Science

243 articles
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Gunn

Siblings tend to lions at a Tanzanian animal clinic.

"Eleven years her senior, Derek left America when she was fourteen to study and work in New Zealand, Greenland, and Chad, combing lakes for pale bacterial blooms. Over a decade Diana had collected his letters, filled with descriptions of the origins of rivers, dead fish in the Niantic, elephant calves strung up in abattoirs. And when she finished her sophomore year, he founded the Keren Reserve, a lion research conservatory that commanded a half-million acres at the edge of the Sahel. He had filmed four documentaries for television. Now, he researched emerging atavistic traits in the prides: infighting, cubs abandoned by their mothers."

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The Radioactive Boy Scout

A suburban teen attempts to build a reactor, radioactivity ensues.

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Mother Earth Mother Board

A 42,000-word, 3-continent spanning “hacker tourist” account of the laying of the (then) longest wire on earth.

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Irreducible

A scientific and psychological examination of a gunshot.

"This is how you feel a bullet. You have certain sensory receptors that detect pain, these are called nociceptors. When a nocicpetor receives a painful stimulus, it sends a signal through its neuron to the spinal cord, which sends the signal to your brain, which sends it to a number of different areas for processing. The location and intensity of the stimulus is deciphered by the primary and secondary somatosensory cortex, for example."

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Δx Δp > H/2π

Uncertainty principles applied to modern domestic life.

"But there were always more things to add to the list—don't speak of body issues in front of daughters or read magazines with tweaked and smoothed images that were—hadn't she read this—actually altering the brain chemistry for young girls. Plus the magazines were paper, wasteful, though reading on line wasn't great for macular degeneration and other ocular issues and who wanted one more thing—glasses—to have to remember to pack every day? Plus glasses might make her feel older which wasn't terrible—she's happy where she is and needs to lean in lean back push onward and show this—but glasses might make her feel sexless and that would make her less present in the moment."

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Remember This

Inside the minds of two people, one with the world’s best memory and one with the world’s worst.

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A Few Too Many

On the centuries-long search for the perfect hangover remedy.

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The Outer Reaches Of Love

An astronaut, a superhero, a love story.

"Sometimes she feels like her marriage to a superhero was preordained; what other options did she have when her passion was split between flight and the stars? When she gets home, she’ll wrap her arms around his neck, twist her legs around his, lie down on his back and they’ll go carving through the night sky, ignoring gravity’s plaintive calls to come back down, the lights of industrial Houston like the stars reflected ten fold, the opaque water of the Gulf spotted with the miniature cities of oil rigs."

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Pregnant Pause?

On drinking alcohol while pregnant.

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An Unexpected Fix

On starting a rural retreat for recovering addicts.

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Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?

A species of jellyfish that can transform itself back to a polyp at any time appears to debunk the most fundamental law of the natural world — you are born, and then you die.

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The Thing With Feathers

The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker was extinct. Then it wasn’t. The story of an uncertain resurrection.

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Time, and the Great Healer

In 1943, a young research scientist found a cure for TB. It should have been the proudest moment of Albert Schatz’s life, but ever since he has watched, helpless, as his mentor got all the credit.

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Re-Awakenings

How a woman who couldn’t stop sleeping woke up.

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Dr. Nakamats, the Man With 3300 Patents to His Name

A profile of Sir Dr. NakaMats, who claims to have invented over 3,000 things, including the floppy disk and karaoke machine.

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A Mind Dismembered

On the history of Nigerian penis theft.

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Wild Things

Animal nature, human racism, and the future of zoos.

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State of the Species

The future of homo sapiens.

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The Kindness of Beasts

On the moral behavior of animals.

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The Island Where People Forget to Die

Why do Ikarians live so long—and remain mentally sharp until the end?

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The Secrets of Sleep

We know we need it, but we don’t know why.

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Birds With Teeth

Two nineteenth century paleontologists, once friends and colleagues, become bitter enemies.

"But years ago, there was room for friendship. They talked for hours at Haddonfield, grinning in helpless academic passion and exclaiming at their own twin hearts. They ate breakfast together on a heap of rock in the marl pits, black bread and coffee as the sun swam into the sky. Cope in shirtsleeves, a boy's face, looking more like Marsh's son than his contemporary."

