NPR
4 min read
Happiness

Is Happiness A Universal Human Right?

March 20 is the International Day of Happiness, the result of a UN resolution adopted in 2012 that identifies the pursuit of happiness as "a fundamental human goal" and promotes a more holistic approach to public policy and economic growth — one that recognizes happiness and wellbeing as important pieces of sustainable and equitable development. The official page for the International Day of Happiness, HappinessDay.org, goes one step further in declaring happiness a "universal human right." But is happiness really a human right? And is happiness a goal we should actively pursue? I think the an
The Atlantic
14 min read
Science

How Aristotle Created the Computer

The history of computers is often told as a history of objects, from the abacus to the Babbage engine up through the code-breaking machines of World War II. In fact, it is better understood as a history of ideas, mainly ideas that emerged from mathematical logic, an obscure and cult-like discipline that first developed in the 19th century. Mathematical logic was pioneered by philosopher-mathematicians, most notably George Boole and Gottlob Frege, who were themselves inspired by Leibniz’s dream of a universal “concept language,” and the ancient logical system of Aristotle. Mathematical logic wa
NPR
4 min read

Harvard Scientists Call For Better Rules To Guide Research On 'Embryoids'

How far should scientists be allowed to go in creating things that resemble primitive human brains, hearts, and even human embryos? That's the question being asked by a group of Harvard scientists who are doing exactly that in their labs. They're using stem cells, genetics and other new biological engineering techniques to create tissues, primitive organs and other living structures that mimic parts of the human body. Their concern is that they and others doing this type of "synthetic biology" research might be treading into disturbing territory. "We don't know where this going to go," says Jo
NPR
3 min read
Religion & Spirituality

Would You Become An Immortal Machine?

Picture this: You are in the bathroom, doing your usual thing after breakfast, when you notice blood in the water sitting in your white, porcelain toilet. Scared, you schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist, who recommends a colonoscopy and a biopsy. It could be cancer, it could be a harmless colitis. But there you are, confronted, perhaps for the first time of your life, with your own mortality. You get to the doctor's office and are told to wait. Reading some glossy magazine to kill time (pun intended), you notice a peculiar half-page add: "Want to live forever? Explore our cryogen
NPR
2 min read

Derek Walcott, Who Wrote Of Caribbean Beauty And Bondage, Dies At 87

Derek Walcott's work explored the beauty of his Caribbean homeland and its brutal colonial history. The prolific, Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright died Friday at his home in St. Lucia. He was 87. Walcott wrote dozens of books of poetry and plays, among them his epic poem Omeros and his Obie-winning drama, Dream on Monkey Mountain. For most of his life, Walcott taught poetry at universities in the United States, England and Canada — but his work never strayed far from St. Lucia, the island in the West Indies where he was born. In 1984, when he was teaching at Boston University, Walcott s
Mic
3 min read
Science

'Pokémon Go' Special Items: Your Buddy Pokémon Might Determine Which Evolution Items Drop

Pokémon Go's evolutionary items have proved elusive up until this point. These special items, like the dragon scale or king's rock, are required to evolve some Gen 1 Pokémon into their Gen 2 evolutions, and only drop from PokéStops. Not content to rely on seven-day streaks, players are trying everything they can to figure out how to increase the items' spawn chances at PokéStops. Recently, it seems, Pokémon trainers have devised a new theory about how to increase those special item spawns as well. Read on for more information. Silph Road user Marvel227 recently posted that they received a drag
Nautilus
9 min read

What This Drawing Taught Me About Four-Dimensional Spacetime: Stuck in his research, a cosmologist finds a hint in an intricate drawing.

My aim as a theoretical physicist is to unite quantum theory with Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. While there are a few proposals for this unification, such as string theory and loop quantum gravity, many roadblocks to a complete unification remain. Einstein’s theory tells us the gravitational force is a direct manifestation of space and time bending. The sun bends the fabric of space, much like a sleeping person bends a mattress. Planetary orbits, including Earth’s, are motion along the contours of the bent space created by the sun. This theory provides some critical insights into th
The Atlantic
22 min read
Politics

