Nautilus15 min letti
How Tycoons Created the Dinosaur: The story of dinosaurs is also the story of capitalism.
The dinosaur is a chimera. Some parts of this complex assemblage are the result of biological evolution. But others are products of human ingenuity, constructed by artists, scientists, and technicians in a laborious process that stretches from the di
Nautilus10 min letti
The Accident That Led to Machines That Can See: The beauty of this breakthrough is serendipity.
For something so effortless and automatic, vision is a tough job for the brain. It’s remarkable that we can transform electromagnetic radiation—light—into a meaningful world of objects and scenes. After all, light focused into an eye is merely a stre
Nautilus9 min letti
One Of The Most Egregious Ripoffs In The History Of Science: A new history of the race to decipher DNA reveals Shakespearean plots of scheming.
James Watson once said his road to the 1962 Nobel Prize began in Naples, Italy. At a conference in 1951, he met Maurice Wilkins, the biophysicist with whom he and Francis Crick shared the Nobel for discovering the double-helix structure of DNA. Meeti
Nautilus15 min letti
Neuroscience Weighs in on Physics’ Biggest Questions: A theory of consciousness can help build a theory of everything.
For an empirical science, physics can be remarkably dismissive of some of our most basic observations. We see objects existing in definite locations, but the wave nature of matter washes that away. We perceive time to flow, but how could it, really?
Nautilus9 min letti
We Are Beast Machines: We understand conscious experiences only in light of our nature as living creatures.
I have a childhood memory of looking in the bathroom mirror, and for the first time realizing that my experience at that precise moment—the experience of being me—would at some point come to an end, and that “I” would die. I must have been about 8 or
Nautilus6 min letti
Weird Dreams Train Our Brains to Be Better Learners
For many of us over the last year and more, our waking experience has, you might say, lost a bit of its variety. We spend more time with the same people, in our homes, and go to fewer places. Our stimuli these days, in other words, aren’t very stimul
Nautilus17 min lettiIntelligence (AI) & Semantics
The Spiritual Consciousness of Christof Koch: What the neuroscientist is discovering is both humbling and frightening him.
Consciousness is a thriving industry. It’s not just the meditation retreats and ayahuasca shamans. Or the conferences with a heady mix of philosophers, quantum physicists, and Buddhist monks. Consciousness is a buzzing business in neuroscience labs a
Nautilus9 min letti
The Safety Belt of Our Solar System: Mapping the heliosphere, which shields us from harmful cosmic rays.
David McComas has a favorite “astrosphere,” the environment created by a star’s stellar wind as it buffets the surrounding interstellar medium. It belongs to a star named Mira. In an image from 2006, Mira is heading to the right, at 291,000 miles an
Nautilus4 min letti
Order Flocking Out of Chaos: A physicist-turned-photographer captures the incredible harmony of starling murmurations.
At first, they trickle in: one bird here, a few birds there. Then, at dusk’s cue, a dark smudge materializes on the horizon. Thousands of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) slowly come into focus, etching flight paths across the winter sky as they stream t
Nautilus12 min letti
The Disneyfication of Atomic Power: Inside America’s propaganda campaign, “Atoms for Peace,” launched in the wake of Hiroshima.
John Jay Hopkins’s visit to Japan in 1955, as an informal emissary of “Atoms for Peace,” must have seemed surreal to everyone involved. Hopkins was the head of an old American shipbuilding firm based out of Groton, Connecticut. Electric Boat Company
Nautilus9 min letti
Nature’s Fear Factor: Ecologists argue balance is maintained by predators on the prowl.
When Mozambique’s civil war ended in 1992, more than 1 million people had lost their lives. Another 5 million were displaced. And the carnage was not restricted to humans: Gorongosa National Park, a 1,500-square-mile mosaic of habitats that was home
Nautilus11 min lettiMathematics
How To Build A Society For All To Enjoy: To make social structures more equal, we can’t blind ourselves to genetics.
Structuresstructure (noun): the arrangement of or relation between the parts of something complex; the organization of interrelated elements. 1. My partner trained as an architect, and now he is cursed. His curse is not just working like an architect
Nautilus9 min letti
The Witness Is a Whale: Uncovering one of the greatest environmental crimes of the 20th century.
In their film, The Witness Is a Whale, filmmakers Nick and Cheryl Dean take us on a remarkable journey to understand the private lives of whales and their societies in the sea as revealed through the behavior of these magnificent giants. This stunnin
Nautilus8 min lettiChemistry
The Rise of RNA Therapeutics: DNA mutations are hard to fix. Scientists are trying another approach.
Most American newborns will arrive home from the hospital and start hitting their developmental milestones, to their parents’ delight. They will hold their heads up by about three months. They will sit up by six. And they will walk around their first
Nautilus9 min letti
David Attenborough’s Life in Color: New technology enables filmmakers to capture how animals use color like never before.
