Galapagos Islands are a ecological treasure and a key setting in the history of science: Charles Darwin did research there that helped him come to understand biological evolution—though, as detailed in a new Nautilus story by Henry Nicholls, it was observations of plants, rather than the better-known finches, that were most enlightening.  One hundred […]

  • Ketcham_HERO

    What the Deer Are Telling Us

    The ecological fate of our home.

  • Kucharski_HERO

    [Mathematical Monsters]

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  • Segal-Quarterly_HERO

    [Quarterly Editorial]

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  • Maxmen_HERO

    This Valentine’s Day, Go Public or Go Home

    Ken Kraaijeveld unveils ancient secrets of seduction from the animal kingdom.

  • Maxmen_HERO

    This Valentine’s Day, Go Public or Go Home

    Ken Kraaijeveld unveils ancient secrets of seduction from the animal kingdom.

  • Piore_HERO

    Can Science Breed the Next Secretariat?

    How a “speed gene” test is stirring up horse racing and athletics.

  • Savin_HERO

    Before There Were Stars

    The unlikely heroes that made starlight possible.

  • Savin_HERO

    Before There Were Stars

    The unlikely heroes that made starlight possible.

  • Savin_HERO

    Before There Were Stars

    The unlikely heroes that made starlight possible.

  • Savin_HERO

    Before There Were Stars

    The unlikely heroes that made starlight possible.

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    Once Upon a Gemstone

    Precious stones hold the stories of continents, oceans, and cultures.

  • Weintraub_HERO

    The Dead Sea Lives!

    Why scientists question the longstanding plan to merge the Dead Sea and the Red Sea.

  • Weintraub_HERO

    The Dead Sea Lives!

    Why scientists question the longstanding plan to merge the Dead Sea and the Red Sea.

  • Nicholls_HERO

    The Seeds That Sowed a Revolution

    Galapagos Finches are famous, yet Darwin learned more about evolution from the plants.

  • Edsinger_HERO-2

    Top 5 Real Wolves of Wall Street

    Wheelers and dealers have run wild for millions of years.

  • Anthes_HERO_1

    Animals Bow to Their Mechanical Overlords

    Robots are infiltrating insect, fish, and bird communities—and seizing control.

  • Issue-010_COVER-HERO

    Mergers & Acquisitions

    The atomists have had a good run. Since the time of Democritus, scientists have been busy dividing reality into increasingly smaller bits, leaving us today with atoms and quarks, proteins and genes. This has prompted debates about the limits of reductionism, the role of holism, and the importance of emergent phenomena. But the simplest legacy of […]

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    5 Places Where People Slow Down Aging

    Around the world, people are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. One area this is most visible is in the number of centenarians, or people living to the age of 100. In 1840, there were 90 centenarians in the United States—one for every 189,000 people—according to United States Census Bureau records. Today, there are […]

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    A Photographer Who Tinkers With Time

    A still from Stainless, AlexanderplatzAdam Magyar Adam Magyar’s gone viral. His recent series Stainless, in which video recordings of subway platforms are played out in super-slow-motion, has been rippling across the web. Magyar first films people on the platform from a speedily arriving train and then slows the footage down, highlighting details and expressions that […]

  • Slingerland_HERO

    Trying Not to Try

    Modern science and Chinese philosophy tell us similar stories about how we think.

  • Hughes_HERO

    Sound and Touch Collide

    There might be a little synesthesia in each of us.

  • Hughes_HERO

    Sound and Touch Collide

    There might be a little synesthesia in each of us.

  • Carroll_HERO

    Initial Conditions

    Sean Carroll and Alan Guth talk about time.

  • Barbour_HOME.

    The Mystery of Time’s Arrow

    Past and future may not be what they seem.

  • Barbour_HOME.

    The Mystery of Time’s Arrow

    This simple model of the universe shows how one natural law points toward order.

  • Musser_HERO

    The Quantum Mechanics of Fate

    How time travel might explain some of science’s biggest puzzles.

  • Musser_HERO

    The Quantum Mechanics of Fate

    How time travel might explain some of science’s biggest puzzles.

  • Musser_HERO

    The Quantum Mechanics of Fate

    How time travel might explain some of science’s biggest puzzles.

  • Teper_HERO_6

    Inconstants of Nature

    If the constitution of nature itself were changing in time, how would you know?

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    Vikings—They’re Just Like Us! Social Networks in Norse Sagas

    A simplified diagram of the type used to analyze Viking social structures. Green connections represent friendly relations; red ones are hostile. Note that the researchers helpfully explain in the original caption, “The horned helmets, popularly associated with Viking warriors, are probably a nineteenth-century romantic construct – none of the few Viking helmets which survive have […]

  • 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.