This Article Won’t Change Your Mind

“I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘She’s totally lying.’ At the same time, I remember something in my mind saying, ‘And that doesn’t matter.’” For Daniel Shaw, believing the words of the guru he had spent years devoted to wasn’t blind faith exactly. It was something he chose. “I remember actually consciously making that choice.” There are facts, and there are beliefs, and there are things you want so badly to believe that they become as facts to you. Back in 1980, Shaw had arrived at a Siddha Yoga meditation center in upstate New York during what he says was a “very vulnerable point in
Nautilus
2 min read
Science

The Weird Age of “Previvors” Is Coming

Siddhartha Mukherjee has an arresting thought experiment: What if, along with your familiar elementary-school report card, you had a genetic report card—one that read out your propensity for getting each letter grade in each subject? If you get an A in math, and your genetic report card says that your propensity for getting that grade is 7 percent, would that change your evaluation of your performance? What if your propensity was 97 percent? Such perplexing, and perhaps uncomfortable, questions lie on the horizon, Mukherjee told Nautilus recently, in his Ingenious interview. He’s the author of
The Atlantic
13 min read

Making Athens Great Again

What happens when a society, once a model for enlightened progress, threatens to backslide into intolerance and irrationality—with the complicity of many of its own citizens? How should that society’s stunned and disoriented members respond? Do they engage in kind, resist, withdraw, even depart? It’s a dilemma as old as democracy itself. Twenty-four centuries ago, Athens was upended by the outcome of a vote that is worth revisiting today. A war-weary citizenry, raised on democratic exceptionalism but disillusioned by its leaders, wanted to feel great again—a recipe for unease and raw vindictiv
Nautilus
4 min read

Virtual Reality Poses the Same Riddles as the Cosmic Multiverse: Alt-realities, whether cosmic or VR, would undermine the laws of physics.

On most days, we do not wake up anticipating that we may be suddenly thrust into the sky while popcorn shrimp rains down like confetti, as some guy roars from above: “Hey, there, I’m Jack. And you are in a computer simulation.” Instead, we wake up thinking that an atom is an atom, that our physics is inherent to this universe and not prone to arbitrary change by coders, and that our reality is, well, real. Yet there may be another possibility. Game developers have opened up massive, explorable universes and populated them with computer-generated characters based on advanced A.I. The experience
The Atlantic
3 min read
Politics

The American 'Deep State,' as a Trump Voter Might See It

Rarely a day goes by without some lament of democracy’s decline in the United States. Sometimes, it’s even quantified, with one index declaring America a “flawed democracy” for the first time. Much of the hand-wringing is justified—and not just from the perspective of liberals or Democrats. Even Trump supporters would have to acknowledge that the deep ideological polarization engulfing the country, however much it helps their standard-bearer, is not particularly healthy. Even as we fear for American democracy, or for American liberalism, there is another way of looking at it, and it requires e
The Atlantic
7 min read
Religion & Spirituality

The Dilemma Facing Ex-Muslims in Trump's America

“Challenging Islam as a doctrine,” Ali Rizvi told me, “is very different from demonizing Muslim people.” Rizvi, a self-identified ex-Muslim, is the author of a new book titled The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason. One of the book’s stated aims is to uphold this elementary distinction: “Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. Ideas, books, and beliefs don’t, and aren’t.” The problem for Rizvi is that the grain of Western political culture is currently against him. Those in the secular West live in an age when ideas are commonly regarded as “deeds” with the potenti
TIME
3 min read

Why Do People Want to Live so Long, Anyway?

MANDY OAKLANDER DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL IS FAMOUS for a lot of reasons. He’s an acclaimed bioethicist and oncologist who advised President Obama on health care and has two very well known brothers, but another thing people always seem to remember about him is that article he wrote in 2014: “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” More than 1,000 people have sent him letters and emails—some saying he’s insane and ungrateful, others thanking him for voicing the same thoughts for which they’d been ridiculed. One 75-year-old man who died in upstate New York requested that his mourners, instead of making a donatio
TIME
2 min read

Limbo of the Patriarch

NATE HOPPER GEORGE SAUNDERS, THE COMIC empath, introduces President Abraham Lincoln as he unwittingly enters a bardo—a Buddhist limbo, here populated by ghosts he cannot sense. These specters travel around the cemetery where Lincoln’s son Willie has been interred. They believe they are not dead and hope to return to life as they knew it. Yet if they succumb to temptation or resignation, they know they will experience the “matterlightblooming phenomenon” and disappear to the afterlife in an indescribable flash and crack. “And for what?” one reasons. “You do not know. A most unintelligent wager
TIME
3 min read