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The Miracle of Molly

“For every other kid in the room, the science experiment probably amounts to just another classroom activity, but for the Nashes the project is a reminder of Molly’s own fight for life and the controversial cutting-edge medicine that saved her.”

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Death of a Giant

Stalking bluefin tuna, the most valuable wild animal in the world.

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Sex and the Superbug

The rise of drug-resistant gonorrhea.

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The Shocking Truth

The story of a device that delivers electric shocks to students at a school for special needs.

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Loeka Discovered

A prehistoric human specimen sets precipitous events in motion.

"Whereas before we would march down the sterile, artificially lit halls of the Institute, nodding to one another as we passed, the air around us a cold flutter of clipboards and clicking pens, we now began to stop and greet one another, laughing. Two weeks with Loeka, and some of the men started showing up to the lab in more brightly colored shirts and gag neckties."

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The Weatherman Is Not a Moron

How meteorologists are improving their predictive powers.

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Please God Stop the Rain

The day Hurricane Irene nearly drowned Prattsville, New York.

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Secret of AA

A psychological, historical and neurological look at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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I'm Dying to Meet You in the Next Life

An essay on Alcor – “the Arizona cryonics company that has put the body of Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams in cryogenic suspension, in the hope he may one day rise again” – and the desire to live forever.

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Orchid Fever

The story of John Laroche, which led to Orleans’ The Orchid Thief, and tangentially, the film Adaptation.

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A Shock to the System

On getting a brain implant to slow the progress of Parkinson’s disease.

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Keystone

On the economics, impact, and communities of the international pipeline.

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What Happened To Rocketman

An armchair astronaut attempts to become the first black man to walk on the moon.

"The robot had this fold-down flap on its backside and Wesley sat there, buckled in, and told us he and the robot were going to outer space. There were fuses attached to the thing's feet and we stood back as he lit them like Wile E. Coyote. Well, that crazy robot went up all right—right up in flames! And we all about fell on our faces laughing, Wesley loudest of all."

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Cyborg America: inside the strange new world of basement body hackers

“For the first few days after the surgery, it was difficult to separate out my newly implanted sense from the bits of pain and sensation created by the trauma of having the magnet jammed in my finger.”

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Covehithe

A father and his daughter observe the emergence of mysterious, animal-like oil rigs.

"Only the most violent post-return decommissioning could stop all this, only second deaths, from which the rigs did not come back again, kept them from where they wished to go, to drill. Once chosen, a place might be visited by any one of the wild rigs that walked out of the abyss. As if such locations had been decided collectively. UNPERU observed the nesting sites, more all the time, and kept track of the rigs themselves as best they could, of their behemoth grazing or wandering at the bottom of the world."

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Healing Spirits

On the uneasy relationship between magic and medicine.

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The Heretic

On the legal history of LSD in America and a researcher who never gave up on the drug’s promise.

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Heavy Breeding

The 1920s experiment to reverse-engineer wild cows.

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No Death, No Taxes

Libertarian, futurist, billionaire: a profile of Peter Thiel.

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The Strange Neuroscience of Immortality

The scientific case for brain preservation and mind uploading.

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What's So Effective About Stephen Covey?

A profile of the man behind the “7 Habits.”

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Sleeping with Cannibals

For days I've been slogging through a rain-soaked jungle in Indonesian New Guinea, on a quest to visit members of the Korowai tribe, among the last people on earth to practice cannibalism.
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One One-Hundredth of a Second Faster

“Over the past century, coaches have used intuition and discipline to vastly improve athletic performance. Now scientists are taking the last step, helping athletes approach perfection.”

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The Battle Over Climate Science

Inside the increasingly hostile global warming debate.

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Wasteland

The fifty-year battle over where we store our nuclear remains.

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Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit

How technological progress slowed from its 20th-century peak, why we’ve shifted from changing reality to simply simulating reality, and whether capitalism is the true culprit.

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Bath Salts: Deep in the Heart of America's New Drug Nightmare

Perpetually reinvented through experimental chemistry, manufactured in Asian mills, packaged in foil with names like White Slut Concentrated and Charley Sheene for use as “hookah cleaner,” distributed in college town head shops, snorted and injected by hardened addicts and high school thrill seekers alike, bath salts may be the strangest and most volatile American drug craze since crack. And they’re (quasi) legal.

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The Unabomber's Pen Pal

Teaching Ted Kaczynski’s anti-technology ideas.

