Tag: Science

Losing Their Religion

Rarely do we pity the pious Victorian patriarch. Why should we sympathize with the privileged men who stoutly believed that God had placed them at the apex of a “Great Chain of Being”? One of the ...

Too Bad About the Trees

This is the latest installment of our new blog series, An Engineer Reads a Novel.   Heat and Light, Jennifer Haigh’s fifth novel, highlights the complexity, dirtiness, and danger of the labor of ...

Where do Morals Come From?

The social sciences have an ethics problem. No, I am not referring to the recent scandals about flawed and fudged data in psychology and political science.1 I’m talking about the failure of the ...

The Inventor of Nature

In 1869 the centennial of Alexander von Humboldt’s birth was celebrated around the world, including in New York City, where bands and speakers gathered in Central Park to honor his legacy. He was ...

Speaking in Science

Some of today’s most provocative scientific tools are being built to do science themselves. IBM’s Watson, for instance, is being developed to sift through data at volumes far exceeding the capability ...

China at World’s End

In a galaxy far away, but close enough, an intelligent alien civilization finally realizes that its planet orbits around three suns instead of one. They face the classic three-body problem of ...

Planetary Politics

In 2000, the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen and the ecologist Eugene Stoermer proposed that the earth had entered a new age. The Holocene period, the geological term for the past 11,500 years, had ...

Dancing on a Crowded Planet

Thirty dancers are barely enough to fill the shadow of the life-sized blue whale that hangs, mid-dive, in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Yet on ...

Sleep and Synchronicity

Two spectacularly haunting new works of fiction share a frightening and resonant premise: a world in which sleep is disappearing. Insomnia has a storied history, of course, as both ailment and plot ...

Shallow Botany

A birth is a fine way to begin a novel, so it is not in itself a bad sign that Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, The Signature of All Things, opens with the delivery of its protagonist, Alma Whittaker ...

Michael Pollan’s Dilemma

In the 20th anniversary edition of On Food and Cooking, the celebrated food writer Harold McGee claims that “to understand what’s happening within a food as we cook it, we need to be familiar with ...