Nautilus6 min read
The Case for More Science and Philosophy Books for Children
During my career as a scientist and a philosopher I have written and edited, thus far, 14 books. Of these, seven are for the general public. Of those, only one (my very first one, as it turns out) was for children. The same picture emerges if one loo
Nautilus9 min read
Should You Feed Your Kid Probiotics?: It’s not as simple as you think.
Read our interview with article coauthor, Jack Gilbert, director of the Microbiome Institute. Probiotics have been around for centuries. They form part of our ancestral and contemporary diets and have long been associated with positive health benefit
Nautilus7 min read
The Strange Similarity of Neuron and Galaxy Networks: Your life’s memories could, in principle, be stored in the universe’s structure.
Christof Koch, a leading researcher on consciousness and the human brain, has famously called the brain “the most complex object in the known universe.” It’s not hard to see why this might be true. With a hundred billion neurons and a hundred trillio
Nautilus9 min read
This Man’s Immune System Got a Cancer-killing Update
William Ludwig was a 64-year-old retired corrections officer living in Bridgeton, New Jersey, in 2010, when he received a near-hopeless cancer prognosis. The Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania had run out of chemotherapeutic opt
Nautilus7 min read
Where Did Time Come From, and Why Does It Seem to Flow?
Paul Davies has a lot on his mind—or perhaps more accurate to say in his mind. A physicist at Arizona State University, he does research on a wide range of topics, from the abstract fields of theoretical physics and cosmology to the more concrete rea
Nautilus9 min read
How I Coaxed a Western Medicine Skeptic to Get a Biopsy
Although I have lived the majority of my life in New Jersey, Utah has always felt like home. Three of my grandparents were multigenerational Utahns, of pioneer stock, and the other grandparent grew up in nearby Idaho. Our family disrupted this patter
Nautilus24 min readScience
How We Really Tamed the Dog: A daring experiment builds a new tame species in just 60 years.
Suppose you wanted to build the perfect dog from scratch. What would be the key ingredients in the recipe? Loyalty and smarts would be musts. Cuteness would be as well, perhaps with gentle eyes, and a curly, bushy tail that wags in joy in anticipatio
Nautilus9 min readScience
Ingenious: Jack Gilbert: The professor of surgery explains how health emerges from a healthy microbiome.
When I ask Jack Gilbert about the future of medicine, he tells me what he recommends to his graduate students before they head into surgery, “When you go to cut someone open, you don’t just have one patient on the gurney. You have 40 trillion patient
Nautilus12 min readSociety
Why New York Is Just an Average City: Understanding any city requires understanding how all cities scale.
How rich, creative, or safe can we expect a city to be? How can we establish which cities are the most innovative, the most violent, or the most effective at generating wealth? How do they rank according to economic activity, the cost of living, the
Nautilus7 min readScience
I Built a Stable Planetary System with 416 Planets in the Habitable Zone
When Frank Drake was a boy, growing up in 1930s Chicago, his parents, observant Baptists, enrolled him in Sunday School. By the time he was 8 years old, he suspected his religion, and others around the world, were, to some extent, environmentally det
Nautilus5 min readScience
What Medicine Is Learning from Animals That Resist Cancer
In recent years, naked mole rats, elephants, and bowhead whales have caught the attention of cancer researchers. At first glance, these three don’t have much in common: naked mole rats are subterranean rodents; elephants roam above ground; and bowhea
Nautilus6 min readScience
How to Weed Creationism Out of Schools
One of the latest victims of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian regime in Turkey isn’t a journalist, or dissident academic, but the concept of evolution. His government’s decision to erase Darwin’s idea—the bedrock of biology—from the high school c
Nautilus8 min read
How Aging Research Is Changing Our Lives: An interview with Eric Verdin, CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.
Biologist Eric Verdin considers aging a disease. His research group famously discovered several enzymes, including sirtuins, that play an important role in how our mitochondria—the powerhouses of our cells—age. His studies in mice have shown that the
Nautilus11 min read
How the Oil Pipeline Began: Pipeline fights have a longer history than you think.
Soon after Colonel Edwin Drake struck oil, 70 feet down, in Titusville, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 27, 1859, he had a problem. He had nowhere to store the dark green liquid, and no good way to move it. Until then, locals had collected smaller quantities o
Nautilus8 min read
Why You Need Emoji: Emojis are the body language of the digital age.
