Big Picture Science
Power to the People03/23/15
ENCORE Let there be light! Well, it’s easy to do: just flip a switch. But it took more than the invention of the light bulb to make that possible. It required new technology for the distribution of electricity. And that came, not so much from Thomas...
Microbes: Resistance is Futile
You are what you eat. Whether you dine on kimchi, carnitas, or corn dogs determines which microbes live in your stomach. And gut microbes make up only part of your total microbiome. Find out how your microbes are the brains-without-brains that affect...
You love to travel. But would you if doing so meant never coming home? The private company Mars One says it will land humans on the Red Planet by 2026, but is only offering passengers one-way tickets. Hundreds of thousands of people volunteered to go....
Skeptic Check: The Me in Measles
Wondering whether to vaccinate your children? The decision can feel like a shot in the dark if you don’t know how to evaluate risk. Find out why all of us succumb to the reasoning pitfalls of cognitive and omission bias, whether we’re saying no to...
Surviving the Anthropocene
The world is hot, and getting hotter. But higher temperatures aren’t the only impact our species is having on mother Earth. Urbanization, deforestation, and dumping millions of tons of plastic into the oceans … these are all ways in which humans are...
Today, scientists are familiar to us, but they weren’t always. Even the word “scientist” is relatively modern, dating from the Victorian Era. And it is to that era we turn as we travel to the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the 150th anniversary...
Skeptic Check: Your Inner Lab Coat
herlock Holmes doesn’t have a science degree, yet he thinks rationally – like a scientist. You can too! Learn the secrets of being irritatingly logical from the most famous sleuth on Baker Street. Plus, discover why animal trackers 100,000 years ago...
Digging Our Past
ENCORE What’s past is prologue. For centuries, researchers have studied buried evidence – bones, teeth, or artifacts – to learn about murky human history, or even to investigate vanished species. But today’s hi-tech forensics allow us to analyze...
Skeptic Check: Mummy Dearest
ENCORE Shh …mummy’s the word! We don’t want to provoke the curse of King Tut. Except that there are many curses associated with this fossilized pharaoh – from evil spirits to alien malevolence. So it’s hard to know which one we’d face. We’ll unravel...
Big Questions Somewhat Answered
Here are questions that give a cosmologist – and maybe even you – insomnia: What happened after the Big Bang? What is dark matter? Will dark energy tear the universe apart? Let us help you catch those zzzzs. We’re going to provide answers to the...
How to Talk to Aliens
"Dear E.T. …” So far, so good. But now what? Writing is never easy, but what if your task was to craft a message to aliens living elsewhere in the universe, and your prose would represent all humankind? Got writer’s block yet? What to say to the...
Meet Your Replacements
ENCORE There’s no one like you. At least, not yet. But in some visions of the future, androids can do just about everything, computers will hook directly into your brain, and genetic human-hybrids with exotic traits will be walking the streets. So...
Skeptic Check: Got a Sweet Truth?
ENCORE The sweet stuff is getting sour press. Some researchers say sugar is toxic. A new study seems to support that idea: mice fed the human equivalent of an extra three sodas a day become infertile or die. But should cupcakes be regulated like...
Science Fiction True
Don’t believe everything you see on TV or the movies. Science fiction is just a guide to how our future might unfold. It can be misleading, as anyone who yearns for a flying car can tell you. And yet, sometimes fantasy becomes fact. Think of the...
Electricity is so 19th century. Most of the uses for it were established by the 1920s. So there’s nothing innovative left to do, right? That’s not the opinion of the Nobel committee that awarded its 2014 physics prize to scientists who invented the...
It’s the most dramatic technical development of recent times: Teams of people working for decades to produce a slow-motion revolution we call computing. As these devices become increasingly powerful, we recall that a pioneer from the nineteenth...
Long Live Longevity
Here’s to a long life – which, on average, is longer today than it was a century ago. How much farther can we extend that ultimate finish line? Scientists are in hot pursuit of the secret to longer life. The latest in aging studies and why there’s a...
This Land Is Island
There are many kinds of islands. There’s your iconic sandy speck of land topped with a palm tree, but there’s also our home planet – an island in the vast seas of space. You might think of yourself as a biological island … until you tally the number...
Surfeit of the Vitalest
In the century and a half since Charles Darwin wrote his seminal On the Origin of the Species, our understanding of evolution has changed quite a bit. For one, we have not only identified the inheritance molecule DNA, but have determined its sequence...
Skeptic Check: Are You Sure You're Sure?
Nuclear fission powers the Sun. Or is it fusion? At any rate, helium is burned in the process, of that you are certain. After all, you read that article on astronomy last week*. You know what you know. But you probably don’t know what you don’t know....
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