img_4683

Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins

Ancient cultures from Africa to Asia to the Mediterranean share core myths such as the animal pursued by a hunter who is transformed into a constellation, or a sculptor falling in love with a statute that comes to life, or a clever hunter outwitting a monster who keeps animals in a cave. This Scientific American article describes a method to trace the origin of stories through waves of human migration…

image

STEM Education Is Vital–But Not at the Expense of the Humanities

Promoting science and technology education to the exclusion of the humanities may seem like a good idea, but it is deeply misguided. Scientific American has always been an ardent supporter of teaching STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But studying the interaction of genes or engaging in a graduate-level project to develop software for self-driving cars should not edge out majoring in the classics or art history. The need to…

Konnikova-Why-Human-Babies-are-Dumber-1200-630

Why Are Babies So Dumb If Humans Are So Smart?

Fascinating theory. The hard work of raising helpless babies is part of the natural selection process that made us as a species so intelligent. Natural selection favors humans with large brains, because those humans tend to be smarter. This may create evolutionary incentives for babies that are born at an even earlier developmental stage, which require more intelligence to raise. This creates the dynamic: over time, helpless babies make parents…

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.41.59 PM

NASA Just Found a Lost Spacecraft

If movies about space have taught us anything, it’s that no one can hear you scream. If you get lost in space, nobody’s going to find you. Unless you’re a spacecraft with a direct link to NASA. Then, there is hope for you yet. STEREO-B, from the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory mission, went missing on October 1, 2014 after losing contact with the team back on Earth. However, on Sunday…

image

U.S. Public Wary of Biomedical Technologies to ‘Enhance’ Human Abilities

Americans are more worried than enthusiastic about using gene editing, brain chip implants and synthetic blood to change human capabilities. Majorities of U.S. adults say they would be “very” or “somewhat” worried about gene editing (68%), brain chips (69%) and synthetic blood (63%), while no more than half say they would be enthusiastic about each of these developments. Some people say they would be both enthusiastic and worried, but, overall,…

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 10.14.45 PM

Neuroscientist Explores the Ethical Quandries of a Digital Afterlife

Now imagine the resources required to simulate the brains of millions or billions of dead people. It’s possible that some future technology will allow for unlimited RAM and we’ll all get free service. The same way we’re arguing about health care now, future activists will chant, “The afterlife is a right, not a privilege!” But it’s more likely that a digital afterlife will be a gated community and somebody will…

Richard Dawkins

Ex-Pope Benedict says the Selfish Gene is science fiction. He’s half right

The Selfish Gene is a brilliant phrase. It’s also accurate, so long as you realise that “selfish” doesn’t mean selfish, “gene” doesn’t mean gene, and the definite article is a bit of an abstraction. But taken as the literal truth, it’s about as much use as “In the beginning was the word”. Given Dawkins’s hostility to everyone else’s metaphysics, this is an unfortunate weakness. “Science fiction” may not be the…