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- Feb 2 20179 minutes
Against Willpower: Willpower is a dangerous, old idea that needs to be scrapped.
Thomas1 was a highly successful and mild-mannered lawyer who was worried about his drinking. When he came to see me at my psychotherapy practice, his wine intake had crept up to six or seven glasses a night, and he was starting to hide it from his fa
- Jun 1 20162 minutes
How Real Brilliance Is Measured
Rather than looking at typical benchmarks, we focus on the ideas, almost all fueled by passion and implemented by strong leaders.
- 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
- Feb 7 20175 minutes
Video Games Do Guilt Better Than Any Other Art
The idea that motion pictures can be works of art has been around since the 1920s, and it hasn’t really been disputed since. It’s easy to see why—cinema shares characteristics with theater in terms of acting, direction, music, set design, narrative,
- 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 2 20178 minutes
What Quantum Gravity Needs Is More Experiments: Math won’t solve quantum gravity. Experimentation will.
In the mid-1990s, I studied mathematics. I wasn’t really sure just what I wanted to do with my life, but I was awed by the power of mathematics to describe the natural world. After classes on differential geometry and Lie algebras, I attended a semin
- 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
- Jan 3 20179 minutes
The Friendship That Created Behavioral Economics
A conversation with Michael Lewis about his new book on the research of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky
- Jan 5 20175 minutes
Pop Culture Is Having a Metaphysical Moment
The OA, Westworld, Stranger Things, and other recent works toy with the idea of multiple realities—and bring the thrill of new religion.
- Jan 5 20178 minutes
Donald Trump’s Asymmetric War on the Establishment
There may come a day when we look back at the intense, instantaneous interest that Donald Trump’s tweets once produced and we chuckle, noting how President Trump’s Twitter postings, now shorn of their novelty, generate roughly as much attention as a
- Feb 9 201726 minutes
Bias In The ER: Doctors suffer from the same cognitive distortions as the rest of us.
The dazed young woman who arrived at Sunnybrook Hospital, Canada’s first and largest regional trauma center, from a head-on car crash presented the surgeons treating her with a disturbing problem. In addition to her many broken bones, the rhythm of h
- Feb 14 20172 minutes
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 mad
- 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
- Jan 17 20177 minutes
The Limits of Sugar Guidelines
Is there a danger in governments offering too-specific advice on sugar consumption?
- 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
- Feb 3 20176 minutes
Is AI a Threat to Christianity?
Are you there, God? It’s I, robot.
- Jan 12 201711 minutes
Why Most Planets Will Either Be Lush or Dead: Earth Science:The Gaia hypothesis implies that once alien life takes hold, it will flourish.
Can a planet be alive? Lynn Margulis, a giant of late 20th-century biology, who had an incandescent intellect that veered toward the unorthodox, thought so. She and chemist James Lovelock together theorized that life must be a planet-altering phenome
- Dec 18 201627 minutes
The 50 Best Podcasts of 2016
From politics shows to horror series, highlights from a year of listening
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Feb 16 201710 minutes
Atheism, the Computer Model: Big data meets history to forecast the rise and fall of religion.
In the United States, the nones have it. The nones being people with no organized religion and increasingly no belief in God or a universal spiritual power. They have the momentum, attention, and an expectation that in the future they will become a m
- Jun 13 201312 minutes
The Coin Toss and the Love Triangle: Information Theory:There are two flavors of uncertainty in our lives. Math helps with both.
Chance appears to name a single, unitary thing. But its genealogy, its family history, turns out to be a tangled one. One way to understand its branching origins is to turn to literature: We may look, in turn, to two very different novels.Anton Chigu
- Jan 4 20176 minutes
Earth's Oceans Are Steadily Warming
Another study argues there was no sea-surface slowdown in warming.
- Dec 21 201610 minutes
A Brief Economic History of Time
Capitalism changed how humans perceive the passage of hours, days, and weeks. This made people more productive, but did it make them any happier?
- Oct 22 201510 minutes
How To Build A Search Engine For Mathematics: Math:The surprising power of Neil Sloane’s Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences.
On the average summer Saturday, the mathematician Neil Sloane woke up to a crisis. “There are always crises,” he said— albeit crises of the teapot tempest variety. One Saturday over breakfast, he faced an inbox message titled “edits from outer space.
- Jan 9 20175 minutes
What Sets the Smart Heroines of Hidden Figures Apart
Movies about brilliant scientific or mathematical minds often focus on their subject’s ego—not so with a new film about three African American women who worked at NASA in the ’60s.
- Dec 7 20163 minutes
Testosterone Can Make Men Feel Generous
Testosterone gets a pretty bad reputation. It’s been long known as the hormone of aggression. In his 1998 book, The Trouble With Testosterone: And Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament, the neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky writes, “What
- Jan 7 20177 minutes
The Atlantic Ocean and an Actual Debate in Climate Science
Scientists have recently begun to re-examine a scary question: Will a crucial ocean current shut down?
- 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
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