How to Create More From What You Already Have

ASK MOST PEOPLE TO DESCRIBE THE path to success and their answer will likely call for “more”—more money to buy things, more time to do things and more knowledge to inform things. There’s an intuitive appeal to this argument. In terms of success, more is thought to be both a cause (the more we have, the more we can do) and a consequence (to the victor go the spoils). As alluring as this approach appears, recent research has started to call it into question. When we are focused on getting more, we overlook the value of what’s already in hand. We emphasize the wrong things, like accumulating res
New York Magazine
5 min read
Politics

Choose Your Kind of Trump Building

Trump International Hotel & Tower 1 Central Park West TRUMP’S INVOLVEMENT: Managed by the Trump Organization. HISTORY: It was built in 1969 to house the offices of Gulf and Western. In 1995, Trump converted it into a residential space: The architects Costas Kondylis and Philip Johnson did away with the dark glass walls and installed columns and spandrels with gold-bronze glass. “A 1950s International Style glass skyscraper in a 1980s gold lamé party dress,” said the New York Times. THE APARTMENTS: The lower 17 floors are hotel condos, while the upper floors are traditional two- and three-b
Nautilus
7 min read

Evil Triumphs in These Multiverses, and God Is Powerless: How scientific cosmology puts a new twist on the problem of evil.

The challenge that the multiverse poses for the idea of an all-good, all-powerful God is often focused on fine-tuning. If there are infinite universes, then we don’t need a fine tuner to explain why the conditions of our universe are perfect for life, so the argument goes. But some kinds of multiverse pose a more direct threat. The many-worlds interpretation of quantum physicist Hugh Everett III and the modal realism of cosmologist Max Tegmark include worlds that no sane, good God would ever tolerate. The theories are very different, but each predicts the existence of worlds filled with horror
Fast Company
2 min read

45 | Related Companies For Creating A Thrilling New West Side Story

How do you turn a once-barren stretch of Manhattan’s far West Side into a genuine neighborhood? “It’s as much about embracing the public as it is having commercial spaces and residential units,” says Jeff Blau, CEO of Related Companies, the real estate developer behind the $25 billion Hudson Yards project. “[Hudson Yards] is not meant to be an enclave.” To succeed, Related is bringing together an array of lifestyle brands (including its own, SoulCycle and Equinox) and public amenities to create a private development with broad public appeal. Here’s how the project is creating a new model for u
Nautilus
3 min read
Psychology

How Should Society Judge a Defendant with a Brain Tumor?

After a visit from one of his patients in March, 1966, the psychiatrist Maurice Heatly noted, “This massive, muscular youth seemed to be oozing with hostility as he initiated the hour with the statement that something was happening to him and he didn’t seem to be himself.” That patient was Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old former Marine who had recently been honorably discharged. He told Heatly, who was on staff at the University of Texas Health Center, in Austin, that he’d been “thinking about going up on the tower [on campus] with a deer rifle and start shooting people.” Several months later, h
Ad Age
4 min read

Pepsi Wants to Be a Movie Mogul

For PepsiCo, selling soda at the movies is no longer good enoughit wants to be a star on the big screen. In a bold entertainment marketing bet, the marketer plans to create a full-length feature film based on a Pepsi ad character: Uncle Drew, the elderly, pot-bellied, basketball-loving man played by NBA star Kyrie Irving, who has played the part in popular online videos since breaking through in 2012. Making viral videos is one thing, but making a movie based on an ad carries greater risk, not least because of the investment involved. It's been done before, perhaps most notably in the 1990s wh
TIME
3 min read

How the Enlightenment Predicted Modern Populism

BY NEARLY ALL OBJECTIVE SIGNS, THE 2016 election should have been a cakewalk for a mainstream candidate. The economy had mostly recovered from the 2008–2009 recession. Unemployment was low, and despite the occasional small bump, so was violent crime. The Middle East may have been in bloody chaos, but few U.S. soldiers were dying there, as they so recently had by the hundreds in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet it was the candidates of anger who captured the public imagination—first Bernie Sanders with his rebellion against globalization and free trade, and then, conclusively, Donald Trump, who added
Popular Science
4 min read

We Might Have an Eighth Continent. Here’s Why That Matters.