The use of emojis has become a global phenomenon. By 2015, over 6 billion emojis1 were being sent every day by over 90 percent of the world’s online population.2 Emoji, today, dwarfs even the reach of English. For some, emojis are prompting warnings
Nautilus7 min readSociety
The Pressures and Perks of Being a Thought Leader
The first time I saw the term, I was mystified. “Hey, Dr S! We’re getting a few KOLs together to give us some advice about how to develop our new compound,” began the friendly e-mail from a pharmaceutical liaison, her return address reflecting her th
Nautilus5 min readScience
The Unbearable Weirdness of CRISPR
When Francisco Mojica was 25, he supported himself by tracking bacteria in the Mediterranean off the coast of a tourist haven in southeastern Spain. At the time, he was a doctoral candidate at the University of Alicante, where he focused on a much st
Nautilus16 min read
How to Obfuscate: What misinformation on Twitter and radar have in common.
During World War II, a radar operator tracks an airplane over Hamburg, guiding searchlights and anti-aircraft guns in relation to a phosphor dot whose position is updated with each sweep of the antenna. Abruptly, dots that seem to represent airplanes
Nautilus15 min read
Ingenious: Albert Camus: A reconstructed conversation with the great writer about science and the absurd.
I had always dreamed of meeting Albert Camus and so was thrilled when he appeared at Lucey’s Lounge, a dark and yellowy lit bar in Brooklyn. The Algerian writer had graciously agreed, or so it seemed, to be interviewed about absurdity, the concept in
Nautilus15 min read
New York Under Water: Your future commute to work is on a boat.
Science-fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson paints a vivid picture of life in New York City after the sea level rises more than 50 feet, drowning lower Manhattan and creating a forest of skyscrapers in his new book, New York 2140. 1 Numbers often fil
Nautilus4 min readPolitics
To a Cigarette Maker, Your Life Is Worth About $10,000
If you had to put a price on your life, what cash amount do you think it would be? What about $100,000? That was the amount, last June, that a group of kidnappers in Atlanta demanded in exchange for a woman’s life. Not high enough? Well, in a statist
Nautilus4 min read
What It’s Like to Be an Ant
Right now, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, there are lots of dead ants in the glass corridors of one of Anicka Yi’s biosphere-like dioramas. The shared nest looks like an oversized circuit board comprised of mirrors and glass tubes the ant
Nautilus17 min readScience
Chaos Makes the Multiverse Unnecessary: Science predicts only the predictable, ignoring most of our chaotic universe.
Scientists look around the universe and see amazing structure. There are objects and processes of fantastic complexity. Every action in our universe follows exact laws of nature that are perfectly expressed in a mathematical language. These laws of n
Nautilus18 min read
What Is Space?: It’s not what you think.
Ask a group of physicists and philosophers to define “space” and you will likely be stuck in a long discussion that involves deep-sounding but meaningless word combinations such as “the very fabric of space-time itself is a physical manifestation of
Nautilus18 min readSelf-Improvement
Why Your Brain Hates Other People: And how to make it think differently.
As a kid, I saw the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes. As a future primatologist, I was mesmerized. Years later I discovered an anecdote about its filming: At lunchtime, the people playing chimps and those playing gorillas ate in separate groups. It
Nautilus3 min readScience
How Japanese Floating Illusions Reverse-Engineer What We See
If you don’t know how something works, break it. Science is built on creative destruction: Much of what neuroscientists know of the brain, they know from what gets lost during brain injuries. Under happier circumstances, they glimpse the functioning
Nautilus15 min readScience
How Discovering an Equation for Altruism Cost George Price Everything
Laura met George in the pages of Reader’s Digest. In just a couple of column inches, she read an abridged version of his biography and was instantly intrigued. In the 1960s, apparently, egotistical scientist George Price discovered an equation that e
Nautilus8 min read
Does Having Kids Make Mothers Age Faster?: Evidence is stacking up on both sides of an age-old debate.
There’s an old wives’ tale that having a child ages a woman. And why wouldn’t it? When a woman becomes pregnant, her body undergoes a massive transformation. She gains weight and her metabolic rate spikes. Her pulse quickens. Her uterus expands and p
Nautilus10 min read
When Neurology Becomes Theology: A neurologist’s perspective on research into consciousness.
Early in my neurology residency, a 50-year-old woman insisted on being hospitalized for protection from the FBI spying on her via the TV set in her bedroom. The woman’s physical examination, lab tests, EEGs, scans, and formal neuropsychological testi
Nautilus7 min read
Nietzsche Is Not the Proto-postmodern Relativist Some Have Mistaken Him For
Since his death in 1900, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has had the unfortunate distinction of being blamed for three catastrophes to have befallen Western civilization. He was blamed for the First World War, when his inflammatory and bellicose
…Or Discover Something New