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Guess What's Cooking in the Garage

On the rise of DIY genetic engineering.

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Out for Blood

How we try - and usually fail - to fight the mosquito.

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Transfiguration

How a surgical innovation allowed Dallas Weins to find a new face.

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What Happened to Abbey's Mom

The story of Nicole Davis, a 25-year-old woman diagnosed with breast cancer six months into her pregnancy.

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The Artistic Animal

Is creativity in our genes? A self-made scholar’s search for the answer.

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Chemotherapy for the Climate?

On geoengineering, a high risk/high reward fix for global warming.

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In Google’s Moon Race, Teams Face a Reckoning

Competing teams, some powered by billionaires and some by open-sourced code and volunteers, race to land a robot on the surface and claim a massive prize from Google.

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On the Origins of the Arts

A sociobiologist on how we evolved into artists.

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I, Turbo

On spending six months on the southern coast of Argentina with the “Jane Goodall of penguins” and several hundred of her research subjects.

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Do Fingerprints Lie?

Controversy over the alleged gold standard of forensic evidence.

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Can You Make Yourself Smarter?

On the possibility of “fluid intelligence.”

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Oh, This Is Great

On the Texas-sized trash island floating in the Pacific.

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The Aquarium

A father and his daughter’s brain tumor.

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Operation Midnight Climax

How the CIA, under a program called MK-ULTRA, used a San Francisco apartment to dose johns with LSD.

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Toxic

An investigation into Erin Brockovich and the lawsuits that made her famous.

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Lim Bs

At a nursing home, a middle-aged woman deals with her scientifically modified body and memories of her past.

"For the past few months, nanobots have been rebuilding Elise’s degenerative neural structures, refortifying the cell production of her microglia in an experimental medical procedure. Now she sits in the Memory Lane Neurotherapy lounge, strapped into a magnetoencephalographic (MEG) scanner that looks like a 1950s beauty parlor hair-drying unit. As a young female therapist monitors a glowing map of Elise’s brain, a male spits streams of nonsense at her."

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The Split Brain: A Tale of Two Halves

The impact, both on researchers and patients, of a radical treatment.

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Xanax: A Love Story

The rise of anti-anxiety medication.

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Björk’s Big Bang

The artist discusses her latest record, Biophilia, science and music education. 

Up until she developed a vocal-cord nodule a few years ago, Björk made a point of not investigating how that instrument worked. “With arrangements and lyrics,” she says, squinting over her coffee, “I work more with the left side of my brain. But my voice has always been very right brain. I didn’t try to analyze it at all. I didn’t even know until I started all this voice work, two years ago, what my range was. I didn’t want to let the academic side into that—I worried the mystery would go.”

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60 Lives, 30 Kidneys, All Linked

The stories of a record-setting chain of transplants.

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The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever

“In the very near future, the act of remembering will become a choice.”

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The Boy Who Played With Fusion

A profile of Taylor Wilson, who achieved nuclear fusion at age 14.

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How Companies Learn Your Secrets

Inside the world of targeted marketing.

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Man in Full

On Mike Powell, a Chicago-area high school wrestling coach who hasn’t allowed a life-threatening illness to interrupt his life’s work.

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Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust

How an industry that couldn’t miss did just that.

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Earth Station: The Afterlife of Technology at the End of the World

A visit to the newly on-the-market Jamesburg Earth Station, a massive satellite receiver that played a key role in communications with space, and its neighbors in an adjacent trailer park.

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The Me Who Knew It

On Alison Winter’s Memory: Fragments of a Modern History, and issues of memory in the 20th century.

Underlying the compelling feeling that we are our memories is a further common-sense assumption that our entire lives are accurately retained somewhere in the brain ‘bank’ as laid-down memories of our experience, and that we retrieve our lives and selves from an ever expanding stockpile of recollections. Or we can’t, and then that feeling that it’s on the tip of our tongue, or there but just out of range, still encourages us to think that everything we have known or done is in us somewhere, if only our digging equipment were sharper.

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How Your Cat is Making You Crazy

Jaroslav Flegr and his theory about Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in cat feces:

If Flegr is right, the "latent" parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that’s not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, "Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year."

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Wonder Dog

A thirteen-year-old adoptee born in Russia with fetal alcohol syndrome, his golden sheperd Chancer, and the trainer who taught Chancer to bond emotionally with disabled children.