  • DUDE

    Haunted by His Brother, He Revolutionized Physics

    To John Archibald Wheeler, the race to explain time was personal.

  • Hutson_HERO-3.

    Making Good Use of Bad Timing

    We bend time to make our world make sense.

  • Opar_HERO

    Why We Procrastinate

    We think of our future selves as strangers.

  • Time_COVER_HERO-2

    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 […]

  • Tegmark_HERO

    Life is a Braid in Spacetime

    How to see yourself in a world where only math is real.

  • Tegmark_HERO

    Life Is a Braid in Spacetime

    How to see yourself in a world where only math is real.

  • Barash_HERO

    Over Time, Buddhism and Science Agree

    Understanding the impermanence of everything—including ourselves.

  • Barash_HERO

    Over Time, Buddhism and Science Agree

    Understanding the impermanence of everything—including ourselves.

  • Barash_HERO

    Over Time, Buddhism and Science Agree

    Understanding the impermanence of everything—including ourselves.

  • Merali_HERO

    In Search of Time’s Origin

    What happened before the Big Bang?

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    On the Last Day of 2013, Let’s Predict the Science of 2014

    Fluorescent-labeled neurons in a mouse hippocampus made visible using the new CLARITY technique.Kwanghun Chung & Karl Deisseroth, HHMI/Stanford Univ. It’s not our fault. Blame the theorists, explorers, experimenters, and inventors.  We at Nautilus try to keep on top of all the amazing new things happening in science, but there’s simply too much of it to […]

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    The Pasta Theory of Memory & Your Personal Beginning of Time

    “[mother’s day memories]”kyle post via Flickr under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) license In the beginning, my mother is carrying me in her arms as she closes a screen door. I remember her humming as she walks along, and then she sits down on a bench that is surrounded by greenery. That’s all that is […]

  • Chris Buzelli collage hero

    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? […]

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    The Most Popular Nautilus Blog Posts of 2013

    Two-thirds of a year ago, we set loose a new online science magazine, and along with it, Facts So Romantic. Since then FSR has served as the bloggy alter ego to the online-magazine version of Nautilus, burrowing into the same mind-expanding monthly topics with a quicker, lighter approach. Thanks to contributions from a great group […]

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    The Racehorse on the Runway

    The hybrid ecologies of Frankfurt Airport show us how homes and borders intersect.

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    Being a Guest Is Good, But Home Sweet Home is Worth Gold

    This month Nautilus is tackling the idea of home—what it is, what it means to us, and how we find our way there. Along the way, we’re discovering that home is an essential idea for humans, the subject of countless songs, poems, movies, paintings, novels, and idioms. In English, home is where the heart is. There’s […]

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    Saving Suburbia

    Shouldn’t neighborhoods be as diverse as the swamps and forests that surround them?

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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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    The Eerie Lawn Pest That Comes From Our Obsession With Lawns

    Fairy Ring #3Collage by Amy Ross (with permission) The front lawn is an American symbol of middle-class status and respectability. We trim ours with ride-on mowers, condition them with nitrogen, and hydrate them with elaborate sprinklers, largely because they represent us to everyone driving by. Ironically, it’s due to this energetic maintenance that one pest […]

  • Erickson_HERO

    In Science Fiction, We Are Never Home

    Where technology leads to exile and yearning.

  • Mersini_notext_HERO

    Best of 2013: Beyond the Horizon of the Universe

    Want to see evidence of other universes? Just look up.

  • Gerovitch_HERO

    Best of 2013: The Man Who Invented Modern Probability

    Chance encounters in the life of Andrei Kolmogorov.

  • Vanderbuilt_HERO_1280x376

    Best of 2013: Unhappy Truckers & Other Algorithmic Problems

    Transportation optimization starts with math, but ends in understanding human behavior.

  • Deutsch_HERO

    Best of 2013: Why It’s Good To Be Wrong

    Nothing obstructs access to the truth like a belief in absolute truthfulness.

  • Marcus_HERO_2013

    Best of 2013: Where Uniqueness Lies

    The ultimate treasure hunt for the key in our brains that unlocks our difference.

  • Costandi_HERO

    Emotional Renovations

    How your brain twists together emotion and place.

  • Auerbach_HERO_3

    A.I. Has Grown Up and Left Home

    It matters only that we think, not how we think.

  • Hannibal_HERO

    Speak, Butterfly

    Butterflies tied together Vladimir Nabokov’s home, science, and writing.

  • Weintraub_HERO

    At Home in the Liminal World

    Living in transition, between cultures, we are discovering who we are.

  • Deutsch_HERO

    Not Merely the Finest TV Documentary Series Ever Made

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

  • Preziosi_HERO

    The Periodic Stranger

    When exile becomes home.

