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- Feb 2 20177 minutes
Why You Didn’t See It Coming: When scale confounds our perceptions, stories can clarify them.
You don’t see it coming. You probably couldn’t if you tried. The effects of large changes in scale are frequently beyond our powers of perception, even our imagination. They seem to emerge out of nowhere: the cumulative effects of climate change, the
- Jan 17 20178 minutes
The OA And The Dark Side Of Science
Brit Marling discusses the folklore and real-life research that went into her trippy Netflix series.
- Feb 1 20171 minute
COGNITIVE DIVERSITY IS THE MOST POWERFUL TOOL As the head of Facebook’s secretive new hardware unit, Building 8, Regina Dugan leads a team of engineers who are trying to develop breakthrough technologies, much as she did when she was the first femal
- Sep 19 20161 minute
We Shouldn’t Dismiss People Who Deny Facts
IT’S EASY TO DISMISS PEOPLE WHO believe things that are factually incorrect—that vaccines cause autism, for example, or that climate change isn’t real. But if we really want to change how they think, we need to take an honest look at what’s driving t
- Feb 17 20176 minutes
How to Understand Extreme Numbers
The late statistics wizard Hans Rosling, who died this month at age 68, brought at least 10 toilet paper rolls to some of his beloved presentations. He would stack them into a tower on a table, each roll representing one billion people. In a 2012 t
- Feb 16 201711 minutes
The Anatomy of Charisma: What makes a person magnetic and why we should be wary.
For weeks I had been researching what science has to say about the power of charisma. Why do some people so clearly have it and others don’t? Why do we fall so easily under its influence? Charismatics can make us feel charmed and great about ourselve
- Feb 9 201710 minutes
Raising the American Weakling: There are two very different interpretations of our dwindling grip strength.
When she was a practicing occupational therapist, Elizabeth Fain started noticing something odd in her clinic: Her patients were weak. More specifically, their grip strengths, recorded via a hand-held dynamometer, were “not anywhere close to the norm
- Apr 21 201624 minutes
Not All Practice Makes Perfect: Moving from naive to purposeful practice can dramatically increase performance.
In just our fourth session together, Steve was already beginning to sound discouraged. It was Thursday of the first week of an experiment that I had expected to last for two or three months, but from what Steve was telling me, it might not make much
- Jan 17 20177 minutes
The Limits of Sugar Guidelines
Is there a danger in governments offering too-specific advice on sugar consumption?
- Jan 16 20171 minute
Are Some Years More Important Than Others?
LILY ROTHMAN THE YEAR 2016 MIGHT BE OVER, BUT debates rage on about whether it was one of the most important—or worst—years ever. Yet amid talk of surprising election results and shocking celebrity deaths, these conversations often miss a key point:
- Nov 29 20166 minutes
How Will Our Religions Handle the Discovery of Alien Life?
What would your priest, rabbi, or imam say if we discovered alien life?For the religious, knowing that life on Earth is not unique may demand radical new ways of thinking about ourselves: How special and sacred are we? Is Earth a privileged place? Do
- Sep 4 20165 minutes
Consciousness Is Made of Atoms, Too
In his first lecture on physics to freshmen and sophomores at the California Institute of Technology, in 1961-62, Richard Feynman said:If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the nex
- Jan 15 201511 minutes
To Be More Creative, Cheer Up: The way to tap your inner Hemingway is not how you think.
I pour a cup of coffee, sharpen my pencil, and get ready to create. I’ve dusted off a half-conceived novel outline I abandoned three years ago, but this time I’m not waiting for my muse to intervene. Instead I hit the play button on the Creative Thin
- Sep 15 201611 minutes
How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math: The building blocks of understanding are memorization and repetition.
I was a wayward kid who grew up on the literary side of life, treating math and science as if they were pustules from the plague. So it’s a little strange how I’ve ended up now—someone who dances daily with triple integrals, Fourier transforms, and t
- Feb 12 20173 minutes
Born Lucky: The Genetics of the Four-Leaf Clover
Each year, from 1913 to 1917, the psychologist Edmund S. Conklin would hand out a questionnaire to his new psychology students. Conklin wanted to see which superstitious habits or beliefs were the most and least enduring. He found that just over a qu
- Sep 24 201517 minutes
Let’s Play War: Could war games replace the real thing?