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Let the Robot Drive

The autonomous car of the future is here:

I was briefly nervous when Urmson first took his hands off the wheel and a synthy woman’s voice announced coolly, “Autodrive.” But after a few minutes, the idea of a computer-driven car seemed much less terrifying than the panorama of indecision, BlackBerry-fumbling, rule-flouting, and other vagaries of the humans around us—including the weaving driver who struggles to film us as he passes.

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Fossils

A conversation about love in the form of excavation.

"I want to be unearthed again, she says, marvelled at, brushed delicately, cradled, magnified, examined, taxonomied, announced at symposiums."

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The Devastating Costs of the Amazon Gold Rush

How black market mining is destroying the Peruvian rain forest and enslaving child workers.

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The Soft Moon

Reflections on the uneasy relationship between the Earth and the moon.

" The sequel is familiar. After hundreds of thousands of centuries we are trying to give the Earth its former natural appearance, we are reconstructing the primitive terrestrial crust of plastic and cement and metal and glass and enamel and imitation leather. But what a long way we have to go! For a still incalculable amount of time we will be condemned to sink into the lunar discharge, rotten with chlorophyll and gastric juices and dew and nitrogenous gases and cream and tears."

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Climate Change and the End of Australia

How an increase in the earth’s temperature could wipe out a continent.

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What Defines a Meme?

How information replicates, mutates, and evolves.

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King of the Cosmos

A profile of celebrity astrophysicist Neil Tyson.

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The Good Seed

A 21-year-old falls into a coma from which he’ll never emerge. His mother, desperate to grant his wish of becoming a father, has his sperm preserved. Two years later, after a fruitless search for other alternatives, she finds a willing doctor and tries one last option: carrying her son’s child herself.

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Navigating Love and Autism

A young couple’s story.

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The Xinjiang Procedure

A doctor reveals widespread organ harvesting of prisoners in China.

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A Thing or Two About Twins

The search for what makes identical twins different.

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Some Assembly Required

On the recovery of snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who suffered a massive brain injury five days before the 2010 Olympics.

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The Meteor Farmer

On prospecting for space rocks in Kansas.

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Into the Light

After losing his sight at age 3, Michael May went on to become the first blind CIA agent, set a world record for downhill skiing, and start a successful Silicon Valley company. Then he got the chance to see again.

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The End of Cheap Coffee

The case for why a cup of joe is about to become a luxury item.

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This Is My Brain on Chantix

Chantix is a pill that decreases the pleasurable effects of cigarettes. It also causes hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and waking nightmares:

A week into my Chantix usage, I started to feel as if the city landscape had imperceptibly shifted around me. Mundane details began to strike me as having deep, hidden significance. The neon arch above McDonald’s: The lights blinked on and off in some sort of pattern, and I needed to crack the code.

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Unfrozen

On the autopsy of a 5,000-year-old murder victim.

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The King of Human Error

On a pair of Israeli psychologists who between 1971 and 1984 “published a series of quirky papers exploring the ways human judgment may be distorted when we are making decisions in conditions of uncertainty.”

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What Do a Bunch of Old Jews Know About Living Forever?

Irving Kahn is about to celebrate his 106th birthday. He still goes to work every day. Scientists are studying him and several hundred other Ashkenazim to find out what keeps them going. And going. And going.
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The Trials of Bidder 70

A profile of environmental activist Tim DeChristopher.

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Her Own Flesh and Blood

A family of Georgia churchgoers contracted the plague of their time, HIV. Some survived, some didn’t—this is the story of their family over thirty years.

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The Cult of Jurassic Park

On the enduring appeal, both amateur and academic, of man vs. dinosaur.

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Rift in Paradise

On the battles, both between humans and animals, in Africa’s overpopulated Albertine Rift.

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Luminarium [Excerpt]

What if science could trigger an out-of-body experience? Alex Shakar probes the question in this excerpt from his new novel, Luminarium

"He’s afraid: fear comes in ripples, emanating from his center. He can feel nothing but these ripples, he realizes, neither the chair beneath him nor the helmet on his head, nor his head itself."