  • Gammon_HERO

    Cancer, the Consummate Traveler

    Disrupting cancer’s diaspora may lead to new therapies.

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    How to Build a Better Bat Cave

    Paul Kingsbury/The Nature Conservancy In the winter of 1975, a biologist named Merlin Tuttle bought himself a state-of-the-art digital thermometer and set out on a road trip from Wisconsin down to Florida. Tuttle, who was in his mid-30s and sporting a brown, push-broom mustache, was trying to measure something that no one had really measured […]

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    Iron Curtain of the Mind—Our Tangled Thoughts on Geography

    An East German border guard keeps a lookout for people trying to escape from communist Berlin to freedom on the other side of the wall. US National Archives How well do we know the countries we call home? It seems obvious that travel and study would improve a person’s knowledge of geography. But could attitudes […]

  • 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 […]

  • Chernobyl glowing

    Chernobyl’s Hot Mess, “the Elephant’s Foot,” Is Still Lethal

    300 seconds will produce a relatively quick death, which is better than many alternatives.  After just 30 seconds of exposure, dizziness and fatigue will find you a week later. Two minutes of exposure and your cells will soon begin to hemorrhage; four minutes: vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. 300 seconds and you have two days to live.  […]

  • Kumar_HERO

    The Harshest Return

    Living in Antarctica is hard; coming home can be harder.

  • Tattersall_HERO

    In Search of the First Human Home

    When did the savanna give way to the crash pad?

  • Isabella_HERO

    The Caveman’s Home Was Not a Cave

    Our picture of man’s early home has been skewed by modern preconceptions.

  • Isabella_HERO

    The Caveman’s Home Was Not a Cave

    Our picture of man’s early home has been skewed by modern preconceptions.

  • zorich_HERO_alt

    Bacteria Love Lasered Jell-O

    How artificial homes for pathogens may lead to better medicine.

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    The Curious Case of the Exploding Pig Farms

    This pig farm was devastated by an explosion due to foaming. Ross Muhlbauer, Iowa State University At first, the manure was just harmlessly foaming. Only later on did things get lethal.  Hog farms in the Midwest are great big barns sitting on top of great big pits filled with a great deal of awful-smelling manure. […]

  • Mooney-HERO-new

    The Science of Gratitude

    Research suggests saying thanks regularly can benefit your health.

  • Promo_HERO

    Curl Up With Nautilus

    The Winter 2014 Quarterly has landed.

  • anderson_HERO

    Einstein’s Lost Hypothesis

    Is a third-act twist to nuclear energy at hand?

  • anderson_HERO

    Einstein’s Lost Hypothesis

    Is a third-act twist to nuclear energy at hand?

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    For Billions of People, “Wasting Time” Makes Little Sense

    Monks relaxing in Sikkim, Indiaflowcomm via Flickr Robert Levine, a social psychologist at California State University, Fresno, will always remember a conversation he had with an exchange student from Burkina Faso, in Western Africa. Levine had complained to the student that he’d wasted the morning “yakking in a café” instead of doing his work. The […]

  • 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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    Drug Users Are Secretive; Their Sewers Tell All

    In London’s waste system, like this stretch of the King’s Scholars Pond Sewer, concentration of urinary biomarkers for ecstasy is among the highest of any European city. Jon Doe via Flickr The sewage doesn’t lie.  People, however, are less than honest when asked about things like their illicit drug use. Each year, the National Survey […]

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    Animals’ Wildly Varying Reactions to the Smell of Death

    The stinkhorn fungus (officially known as Phallus impudicus—“impudent penis”—for obvious reasons) draws in flies with the rotting-flesh smell of putrescine.ƒred via Flickr To us humans, the scent of a rotting corpse is universally abhorrent, the very definition of disgusting. But as strong as that reaction is, many other animals don’t share our unalloyed revulsion. Goldfish […]

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    Cats Are Not the Best Defenders of Ecological Health

    A feral cat prowling among baby penguins on Macquarie Island, south of mainland Australia.Geoff Copson / Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service After a cat loses its last aesthetic and behavioral traits characteristic of a kitten, it also loses much of its appeal as a companion to some people. At the same time, this cat […]

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    Some Dead Satellites Refuse to Go Quietly to Their Graves

    A map of large debris orbiting Earth, as seen from the North Pole.European Space Operation Centre (ESOC) High above us, tens of thousands of kilometers above our heads, there are orbiting graveyards. They are filled with satellites that have burned through their functional lives, now “buried” in space. The graveyards are filled for a reason: […]

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    An Inspiring, Misleading Tale About Breast-Cancer Screening

      Last month, a 40-year-old woman went to have her first mammogram, an unexceptional event at a time when women are encouraged to have breast-cancer screenings early and often. What was unusual about this test was that it was witnessed not just by an X-ray technician but by millions of people sitting in their living […]

  • Cowen_HERO

    Infinite Garbage Can

    Can information ever be rescued from inside a black hole?

