Structural biology, a seemingly arcane topic, is currently at the heart of biomedical research. It holds the key to the creation of healthier, cleaner and safer lives, since it guides researchers in understanding both the causes of diseases and the creation of medicines required to conquer them. Structural biology describes the molecules of life. It […]
Major global environmental problems threaten us. Recent scientific reports show that we are falling short on tackling climate change or stopping biodiversity loss, meaning that the Earth’s climate is under threat and natural species are undergoing a mass extinction wave. While these global environmental issues persist and become more urgent, policymakers have trouble elaborating and […]
Social Psychology looks at the nature and causes of individual behavior in social situations. It asks how others’ actions and behaviors shape our actions and behaviors, how our identities are shaped by the beliefs and assumptions of our communities. Fundamentally it looks for scientific answers to the most philosophical questions of self. These seven books […]
Big cats are the most specialized killers of large prey among carnivorans. Dogs, bears, or hyenas have teeth fit to deal with non-meat food items like bone, invertebrates or plants. Not the cats: In the course of evolution they lost almost all teeth not essential for killing prey or cutting meat. But in the distant […]
As we look forward to explore what’s next in love and sex, it makes sense to examine to the heart. That which lovers have once worn on their sleeve is now being navigated in the palm of our hands. With mobile devices and apps letting us literally explore desires with our fingertips, as social scientists […]
Imagine that you’ve just been appointed the head of operations for a five-star hotel in Manhattan. Your boss calls you in her office on your first day and says: “Our biggest problem is how slow elevators are. Everyone complains about it, and we can’t have that. Speed them up.” How would you do it? Most […]
Not all research findings turn out to be true. Of those that are tested, some will need to be amplified, others refined or circumscribed, and some even rejected. Practicing researchers learn quickly to qualify their claims, taking into account the possibility of improved measurements, more stringent analyses, new interpretations, and, in the extreme, experimental or […]
What can math tell us about unfairness? Bias, discrimination, and inequity are phenomena that are deeply complex, context sensitive, personal, and intersectional. The mathematical modeling of social scenarios, on the other hand, is a practice that necessitates simplification. Using models to understand what happens in our social realm means representing the complex with something much […]
Perhaps, the most fascinating question about consciousness is the Hard Problem. It’s the problem of explaining why and how subjective experiences arise from complex electrochemical interactions happening in the brain. It is Hard because the working of the brain should be fully described in term of physical interactions, leaving no room for subjective experiences to fit within our current views of the physical world.
A recent analysis of the Boeing 737 Max disasters concludes that while technical malfunctions contributed to the crashes, “an industry that puts unprepared pilots in the cockpit is just as guilty.” Journalist William Langewiesche uses the term “airmanship” to encompass an array of skills and experience necessary to the safe and effective guidance of an airplane. “It includes a visceral sense of navigation, an operational understanding of weather and weather information, the ability to form mental maps of traffic flows, fluency in the nuance of radio communications and, especially, a deep appreciation for the interplay between energy, inertia and wings. Airplanes are living things.”
Today, English is the international language of science and technology. People around the world read and write science or technical articles in English. A clear writing style helps to make your work easier to read, both for the colleague down the hall, and the one on the other side of the world. One key to […]
Many people find consciousness deeply puzzling. It is often described as one of the few remaining problems for science to address that is genuinely deep—perhaps even unsolvable. Indeed, consciousness is thought to present a challenge to the prevailing scientific image of the universe as physical through-and-through. In part this puzzlement arises because people are (at […]
In her late eighties, my mother begins to lose her grip. Checks bounce. Bills are misplaced and go unpaid. Bottles of Grey Goose vodka appear more frequently in her recycling bin. Afraid for her safety, friends begin putting her in a cab after they finish playing bridge. Soon she is dropped from the group.
The winter holidays are a time to celebrate family, friends, and community. But for the millions of older adults worldwide who have no family, few friends nearby, or are lonely and socially isolated, December is far from the most wonderful time of the year. A survey carried out by AARP in 2017 found that 28 percent of […]
In 1997, Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov, the reigning world chess champion. In 2011, Watson defeated Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the world’s best Jeopardy players. In 2016, AlphaGo defeated Ke Jie, the world’s best Go player. In 2017, DeepMind unleashed AlphaZero, which trounced the world-champion computer programs at chess, Go, and shogi. Perhaps computers have moved so far beyond our intelligence that we should rely on them to make our important decisions. Nope.
My friend and colleague George asked me, “Do you think a scientist can be an atheist?” I replied, “Not only can a scientist be an atheist, he should be one.” I was teasing because I knew what response George wanted to hear and this was not it. Sure enough, he shook his head. The only logical position that a scientist can take, he said, is to be an agnostic because we can never know the answer to the question of whether God exists or not.