In the spring of 1964, as fighting escalated in Vietnam, several dozen Americans gathered to play a game. They were some of the most powerful men in Washington: the director of Central Intelligence, the Army chief of staff, the national security advi
- Feb 16 20173 minutes
How Single Women Are Changing Society: Thinking out of the nuclear family box.
Bella DePaulo never fantasized about a dream wedding or being a bridesmaid. Instead, she saw herself as “single at heart,” pursuing intellectual refinement, friendship, and solitude as a young psychologist. Still, she had internalized the popular ide
- Sep 15 20168 minutes
How to Tell If You’re a Jerk: If you think everyone around you is terrible, the joke may be on you.
Here’s something you probably didn’t do this morning: Look in the mirror and ask, am I a jerk? It seems like a reasonable question. There are, presumably, genuine jerks in the world. And many of those jerks, presumably, have a pretty high moral opini
- Apr 14 20165 minutes
No, You Can’t Feel Sorry for Everyone: The idea of empathy for all ignores the limits of human psychology.
The world seems to be getting more empathetic. Americans donate to charity at record rates. People feel the pain of suffering in geographically distant countries brought to our attention by advances in communications and transportation. Violence, see
- Sep 1 201610 minutes
The Bridge From Nowhere: How is it possible to get something from nothing?
The question of being is the darkest in all philosophy.” So concluded William James in thinking about that most basic of riddles: how did something come from nothing? The question infuriates, James realized, because it demands an explanation while de
- Sep 5 20162 minutes
India’s Economic Engine Has a Rocky Road Ahead
SINCE 2014, INDIA HAS BEEN THE emerging-market world’s most positive story. That’s mainly because Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have cut red tape to make it easier to do business in this historically closed country
- Jan 7 201610 minutes
The Deep Space of Digital Reading: Why we shouldn’t worry about leaving print behind.
In A History of Reading, the Canadian novelist and essayist Alberto Manguel describes a remarkable transformation of human consciousness, which took place around the 10th century A.D.: the advent of silent reading. Human beings have been reading for
- Dec 29 201629 minutes
What Does Any of This Have To Do with Physics?: Einstein and Feynman ushered me into grad school, reality ushered me out.
Have you ever been happy?” My girlfriend asked me that question, after work over drinks at some shiny Manhattan bar, after another stressful day on the trading floor. How to answer that? I knew she was talking about work, but how unhappy did she thin
- Feb 1 20174 minutes
The Key to Good Luck Is an Open Mind
Luck can seem synonymous with randomness. To call someone lucky is usually to deny the relevance of their hard work or talent. As Richard Wiseman, the Professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, in the United K
- Feb 6 20176 minutes
Minority Groups Lose When They Collaborate with Power
Cailin O’Connor—a philosopher, scientist, and mathematician—may not enjoy tense situations, but they fascinate her. Last year, in a Huffington Post article titled “Game Theory and The Walking Dead,” she wrote that the zombie show’s “plot lines are ri
- May 5 20168 minutes
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.
I had little idea of what I would discover when I set out to find and photograph the oldest living things in the world. I expected that researching, traveling, and photographing would stretch my perspective, and force me to learn a lot of science: bi
- Jan 4 20176 minutes
Earth's Oceans Are Steadily Warming
Another study argues there was no sea-surface slowdown in warming.
- Jul 3 201416 minutes
The Scientific Problem That Must Be Experienced: To understand turbulence we need the intuitive perspective of art.
When the German physicist Arnold Sommerfeld assigned his most brilliant student a subject for his doctoral thesis in 1923, he admitted that “I would not have proposed a topic of this difficulty to any of my other pupils.” Those others included such g
- Jan 27 20163 minutes
How Where You Are or What You’re Doing Alters Your Sense of Time
How we think of time can lead to some odd results. For example, imagine your co-worker says next Wednesday’s meeting has been moved forward two days. When is the meeting going to be held? Your response can be predicted by how you see your relationshi
- Jan 28 20168 minutes
How to Survive Solitary Confinement: An ex-convict on how to set your mind free.
With a sigh, Johnny Perez rises from his plastic chair, unfolds his lanky frame and extends his wingspan until the tips of his middle fingers graze the walls. “It was from here to here,” he says. “I know because I used to do this all the time.” Until