  • Mayersohn_HERO

    The Combustion Engine Refuses to Die

    Internal combustion is surviving by adapting.

  • Clancy_HERO

    Nature, the IT Wizard

    Nature manages information, the currency of life, with exquisite efficiency.

  • Barss_HERO

    Meet Your Body’s Death Eaters

    From brain to blood to bone, macrophages take out our cellular trash.

  • Strickland_HERO

    Reading the Book of Life in Prehistoric Dung

    “Paleoscatologist” Karen Chin has uncovered the humble origin of life after dinosaurs.

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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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    SELF-DELETING POST WITH NO WEIRD CHARACTER IN PHOTO CREDIT

    Feliciano Guimaraes via Flickr The news earlier this fall that chemical weapons had been used in Syria’s civil was seen as a new low in that conflict. Many people condemned their use as “disgusting”; President Obama, making the case for a military response, said the images from the attack were “sickening.” Moral outrage sometimes demands […]

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    SELF-DELETING POST [HAD WEIRD CHARACTER IN PHOTO CREDIT]

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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 […]

  • Keim_HERO

    Did Cars Save Our Cities From Horses?

    Debating a modern parable about waste and technology.

  • Piore_HERO

    Blissed-Out Fish on Prozac

    Why we can’t get our water supply free of drugs.

  • Piore_HERO

    Blissed-Out Fish on Prozac

    Why we can’t get our water supply free of drugs.

  • Santella_HERO-v2

    When Waste Becomes Home

    Sea life settles on plastic.

  • Wald_HERO

    Lavatory Laboratory

    How sanitation is following the cell phone model.

  • Wald_HERO

    Lavatory Laboratory

    How sanitation is following the cell phone model.

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    Can’t Remember Your Password?

    Welcome to subconscious encryption, the ultimate private security.

  • Bentzen_HERO

    The Menu Says “Snapper.” Really?

    DNA barcodes could keep restaurants honest.

  • Eveleth_HERO

    The Youngest Code-Makers

    We learn as kids that knowledge is power—secret knowledge even more so.

  • Curiosity self-portrait

    19th-Century Code Helps 21st-Century Mars Rover Find Its Way

    Back in the 1840s, Morse code was a ground-breaking approach for sending messages over a hot, new communications medium called the electrical telegraph. Earlier this year, the last telegram ever was sent, yet Morse code is not entirely out of a job. NASA’s cutting-edge Curiosity Mars rover, built by JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), uses this […]

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    View From the Inside: How Gang Members Use Secret Codes

    Everyone knows Thomas Angel Porter as AROCKS, a name he was given while growing up in Harlem during the 1990s. While playing basketball with his crew of friends, they would constantly yell at him to pass the ball, or “rock.” Within the next year his crew of friends were recruited—along with thousands of black youths […]

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    The Prison Guard With a Gift for Cracking Gang Codes

    Former correction officer Gary Klivans doesn’t want to be photographed more clearly for fear of gang retaliation.Gary Klivans As a corrections officer at a Westchester County, N.Y., prison in the 1990s, Gary Klivans was a one-man gang unit. Members of The Latin Kings and the Bloods made up a sizable part of the prison population. […]

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    1-Trick Chameleon: Predators Learn to See Through Camouflage

    Probably the worst thing to happen to you, if you’re an animal playing the game of life, is to be eaten by some bigger beast. If you’ve already managed to successfully reproduce by then, as far as evolution is concerned, maybe it’s OK for you to shuffle off that mortal coil. Still, I imagine it’s […]

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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. […]

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    A Computer Program That Hacks Language & Exposes US Secrets

    One of the most significant effects of the ongoing NSA surveillance scandal is that it drew so much attention to the massive secret, official world that’s grown up in the US since the 9/11 attacks. These clandestine operations have undergone a dramatic recent expansion, though there is of course a long history of clandestine activity […]

  • Bitcoin

    Bit by Bitcoin: Virtual Currency Looks a Little More Real

    Earlier this month the FBI arrested the alleged ringleader of Silk Road, an online bazaar that allowed users to buy and sell illegal drugs (among other things), ending its life on the Web—a life that was surprisingly long, considering what was going on there. At the time many people suspected this would have the domino […]

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    Ancient Poop Tells Useful Stories—If You Know How to Listen

    Underwater core samples, like these from the coast of England, often contain coded historical messages.Wessex Archaeology via Flickr “Out of sight, out of mind” is the usual attitude about what we flush down the toilet. But in the last century, some chemists have begged to differ: They want to know just where our personal waste […]

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    Where Nature Hides the Darkest Mystery of All

      No known object in existence has as clear a division between “inside” and “outside” as a black hole. We live and see the outside, and no probe will bring us information about the inside. We can send radio messages or robotic spacecraft, but once they cross over into a black hole’s interior, we’ll never […]

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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 […]

  • McD_HERO

    For Preventing Disease, Data Are the New Drugs

    Is giving up your biological secrets too bitter a pill?