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Planet of the Retired Apes

Retirement for chimps is, in its way, a perversely natural outcome, which is to say, one that only we, the most cranially endowed of the primates, could have possibly concocted. It's the final manifestation of the irrepressible and ultimately vain human impulse to bring inside the very walls that we erect against the wilderness its most inspiring representatives -- the chimps, our closest biological kin, the animal whose startling resemblance to us, both outward and inward, has long made it a ''can't miss'' for movies and Super Bowl commercials and a ''must have'' in our laboratories. Retirement homes are, in a sense, where we've been trying to get chimps all along: right next door.
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Beautiful Brains

On the minds of teenagers.

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The Benjamin Franklin Effect

The misconception? You do nice things for the people you like and bad things to the people you hate. The truth? You grow to like people for whom you do nice things and hate people you harm.
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The Autistic Hacker

As part of his obsessive search for evidence of UFOs, Gary McKinnon worked his way into thousands of government computers. The U.S. charged him with terrorism. Doctors diagnosed him with Asperger’s. And his lawyers started arguing a new version of the insanity defense.

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Personal Best

The case for coaches in professions other than music and sports. Like medicine, for example:

Since I have taken on a coach, my complication rate has gone down. It’s too soon to know for sure whether that’s not random, but it seems real. I know that I’m learning again. I can’t say that every surgeon needs a coach to do his or her best work, but I’ve discovered that I do.

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Which One of You Is Jesus?

In 1959, a social psychologist in Michigan brought together three institutionalized patients for an experiment:

[W]hat would happen, he wondered, if he made three men meet and live closely side by side over a period of time, each of whom believed himself to be the one and only Jesus Christ?

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The Man Who Loved Grizzlies

On Timothy Treadwell, who lived and died by the bears of Alaska.

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Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World

A year with an autistic 20-year-old.

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Scientists on Trial: At Fault?

In 2009, 300 people perished in an earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy. Next week, six Italian scientists and one government official will stand trial for manslaughter.

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The Avenging Angel

On the dying city of Port Arthur, Texas, and one man’s fight to save it.

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Future Shocks

On the endless quest to predict earthquakes.

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The Theory of Everything

At work with the scientists standing on the precipice of a grand unified theory of the universe. Or failure.

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California or Bust

On the culture of plastic surgery in Los Angeles, and how the reporter’s life changed when she got a pair of fake boobs.

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New Connective Tissue: Bullet-resistant Human Skin As Art

In the film bullets approach in slow motion a series of glistening roundels, resembling condoms just taken out of their paper wrappings. Most of the bullets go right through, leaving a clean hole. But the last roundel in the film collapses slowly, wrapping itself around the bullet like a blanket on a laundry line hit by a wayward football. It is a piece of artificially bred human skin, reinforced with eight layers of transgenic spider silk, the material spiders produce to spin their webs.
Translated from the original Dutch, exclusive to Longform.org.
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The String Theory

A footnoted inquiry into the physics and metaphysics of tennis.

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The Menace Within

The Stanford Prison Experiment, revisited 40 years later.

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How to Mend a Broken Heart

A visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Olinka and Drazen are artists, and after some time passed, they did what artists often do: they put their feelings on display. They became investigators into the plane wreck of love, bagging and tagging individual pieces of evidence. Their collection of breakup mementos was accepted into a local art festival. It was a smash hit. Soon they were putting up installations in Berlin, San Francisco, and Istanbul, showing the concept to the world. Everywhere they went, from Bloomington to Belgrade, people packed the halls and delivered their own relics of extinguished love: “The Silver Watch” with the pin pulled out at the moment he first said, “I love you.” The wood-handled “Ex Axe” that a woman used to chop her cheating lover’s furniture into tiny bits. Trinkets that had meaning to only two souls found resonance with a worldwide audience that seemed to recognize the same heartache all too well.

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A Comet's Tale

An investigation into The End.

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How Pot Has Grown

A trip to the Cannabis Cup serves as a backdrop for the story of how the War on Drugs revolutionized the way marijuana is cultivated in America.

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Cisco's Big Bet on New Songdo: Creating Cities From Scratch

On the development of South Korea’s New Songdo and Cisco’s plans to build smart cities which will “offer cities as a service, bundling urban necessities – water, power, traffic, telephony – into a single, Internet-enabled utility, taking a little extra off the top of every resident’s bill.” The demand for such cities is enormous:

China doesn't need cool, green, smart cities. It needs cities, period -- 500 New Songdos at the very least. One hundred of those will each house a million or more transplanted peasants. In fact, while humanity has been building cities for 9,000 years, that was apparently just a warm-up for the next 40. As of now, we're officially an urban species. More than half of us -- 3.3 billion people -- live in a city. Our numbers are projected to nearly double by 2050, adding roughly a New Songdo a day; the United Nations predicts the vast majority will flood smaller cities in Africa and Asia.