Pexels user Tookapic This all looks like one continuous crust, but geologists know that there's a lot of hidden structure to the Earth. I get it—we’re all still bitter about Pluto. We wanted it to stay a planet, so we’ll cling to our righteous anger until the day we die. Scientists are always changing their minds about all these categories and designations, and it sometimes seems totally unnecessary. Does it really matter if Pluto is a planet, or if there are eight continents instead of seven? Yes. Yes it does. The real problem with this argument is that it’s based on a valid premise—that all
Bloomberg Businessweek
4 min read
Politics

“Hollywood”

Anousha Sakoui, with Jeanne Yang During a visit to Los Angeles five years ago this month, China’s Xi Jinping gave Hollywood a much needed shot in the arm. The incoming Chinese leader agreed to ease an almost 20-year-old quota on American films, nearly doubling both the number of U.S. movies imported to China and Hollywood studios’ share of the box-office receipts—a deal that temporarily settled a World Trade Organization case the U.S. brought against China. There was an understanding that in 2017 the two nations would return to the table to increase the compensation to U.S. moviemakers and f
Popular Science
5 min read
Psychology

The Test Used to See if Animals Are Self-Aware Might Not Actually Work

Thomas Schoch Look how smart he looks—you just need to be patient with him. Humans use mirrors so reflexively that we’ll often use shop windows or phone screens to preen ourselves without a second thought. But it didn’t always come so easy. Before the age of about two, kids don’t see themselves when they look in the mirror—they have to develop that ability over time. Until they do, they just think they're looking at another baby. And new evidence suggests the same might be true for some monkeys. Great apes and humans have long been amongst the few species to pass the mirror test, also known as
People
1 min read

Catching Up With Naomie Harris

KATHERINE RICHTER You just got an Oscar nomination for Moonlight! What drew you to this film? I cried about three or four times just reading the script. Then I watched director Barry Jenkins’s first film, Medicine for Melancholy. I thought, if this filmmaker can make such an extraordinary movie with $13,000, what’s he going to do with a fantastic script on a proper budget? How did you prep to play Paula, a crack-addict mother of a gay son? On YouTube there are incredibly intimate interviews with people who went to crack dens. I also watched documentaries about addiction in Miami, where the m
Bloomberg Businessweek
3 min read

The Roots Of Our Rage

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef became friends in the late 1990s, when the men were held in nearby cells at the federal supermax prison, outside Florence, Colo. After McVeigh was executed in 2001, Yousef said he’d never known “anyone in my life who has so similar a personality to my own as his.” The kinship of two terrorists, born into seemingly opposed worlds but drawn toward the same ends, illustrates the theme of Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger: A History of the Present ($27, Farrar Straus Giroux). Mishra, an Indian-born cultural critic, rejects
TIME
2 min read

Four Roads Diverge in a Wood

SARAH BEGLEY CERTAIN BOOKS LEAVE READERS FEELING THEY KNOW EVERY MINUTE detail of a character’s inner life, as if they were lifelong companions and daily confidants. Paul Auster’s massive new novel, 4 3 2 1, is such a book. The concept behind the 866-page tome boils down to one life, lived four ways. By the end of the first chapter a boy named Archie Ferguson has been born to a New Jersey couple in 1947. Subsequent chapters cycle through four versions of how his life plays out: he grows up in different New Jersey towns, attends different schools and embarks on different adventures and misadv
New York Magazine
4 min read

Tragedy Foretold

THE IRANIAN FILMMAKER Asghar Farhadi understands English perfectly and speaks it competently, but prefers to use an English interpreter to conduct his interviews. It makes for a strange conversation—to look at someone intently while he answers in a language you don’t understand, only to have to do it again with the interpreter. Several times, they stop to confer with each other over a word choice in Persian. Such verbal exactitude mirrors the great precision of Farhadi’s films—taut, suspenseful explorations of knotty ethical issues, like the emotionally wrenching divorce in the Oscar-winning A
New York Magazine
5 min read
Politics

Comments

1 “If the campaign estranged Kushner from the privileged world he once inhabited, the election represented a conclusive break,” wrote Andrew Rice in his profile of Donald Trump’s son-in-law turned shadow campaign manager, Jared Kushner (“The Young Trump,” January 9–22). “A rich, well reported profile of Jared Kushner and his power,” tweeted the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker. One detail those who’ve been paying close attention to Trump’s inner circle noted was Steve Bannon’s praise for Kushner, and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times chimed in that “Kushner was one of the few senior aides …