  • Hughes_HERO

    Safecracking the Brain

    What neuroscience is learning from code-breakers and thieves.

  • Hughes_HERO

    Safecracking the Brain

    What neuroscience is learning from code-breakers and thieves.

  • Cameron_HERO

    Cracking Avatar’s Language Codes

    A fictional language makes the jump to reality.

  • Kolar_HERO

    The Code of the Conch

    How the science of sound explained an ancient Peruvian oracle.

  • Hensen_HERO

    The Secret Language of Tennis Champions

    How identical twins Mike and Bob Bryan serve science.

  • Hensen_HERO

    The Secret Language of Tennis Champions

    How identical twins Mike and Bob Bryan serve science.

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    Seeing Maps of Sounds and Smells

    Jorge Louis Borges once described an empire that wanted to build a map. But the maps they had seen before were not precise enough. They had too much compression and approximation. There was too much inexactitude. And so the empire eventually made a map of the empire that was the size of the empire, and […]

  • Martin_HERO

    “Pop, Pop, Pop.” She Heard Her Brain in Action

    Brain-computer interfaces are opening new possibilities.

  • Brown_HERO

    Teaching Me Softly

    Machine learning is teaching us the secret to teaching.

  • 006_Editorial_HERO

    Secret Codes

    Stories hidden and revealed.

  • Interlandi_HERO

    Genomic Loopholes and Other Weapons

    Turning bacteria against each other can help fight antibiotic resistance.

  • Mersini_HERO

    Beyond the Horizon of the Universe

    Want to see evidence of other universes? Just look up.

  • Preston_HERO

    Learning to Speak Shrub

    Using molecular codes, plants cry for help, ward off bugs, and save each other.

  • Preston_HERO

    Learning to Speak Shrub

    Using molecular codes, plants cry for help, ward off bugs, and save each other.

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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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    DANG LINKS IN CAPTIONS

    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, […]

  • Marilyn stamp

    CAN’T GET LINK-IN-CAPTION PROBLEM TO RECUR!

    Here I’m going to do a test of a link in a title: Here I’m going to do a test of a link in a caption: Here I’m going to do a test of a link in a credit: Testing, testing. Making edits, then saving, then checking if the links in the prev images got […]

  • Marilyn stamp

    How the Law Protects the Idea of a Famous Person

    A woman walks in to the room. She is wearing a white dress and has a mole over her bright red lips. She could be anybody, but you might have instantly guessed she was Marilyn Monroe. For every famous person, there is a handful of traits that we use to recognize them. Caricaturists and comedians […]

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    The Underdogs of Fame

      This issue of Nautilus deals with fame: what it is, where it resides, and why. But we all know that fame is a fickle beast, smiling upon a fortunate few and forsaking others who are more deserving. So, tell us, who should be more famous than they are? Who’s the most underrated scientist, thinker, […]

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    Grand Theft Auto 5 & the Stories of the Future

    Screenshot from Grand Theft Auto 5Phil Rose Last week saw the launch of the world’s fastest revenue-generating piece of entertainment in history. There’s a good chance that this strikes you as utterly obvious or so unexpected that it seems just wrong. But it’s quite true: The video game Grand Theft Auto 5, which came out […]

  • Lymphocyte

    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 […]

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    Medical Terms That Still Bear the Mark of the Third Reich

    Dr. Hans Reiter achieved the one thing most likely to keep a physician’s name in textbooks forever: He got an illness named after him. While working as a medic in the German army in World War I, he once treated a case of simultaneous inflammation in the joints, eyes, and urethra. This became known as […]

  • Segal_HERO

    The Twin Prime Hero

    Rags, riches, and fame in mathematics.

  • Segal_HERO

    The Twin Prime Hero

    Rags, riches, and fame in mathematics.

  • Cameron_HERO

    Fame for 23 Words is 15,000 Years Overdue

    The search for our linguistic DNA.

  • Ching_HERO

    Fame is Fortune in Sino-science

    In China, famous science pays like nowhere else.