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The Odds of That

On the nature of coincidence.

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The Brain on Trial

Eagleman, a neuroscientist, describes how groundbreaking advances in the science of brain have changed our understanding of volition in criminal acts, and may erode the underpinnings of our justice system.

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AIDS: A New Disease’s Deadly Odyssey

A dispatch from the early days of AIDS:

It is as relentless as leukemia, as contagious as hepatitis, and its cause has eluded researchers for more than two years.

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Gaétan Dugas and the 'AIDS Mary' myth

The Canadian scapegoat of the AIDS epidemic.

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For Victims of AIDS, Support in a Lonely Siege

A brutal story from the Times’ cub Metro reporter:

''We're dying,'' he said. ''Why is this happening? Is it because we loved each other too much or not enough?"

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The Invention of Patient Zero

It was the worst AIDS crisis in years—until it wasn’t.

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Hunting for the Hidden Killers: AIDS

Pathologists and epidemiologists take on “the confounding killer known as AIDS.”

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Angel of Death: The Trial of the Suicide Doctor

“Is he Socrates or Mengele?” On the late Jack Kevorkian.

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For whom the cell tolls

Why your phone may (or may not) be killing you.

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The Man Who Had HIV and Now Does Not

Timothy Brown was diagnosed with HIV in the ’90s. In 2006, he found that a new, unrelated disease threatened his life: leukemia. After chemo failed, doctors resorted to a bone marrow transplant. That transplant erased any trace of HIV from his body, and may hold the secret of curing AIDS.

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Cowboys and Pit Crews

A commencement address to the graduates of Harvard Medical School on how their chosen profession is changing and what they’ll need to learn now that they’re out of school.

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Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind?

On the shared life of Tatiana and Krista Hogan:

[T]he girls’ doctors believe it is entirely possible that the sensory input that one girl receives could somehow cross that bridge into the brain of the other. One girl drinks, another girl feels it.

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Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why.

The placebo response doesn't care if the catalyst for healing is a triumph of pharmacology, a compassionate therapists, or a syringe of salt water. All it requires is a reasonable expectation of getting better.
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The City of Broken Men

Nearly every American soldier injured in Iraq or Afghanistan is treated—for a few days at least—at a single hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

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The Coming Storm

What overcrowded and swelling Bangladesh can tell us about how the planet’s population, more than 1/3 of which live within 62 miles of a shoreline, will react to rising sea levels.

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The Possibilian

On a neuroscientist’s personal mission to solve the mystery of how the brain processes time.

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Caveman: An Interview with Michel Siffre

In 1962, Siffre spent two months living in total isolation in a subterranean cave, without access to clock, calendar, or sun. Sleeping and eating only when his body told him to, his goal was to discover how the natural rhythms of human life would be affected by living “beyond time.”

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Weird Science

The story of dog-scent lineup innovator Keith Pikett and the not-so-scientific science behind forensics.

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Think Globally, Destroy Locally: Environmentalism for the 21st Century

On the battle over solar farms in the Mojave desert. An excerpt from Madrigal’s new book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology.

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Prodigal Sun

Energy problems are long problems that often receive short solutions. In 2000, when Mother Jones ran this history about what happened to the energy research boom of the late 70s and early 80s, I was buying $0.99 a gallon gas for my Escort. I chose this story because I think longform journalism can keep people interested in these issues that require decadal attention but are subject to year-to-year fluctuations in public interest. And it’s a great story.

-A. Madrigal

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The Point of No Return (Part 2)

Did A.Q. Khan sell nuclear secrets on the black market? The fame had unbalanced him. He was subjected to a degree of public acclaim rarely seen in the West—an extreme close to idol worship, which made him hungry for more. Money seems never to have been his obsession, but it did play a role.

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The Wrath of Khan (Part 1)

The unlikely ascent of A.Q. Khan, the scientist who gave Pakistan the Bomb, and his suspicious fall from grace.

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Adventures in Extreme Science

A profile of computational biologist Eric Schadt, the guy who’s figuring out what comes next after the Human Genome Project.

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The Saga of the Scientific Swindler!