The natural world is a feast of color and pattern, but what is it all for? An orange tiger seems awfully conspicuous stalking its prey. Why not hide in the foliage with green or brown fur? Multiple species of tiny yellow damselfish swim over and arou
Nautilus10 min letti
Looking For Life On Mars: An astrobiologist and a director on the joys and challenges of filming space science.
Terri Randall’s hope when she makes films about space exploration—like Chasing Pluto, for example, or Death Dive to Saturn—is that viewers share scientists’ excitement. That rush of success and discovery. “Look at this moment, and look at his eyes, a
Nautilus4 min lettiRelationships
The Hidden Link Between “Genetic Nurture” and Educational Achievement
The phrase “Look down your nose” comes from a time when aristocrats were taller than commoners due to their superior nutrition. European elites would literally look down on their inferiors. So it shouldn’t be hard to imagine the shock 19th-century ar
Nautilus14 min letti
The Neurologist Who Diagnoses Psychosomatics: Suzanne O’Sullivan on what medical science is missing about mysterious illnesses.
Our brains can play the worst tricks on us. They are always looking to explain and categorize incoming stimuli, sometimes perceiving threats out of the flimsiest bits of information gleaned from our bodies and our environment. Every so often they go
Nautilus12 min letti
Why These Children Fell into Endless Sleep: A neurologist makes an emotional visit to understand “resignation syndrome.”
I had barely stepped foot over the threshold and I already felt claustrophobic. I wanted to turn back. People shuffled into the room in front of me, while somebody else stood directly behind me, a little too close. It felt hard to escape. I could see
Nautilus10 min letti
Ian And The Limits Of Rationality: A student at the edge of reason.
Setting: Chesterfield High, an unusual school in the suburbs of Ohio. The teacher writes on the board: 2, 3, 5, 7, ... How, he asks, do we complete this pattern? Now a student might say that the next term is 12. When the teacher asks him why, he says
Nautilus7 min letti
The Problem with Depression Doping
Mental health is not what you’d call an “exact science.” For example, if two highly trained mental health providers meet privately with the same patient, they will agree 90 percent of the time on diagnosing schizophrenia and 65 to 70 percent of the t
Nautilus8 min letti
The Whale Who Will Come Soon: A whale-watching trip is a voyage into the psychic dimensions of ocean in the 21st century.
The beachfront narrows to an ocherous ribbon, belted by blue, above and below. After a while, a handful of shearwaters appear in the air above the Cat Balou. The birds flash around us; like knife-thrower tricks at a circus. Diving through the water,
Nautilus9 min letti
No Species Is an Island: Cooperation in nature is the key to survival, including our own.
The following is adapted from a speech Roger Payne gave at this year’s Interspecies Internet conference. His remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Because I am involved with the Cetacean Translation Initiative, or Project CETI, I receive crit
Nautilus5 min letti
The Hard Problem of Consciousness Has an Easy Part We Can Solve
How does consciousness arise? What might its relationship to matter be? And why are some things conscious while others apparently aren’t? These sorts of questions, taken together, make up what’s called the “hard problem” of consciousness, coined some
Nautilus8 min letti
The Man Who Seduced the World with Whale Songs: Roger Payne sparked the anti-whaling movement. He’s not done yet.
It’s been more than 50 years since biologist Roger Payne brought whale song into the lives of millions via the popular album, Songs of the Humpback Whale. At the time, commercial whaling had decimated global whale populations, and Payne’s record help
Nautilus8 min letti
My Personal Quest to Study Supernovae on Mars: Overcoming sexist naysayers and self-doubt in astrophysics.
I walked out of the airlock onto the blood-red Martian surface. My mind was crystal clear and laser focused. There was no room for panic or anxiety as I surveyed the landscape and remembered the job ahead. I had conditioned my body to instinctively c
Nautilus6 min lettiMathematics
We Have to Talk About Doubt: How to tell the difference between scientific and conspiratorial skepticism.
What is the role of reasonable doubt in advancing science? And how should we contrast scientific doubt with the cavilling doubt of conspiracy theories which play little part in advancing understanding? Over the last year we have seen the scientific m
Nautilus3 min letti
Here’s Where Our Minds Sharpen in Old Age
Many have noted that the big contenders in the last two American presidential elections were well into their 70s, raising questions of the mental capacity, going forward, of these potential leaders. “Starting after middle age, say around 60 or so, me
Nautilus5 min letti
The Universe Has Already Made Almost All the Stars It Will Ever Make: Black holes are cosmic dimmers.
Our human world is soaked in light. For starters there are the 100,000 trillion photons arriving every second at every square centimeter of Earth’s dayside surface, after racing here from the outer envelope of a natural giant thermonuclear reactor we
Nautilus1 min letti
The Electromagnetic Force of Fridge Magnets: An illustrated guide to the universal laws in your kitchen.
Science is not just something we do at school or professionals undertake in labs. It is at the heart of how everything works. With the development of applied scientific principles, science enables us to not only understand how things work but how to
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