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    Fame’s Troubling Ability to Turn Off the Brain

    Fame may be an unavoidable aspect of reality, an inherent part of the human condition, or just a quirk in the minds of some smart, social primates. In any case, it brings with it big problems. Here is the trouble with fame: It too often makes the recipient of it prone to hubris, and it even […]

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    In Space, No One Can Hear Lady Gaga (Yet)

    Jodie Foster listens for aliens in Contact. Yesterday Science published a study including “strong evidence that Voyager 1,” an unmanned spacecraft launched in 1977, “has crossed the heliopause into the nearby interstellar plasma.” Don’t let the scientific understatement fool you—the researchers are saying that the craft became the first handiwork of humanity to slip out […]

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    What “The Tipping Point” Missed About the Spread of Ideas

    Jonah Berger says his goal is nothing less than entirely upending the premise of The Tipping Point, the book that launched both the ongoing trend of big-think pop-science books and Malcolm Gladwell’s career as a famous and well-paid corporate guru. In classes he taught at Wharton, Berger told students that “Fifty percent of The Tipping […]

  • Switek_HERO

    T. Rex Might be the Thing with Feathers

    Behind every famous dinosaur are unsung heroes.

  • Bohannon_HERO

    The Famous Anonymous

    The problem with Western test subjects.

  • 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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    Hunting for Eclipses as Perfect as Earth’s

    Roughly twice a year, the apparent positions of Sun and Moon coincide, and a fortunate few observers are treated to a solar eclipse. Watching such an event provides the opportunity to contemplate a strange coincidence: From the surface of Earth, the apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon in the sky are nearly equal. The […]

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    Unlikely Story: Truth Is Stranger Than Pulp Fiction

    A few weeks we asked you for your most unlikely stories—the kinds of things that make you scratch your head and think, “What are the chances?” Here’s one from one of Nautilus’ own editors. Chanting can, apparently, be a pretty good marketing tool. It was chanting that turned me on to Reservoir Dogs, a cult […]

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    The Nobel Exchange

    Announcing the Nautilus Nobel Prize Futures Market

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    The Brain on Trial

    It’s not fair to ask jurors to vote on a death penalty.

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    Homo Narrativus and the Trouble with Fame

    We think that fame is deserved. We are wrong.

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    Homo Narrativus and the Trouble with Fame

    We think that fame is deserved. We are wrong.

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    Famous For Being Indianapolis

    How cities are like Kim Kardashian.

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    Famous For Being Indianapolis

    How cities are like Kim Kardashian.

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    On the Origin of Celebrity

    Why Julia Roberts rules our world.

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    Unwinding the Mystery of Namibia’s Natural Crop Circles

    The Himba bushmen who inhabit the Namibian grasslands—a 1,200-mile-long swath of land running from Angola into South Africa—have come up with different stories over the years to explain the unusual circular bare patches, called “fairy circles,” dotted throughout the grassy expanse. These reddish-hued circles, sometimes several feet in diameter, are dubbed “footprints of the gods,” […]

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    The Curse of Being a Sole Survivor

    On January 26, 1972, a Yugoslavian passenger plane flying 33,000 feet above then-Czechoslovakia exploded, ripped apart, and plummeted into the ground, killing 27 of the 28 passengers and crew. Vesna Vulovic, a flight attendant, was the only one to survive the crash. Vulovic holds the Guinness World Record for surviving the highest fall without a […]

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    Unlikely Story: The Birthday Surprise

    We recently asked you to share your most unlikely stories—the kinds of things that make you scratch your head and think, “What are the chances?” Here’s one of our favorite stories submitted by readers so far, submitted by a Nautilus reader who wishes to remain anonymous. (We’ll call him “Mateo.”) I was in the telecommunications […]

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    Unlikely Story: The Swordfish With a Nose Ring

    A few weeks we asked you for your most unlikely stories—the kinds of things that make you scratch your head and think, “What are the chances?” Last week we published a birthday coincidence. Here’s another one of our favorite stories, this one submitted by Dan Clem. For seven weeks in the winter of 2003 I […]

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    The Freaky Celestial Events We See—and the Ones We Don’t

    On March 28, 2011, the orbiting Swift observatory spotted an extraordinary gamma-ray burst, a bright source of energetic light from a distant galaxy. Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are some of the brightest and most energetic events in the cosmos. Their measurable strong emission in most cases vanishes after about 30 seconds, but this particular event—known as […]

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    When Pigs Fly, Crayfish Whistle, and It Snows Red Snowflakes

    What do you say when faced with something so unlikely, so improbable, that you simply cannot imagine it ever happening? Perhaps you’ll admit your neighbor was right about who owns the shovel you’ve both used—when pigs fly. Or maybe your boss will give you that raise when hell freezes over. But would you ever say […]

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    Mystery Solved: Who Cracked the Cabinet of Curiosities?

