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- Dec 1 201614 minutes
When Einstein Tilted at Windmills: The young physicist’s quest to prove the theories of Ernst Mach.
When they met, Einstein wasn’t Einstein yet. He was just Albert Einstein, a kid, about 17, with a dark cloud of teenage angst and a violin. Michele Besso was older, 23, but a kindred spirit. Growing up in Trieste, Italy he had shown an impressive kna
- 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.
- Feb 3 20176 minutes
Is AI a Threat to Christianity?
Are you there, God? It’s I, robot.
- Oct 30 20166 minutes
The Neo-Platonic Argument for Evolution Couldn’t Be More Wrong
Is evolutionary biology about to prove a two-millennia old metaphysical speculation? Or is metaphysics about to fundamentally change the way we look at biology? Andreas Wagner, a developmental biologist at the University of Zurich, argues for both th
- Jan 26 201711 minutes
The Multiple Multiverses May Be One and the Same: Physics:If multiverses seem weird, it’s because we need to revamp our notions of time and space.
The name of the image—the “Flammarion engraving”—may not ring a bell, but you’ve seen it many times. It depicts a traveler wearing a cloak and clutching a walking-stick; behind him is a varied landscape of towns and trees; surrounding all is a crysta
- Jul 15 20132 minutes
Why People Love to Get Lost in Books
In the huge range of different human cultural inclinations, one of the most widespread is a fondness for stories. We just love to get lost in a good book or movie. When we do, we tend to ignore where we are and become completely absorbed in the story
- Feb 20 20177 minutes
The Post-Human World
A conversation about the end of work, individualism, and the human species with the historian Yuval Harari
- Dec 21 20166 minutes
Virtual Reality Can Leave You With an Existential Hangover
After exploring a virtual world, some people can’t shake the sense that the actual world isn’t real, either.
- Feb 1 20154 minutes
The Bright Side of Negative Thinking
Despite what we're often told, positive thinking may not be conducive to meeting one's goals. In fact, you're probably better off visualizing obstacles.
- Aug 1 20152 minutes
Don't Just Build a Business -- Build a Business With Soul
You need more than brains to create and sustain a business that has a lasting impact.
- Nov 14 20163 minutes
Why Do We Get Transported by Stories We Know Aren’t True?
In Jasper Fforde’s lighthearted “Thursday Next” series of books, people can use a “prose portal” to enter the world of a book, to change the plot or kidnap a character. The prose portal is an imaginative metaphor for a familiar experience: feeling ta
- Oct 11 20166 minutes
You Can’t Upload Your “Self” Into Virtual Reality
In his 2003 book, Being No One, Thomas Metzinger contends there is no such thing as a “self.” Rather, the self is a kind of transparent information-processing system. “You don’t see it,” he writes. “But you see with it.” Metzinger has given a good am
- Jul 14 20162 minutes
These Nature Photographs Aren’t What They Seem: The visual playfulness of Simen Johan.
Simen Johan’s photographic series reads like an off-kilter field guide. Giraffes lose their heads in the fog, louche primates debauch with domestic animals, and tapestry-like camouflage both conceals and dazzles. Climate, habitat, and species are fra
- Jan 9 20147 minutes
Life Is A Braid In Spacetime: How to see yourself in a world where only math is real.
“Excuse me, but what’s the time?” I’m guessing that you, like me, are guilty of having asked this question, as if it were obvious that there is such a thing as the time. Yet you’ve probably never approached a stranger and asked “Excuse me, but what’s
- Dec 1 20166 minutes
The Image in the Age of Pseudo-Reality
Daniel Boorstin’s 1962 classic on celebrity, fame, and America’s tenuous relationship to facts remains as poignant as it is prophetic.
- Oct 1 20156 minutes
Why Science Needs Metaphysics: Science can’t tell us whether science explains everything.
Technology cannot keep pace with theoretical predictions about subatomic reality coming from physics. The same applies to our ability to observe the far reaches of the universe. Theory outstrips data and can become more extravagant with the claims it
- Mar 6 20144 minutes
Flashback: Human Uniqueness: Shining a light on the spark that separates man from beast.
A physicist and a philosopher walk into a lab… no, this isn’t the start of a joke. It’s an everyday occurrence in the lab of Andrew Briggs, Professor of Nanomaterials at Oxford University. While working on how to exploit quantum mechanics to better s
- Dec 11 20168 minutes
Finding Wisdom in the Letters of Aging Writers
The epistolary collections of authors such as Samuel Beckett, Saul Bellow, and Elizabeth Bishop suggest that old-fashioned communication can offer invaluable insight into the process of growing older.
- Dec 28 201611 minutes
How the Justice System Pushes Kids Out of Classrooms and Into Prisons
The playwright and professor Anna Deavere Smith explored the link between schools and incarceration in her one-woman show Notes From the Field.
- Dec 22 201626 minutes
The Best Books We Read in 2016
The Atlantic’s editors and writers share their favorite titles—new, classic, or somewhere in between—from a year of reading.
- Jun 12 20165 minutes
Scientists Have No Defense Against Awe
Eileen Pollack, author of The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club, hinted at the complexity of the relationship between science and the soul in a recent essay: “We need scientists who recognize the reality of this illusion we st
- Oct 1 20157 minutes
Life Is a Braid in Spacetime: How to see yourself in a world where only math is real.
Excuse me, but what’s the time?” I’m guessing that you, like me, are guilty of having asked this question, as if it were obvious that there is such a thing as the time. Yet you’ve probably never approached a stranger and asked “Excuse me, but what’s
- Sep 27 20155 minutes
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 s
- Dec 26 20165 minutes
My Personal Hero: Hope Jahren on Helen Keller
Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for somethi
- Aug 14 20153 minutes
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?