In the 1880’s, a shabbily dressed man popped up in numerous America cities, calling upon local scientists, showing letters of introduction claiming he was a noted geologist or paleontologist, discussing both fields at a staggeringly accomplished level, and then making off with valuable books or cash loans.

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Dr. Ecstasy

Sasha Shulgin, a former DOW chemist who now lives a quiet life as a pensioner outside the Bay Area, is responsible for the discovery of the majority of psychedelic compounds currently known.

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The King of LSD

On the many lives and careers of Owsley Stanley (1935-2011), chemist, sound design innovator, and outback jeweler, whose name appears in the OED as a synonym for “a particularly pure form of LSD.”

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Hollywood Shadows: A Cure for Blocked Screenwriters

Barry Michels is Hollywood’s most successful therapist cum motivation coach with an approach that combines Jungian psychology, encouraging patients to embrace their dark side, and “three-by-five index cards inscribed with Delphic pronouncements like THE HIERARCHY WILL NEVER BE CLEAR.”

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Epidemiology: Study of a Lifetime

A group of scientists started tracking thousands of British children born during one cold March week in 1946. Those children are now 65 and the data generated through careful tracking of their life history has become extremely valuable.

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Inside Google’s Age of Augmented Humanity (Pt. 1-3)

The next frontier of search is… everything. Voice recognition, image recognition, and why Google’s data set is one of the most valuable scientific tools of our age.

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The Blind Man Who Taught Himself to See

Daniel Kish is entirely sightless. So how can he ride a bike on busy streets? Go hiking for days alone? By using a technique borrowed from bats.

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The Choke Artist

Henry Heimlich saved untold choking victimes when he invented his maneuver in 1974. Since then, he’s searched in vain for another miracle treatment—pushing ethical boundaries along the way. Now at the end of his career, Heimlich has hired an investigator to find an anonymous critic working full-time to destroy his legacy.

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Microsoft’s Former CTO Takes On Modernist Cuisine

Tackling the science of cooking, one perfect french fry at a time.

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What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?

The American medical establishment has gone to extraordinary lengths—some of which read like conspiracy theory—to discredit the notion (and its most visible promoter, Dr. Atkins) that carbohydrates, not fat, are the cause of obesity. It looks like they were wrong.

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Chernobyl, My Primeval, Teeming, Irradiated Eden

Twenty-five years later, inside the Exclusion Zone.

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Taming the Wild

The search for the genetic distinction that allows certain animals, humans included, to be domesticated.

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The Hot Spotters

How focusing on the neediest patients could radically reduce health care costs.

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The Golden Boy and the Invisible Army

The story of H1N1 and one of the lives it claimed.

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2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal

Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity; when will our minds meld with the machine?

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Space Stasis

What the twentieth century history of rocketry can tell us about innovation.

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Humanity's Endless Quest to Invent a Death Ray: A History

From the Greeks to George Lucas, 2,200 years of failure.

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Programmed for Love

Fifteen years ago, Sherry Turkle developed a little crush on a robot named Cog. Since then, the MIT professor has been studying our ever-increasing emotional reliance on technology. She’s not optimistic about where we’re headed.

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Final Cut

The decline of the American autopsy and what it says about modern medicine.

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Metamorphosis

How a burst blood vessel transformed the mind of a deliberate, controlled chiropractor into that of an utterly unfiltered, massively prolific artist.

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The Panic Virus

On the expanding community of American parents who believe, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that there is a link between routine vaccinations and autism.

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Instant Detox

How to kick heroin in 24 hours.

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Why My Friend Bill Died

A jogging buddy collapses during a marathon, his heart suddenly finished beating. The writer goes looking for answers.

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The Doctor Will Sue You Know

Mattathias Rath made a fortune selling cure-all vitamins in Europe before moving his business to South Africa, where he launched a massive campaign against retroviral AIDS medications and in favor of his own vitamin cocktails. When scientists, AIDS non-profits, and even Medecins San Frontieres objected, he sued.

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The Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal

From the 1940s through the early 70s, incoming freshman at Harvard, Yale, Vassar, Wellesley, and several other top schools were photographed nude in the name of science–bogus science, as it turned out. Most of the photos were destroyed, but not all.