    Last week, we challenged Nautilus readers to name a whole cabinet-full of freaky, weird, and wonderful objects. It was a difficult challenge, but now is the time to end your agonizing wait and reveal the secrets of our wunderkammern, our “cabinet of wonder.” Here are the answers: Pompeii wall art Dinosaur coprolite Shroud of Turin Marilyn Monroe autograph […]

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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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    Curl Up With Nautilus

    Own it forever. For $4 a month.

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    The Death and Life of the Frontier

    A voyage to the limits of the knowable.

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    Paper Versus Pixel

    The science of reading shows that print and digital experiences are complementary.

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    Science’s Significant Stats Problem

    Researchers’ rituals for assessing probability may mislead as much as they enlighten.

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    What I’ve Learned About the Past 13,000 Years

    A look back at a career spent looking back.

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    Explaining the Unexplainable

    When logic fails, stories and superstitions prevail.

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    Explaining the Unexplainable

    When logic fails, stories and superstitions prevail.

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    The Odds of Innocence

    How numbers can tip the scales of justice.

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    The Decisive Moment

    A photographer's quest for the unexpected.

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    The Decisive Moment

    A photographer’s quest for the unexpected.

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    The Man Who Invented Modern Probability

    Chance encounters in the life of Andrei Kolmogorov.

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    The Man Who Invented Modern Probability

    Chance encounters in the life of Andrei Kolmogorov.

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    Chasing Coincidences

    Why it’s hard to recognize the unlikely.

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    An Unlikely Cure Signals New Hope for Cancer

    How “exceptional responders” are revolutionizing treatment for the deadly disease.

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    Discovering the Expected

    In the search for subatomic particles, it helps to know what you’re looking for.

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    An Arguably Unreal Particle Powers All of Your Electronics

    A microscopic image of a metamaterial used to test relativity in a lab.Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Like happy families, every free electron is alike: They all have the same mass, the same electric charge, and the same spin. But inside a solid, various interactions can make electrons behave like entirely different particles. They may act […]

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    Bring Out Your (Very Infrequent) Dead!

    If you imagine the bubonic plague, based on what you learned as a kid, you probably imagine something similar to Pieter Bruegel’s 1562 painting, The Triumph of Death. Dead bodies in piles. Helpless civilians sprawled on the ground in anguish. Panicked crowds trying to flee as the village burns and falls into disarray. Total mayhem. […]

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    Tell Us Your Astonishingly Unlikely Story

    Everybody has that one story they tell. That one incredibly unlikely thing that, had it not happened to them, they might not even believe. They found the only other person on a deserted mountain in China, and it was a long-lost friend from high school. They escaped being struck by lightning only because they dropped […]

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    The Near-Mythical Beast That Spread an All-Too-Real Disease

    January 1996 was, in most respects, a month like any other in Jefferson County, Colorado, the “Gateway to the Rocky Mountains.”* But one thing distinguished that particular month in that particular county in Colorado: an outbreak of salmonellosis among children, most of whom were under 13 years of age. The Colorado Department of Public Health and […]

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    The Unlikely Rocks Found in Mosques, Siberia & Outer Space

    A Penrose tiling, a 2D pattern that shows a similar lack of repetition as a 3D quasicrystal.Wikipedia Back in June, researchers at Ames laboratory in Iowa announced the discovery a new group of rare-earth quasicrystals—an unusual class of crystalline materials where the atomic structure boasts regular patterns that never repeat themselves. They resemble the intricate […]

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    Far From Home Is Where the Heart Is

    Travels Looking at Mt. Fuji, by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806) It doesn’t take advanced technology to prove that we live relatively circumscribed lives. Like tiny planets, we process along a certain orbit, from home, the office, the grocery store, the kids’ school, and back home again, except for the occasional vacation. But thanks to the numerous […]

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    An Eel Swims in the Bronx

    George Jackman scales the Bronx River’s 182nd Street dam while working with the eel ladder (at top-right).John Waldman In the annals of natural history, there is perhaps no fish so singularly unusual, even mysterious, as Anguilla, the eels. Unlike every other migratory fish on Earth, they spawn in the open ocean and mature inland, in […]

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    The Trouble With Teleportation

    One of my favorite scenes in the film Galaxy Quest—a satirical love letter to Star Trek and its rabid fans—is when Jason, an actor on a fictional TV series within the movie, ends up stranded on a real alien planet facing off against a monstrous “pig lizard.” His crew, back on board the ship, can […]

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    Supernovas & Other Big Bangs: Where Your Body Comes From

    “Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can. Because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” —Carl Sagan, Cosmos That Carl Sagan quote is among one of his most famous sayings, […]

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    Hardly Never in Vegas

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

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    Their Giant Steps to a Cure

    Battling a rare form of muscular dystrophy, a family finds an activist leader, and hope.

