July 15, 2013 The world's most famous ant scholar likes a good prank. His secret fantasy, he told the novelist Michael Crichton, would be to steal a 25 million year old alarm signal from an ancient ant and use it to panic a modern nest. Oh, what fun! But can he do it?
July 13, 2013 A med student is paired with a patient her age. She does her job. They talk. They bond. The patient gets better. She's thrilled. And then ...
July 12, 2013 Look where you like through the 13,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds of our planet, and you will find only one ounce of it. It's really, really, really rare. Possibly the rarest thing in the universe.
July 8, 2013 At first, you couldn't ask for a better meal plan. The food is free, delivered straight to you. It lands, literally, right at your feet. All you have to do is bend over and eat. Except: the portions are very small and tend to slip away rather quickly. That's why sandpipers seem so frantic when you see them at the beach. Their food keeps disappearing.
July 2, 2013 It's America's birthday this week, when we celebrate government of, by and for the People, which has me thinking of two particular people, my mother and my aunt, who argued politics at our family dinner table. If families in this country are anything like mine, America's democratic achievement is nothing short of a miracle.
July 1, 2013 One of the great dinosaur puzzles, the dinosaur mystery, is why did they suddenly die off? Scientists have been debating this question for almost a hundred years and one of the most beautiful notions came from an insect scholar who thought maybe caterpillars did it. I'm not making this up.
June 29, 2013 At night, in the ocean, they look like little Broadway billboards with dazzling trills of rainbow colored light. They have eight little runways on their bodies for light display. What are they?
June 28, 2013 You find a hair on a table top. A cigarette butt on the street. You take it home, and using not especially sophisticated tools, you recover traces of DNA. Can you now reconstruct the face of the person whose hair that was? Who smoked that cigarette? Here's an artist who says, "you can." And here's her evidence.
June 27, 2013 Carl Sagan once wrote a mischievous paper called "A Search for Life on Earth from the Galileo Spacecraft". Being a living Earthling, he knew he'd find life here. So what was he really up to? The experiment he ran in 1990 is about to be repeated in a few weeks. Here's my closer look.
June 25, 2013 Every so often you see something deeply, truly, can't-believe-they-can-do-this astonishing. This is one of those. A small invention, inserted into a brain, that can silence a neural nightmare with the push of a button. Andrew Johnson is going to push that button.
June 22, 2013 A cross-cultural (and totally made-up) experiment. How would a cricket announcer describe an American baseball game, if he'd never ever seen one before? He doesn't know the rules, the positions, the teams. He has to punt. And punt he does. Gloriously.
June 21, 2013 Every night you lose weight while you sleep. Everybody does. Sometimes two pounds. Something inside you when you close you eyes is gone by morning. It's not bathroom-related. It's something else. What could it be?
June 19, 2013 What's that beetle doing to that beer bottle? The beetle dropped down from the sky, grabbed the bottle's bottom, keeps hugging and hugging it, even when being attacked by ants, and it won't — refuses to — let go. It can't be the beer it's after. The beer is at the other end. What's going on?
June 18, 2013 Take something old, familiar and classical, add denim, polyester and glasses, and watch what happens! Two French artists create a new form of time travel.
June 17, 2013 Death, it appears, prefers gentlemen to ladies. Women don't just outlive men, they consistently outlive men at every stage of life. More boys die in utero, in infancy, in adolescence, in middle age, at every stage. That's why nature makes more of them. But why? What's so fragile about guys?