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    Monsters, Marvels, and the Birth of Science

    How the unlikely and unexplainable, strange and terrifying, spawned the age of science.

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    Monsters, Marvels, and the Birth of Science

    How the unlikely and unexplainable, strange and terrifying, spawned the age of science.

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    Mind-Control Helicopters and the Healing Power of Poop

    Five unlikely breakthroughs in medical science today.

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    Why We Keep Playing the Lottery

    Blind to the mathematical odds, we fall to the marketing gods.

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    Why We Keep Playing the Lottery

    Blind to the mathematical odds, we fall to the marketing gods.

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    Space Travel for Everyone: The Intergalactic Travel Bureau

    Trudging through the mire of midtown Manhattan in the middle of a July heat wave makes you long for relief from your earthly trials—and at the corner of 8th Avenue and 37th Street last week, you could find one. Nautilus popped in to the Intergalactic Travel Bureau, a pop-up shop promoting moon-hopping, sun-surfing, and all forms […]

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    Mystery in Motion, Beauty in Battle

    Night Ride: A CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.U.S. Army / Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod One of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see in a war zone had no name, until it was given one in honor of two soldiers who gave their lives. Benjamin Kopp, a US Army Ranger, and Joseph Etchells, […]

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    Hyperloop or Hype: Can Elon Musk’s Wild Transport Idea Work?

    How would you like to get around in a vehicle that “never crashes, that’s at least twice as fast as a plane, that’s solar powered, and that leaves right when you arrive, so there is no waiting for a departure time”? Sounds a little too good to be true, but that is precisely what serial […]

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    When Pigs Fly

    It’s no fairy tale—factory farms and air travel form a viral expressway to pandemics.

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    When Pigs Fly

    It’s no fairy tale—factory farms and air travel form a viral expressway to pandemics.

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    Pandemics Are the Dark Side of Global Mobility

    How the 2009 swine flu raced around the world.

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    Reading the Tea Leaves: How Particles Can Travel Upstream

    It’s been said that the true harbinger of scientific discovery is not “Eureka!” but “Huh… that’s funny….” That certainly proved to be the case for Sebastian Bianchi: a simple cup of tea led him to some intriguing, counter-intuitive insights into the surface tension of water. Back when he was an undergraduate physics major at the […]

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    The Wanders

    When home is not a haven.

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    Frack ’er Up

    Natural gas is shaking up the search for green gasoline.

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    Roadmap to Alpha Centauri

    Pick your favorite travel mode—big, small, light, dark, or twisted.

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    Getting Straight to the Site of Disease

    Nanomedicine is going to battle against brain disease in Iraq veterans.

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    The Box That Built the Modern World

    How shipping containers made distance irrelevant.

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    The Box That Built the Modern World

    How shipping containers made distance irrelevant.

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    Point and Shoot

    Special spots in empty space might hold the key to interplanetary exploration.

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    A Seven-Month Wait for Lunch

    Why food aid needs to overhaul its delivery system.

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    The Fast Food Fruit

    The banana’s journey from the plantation to you is one long science project.

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    On the Wilderness Continent

    Building new lands requires sacrifice.

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    On the Wilderness Continent

    Building new lands requires sacrifice.

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    Unhappy Truckers and Other Algorithmic Problems

    Transportation optimization starts with math, but ends in understanding human behavior.

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    As the Earth Turns

    Whether measured in milliseconds or megayears, the world is in constant motion.

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    Traffic Ghost Hunting

    When the biggest problem with traffic is nothing at all.

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    The Comforting Certainty of Unanswered Questions

    Light was thought to travel through aether like waves on a lakeShutterstock You might know the anecdote. In April 1900, Lord Kelvin, one of the most prominent physicists of the 19th century, stands in the speaker’s well of the Royal Society in London. Surveying the state of scientific knowledge at the dawn of a new […]

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    How to Tell The Future(s)

    In 1972 the Club of Rome, an international think tank, commissioned four scientists to use computers to model the human future. The result was the infamous Limits to Growth that crashed into world culture like an asteroid from space. Collapse, calamity and chaos were the media take-aways from the book, even though the authors tried […]

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    How Science Helped Write the Declaration of Independence

    On July 4, 1776, representatives of thirteen colonies on the eastern shores of North America signed a Declaration of Independence from England. Winning independence was still a bloody war ahead, an unlikely outcome. Declaring independence was rashness, potentially carrying a death sentence for treason. Not, perhaps, what you would expect of well-educated men, many of […]