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A Physicist Solves the City

“Look, we all know that every city is unique. That’s all we talk about when we talk about cities, those things that make New York different from L.A., or Tokyo different from Albuquerque. But focusing on those differences misses the point. Sure, there are differences, but different from what? We’ve found the what.”

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Trailhead

A stylized account of the fall of ant colony.

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The Mystery of the Tainted Cocaine

How the bulk of the cocaine entering the U.S. ends up cut with a cattle dewormer.

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Start-Up City

A history of entrepreneurship in New York City, starting with shipping magnate Jeremiah Thompson’s big gamble in the 1820s: scheduled departures.

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By Analogy

An interview with Douglas Hofstadter, who after winning the Pulitzer for Gödel, Escher, Bach retreated into the lab and published only sparingly in technical journals, on what it would mean if a program could generate humor and/or masterful compositions.

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Dirty Coal, Clean Future

America, China, and the case for coal as a vital weapon in the war against climate change.

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A Deadly Misdiagnosis

“You can treat a lot of people, and India has,’’ says an epidemiologist working on TB. “But if you have tests that cause misdiagnosis on a massive scale you are going to have a serious problem. And they do.”

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Fetal Origins

Anxiety, weight, general well-being—how the first nine months determine the rest of your life.

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The Brain That Changed Everything

The brain of Henry Molaison gave science most of what it knows about memory. Dr. Jacopo Annese believes there’s even more to learn.

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The Coming Death Shortage

Many experts believe it’s inevitable that in the coming decades, humans will figure out how to live considerably longer lives. It might not be a good thing.

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Lost in Space

How two Italian teenagers hacked the Soviet space program and may have heard the dying breaths of a lost cosmonaut.

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The Gay Animal Kingdom

Why Darwin’s theory of sexual selection is wrong and “gayness is a necessary side effect of getting along.”

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The Future of Breasts

How “tissue engineering” will change regenerative medicine.

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Born Illegal

The godfather of experimental psychedelics and his many occasionally imprisoned followers.

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Like Minds

The story of two Canadian artificial intelligence visionaries who became bitter rivals and then both committed suicide in the same month.

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Later

What we can learn from procrastination.

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As the World Burns

The story of how Washington blew its best shot to do something on climate change.

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Depression’s Upside

If the fittest survive, why are so many people still depressed? An evolutionary theory on the benefits of painful rumination.

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The Secret of Self-Control

Would you rather have one marshmallow now or two in a few minutes? How a kid’s answer to that question can predict his or her life trajectory.

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Drug Test Cowboys

For most people who participate in clinical trials, being a guinea pig is just a way to make a quick buck. For others, it’s a career.

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Fifty Years at Gombe

On the golden anniversary of her first trip to study chimps, an ode to Jane Goodall.

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And Such Small Deer

A writer struggles to defend his arbor vitae trees from a pack of hungry deer—“an episode of great vexation and buffoonery.”

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How I See

A trip to the Russian baths helps author start to see the good in his terrible eyesight.

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Dirty Medicine

How misdirected incentives in the bewildering medical supply industry keep innovative, life-saving equipment from reaching hospitals.

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Huff Po is crazy about your health

The cozy relationship between “the internet newspaper” and bogus medicine.

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Where the Ghost Bird Sings

The author investigates the massive wildlife die-off in the Salton Sea by rafting from its tributaries in Mexico.

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The Covenant

A profile of Francis Collins, a fervent Christian, former head of the Human Genome Project and Obama’s appointee to head N.I.H., now at the center of the stem cell research debate.

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What Is It About 20-Somethings?

A psychological theory emerges to explain why young Americans are taking a while to grow up.

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The Taste Makers

Where does Strawberry-Kiwi Snapple come from? Givaudan is part of a tiny, secretive industry that produces new flavors.

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The Squid Hunter

An obsessive marine biologist gambles his savings, family, and sanity on a quest to be the first to capture a live giant squid.

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Lethal Chemistry at Harvard

When one of the best young chemists in the world took his own life, Harvard was forced to reconsider the relationship between PhD students and their (often Nobel Prize-winning) advisers.

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Following a Script to Escape a Nightmare

An emerging school of therapy says that scripting your dreams while awake could eliminate the worst ones. Not everyone thinks that’s healthy.

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The Stories of One Brooklyn Block

Vignettes of the residents of South Elliot Place.

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Letting Go

Should modern medicine shift its end-of-life priorities, focusing less on staving off death and more on improving a patient’s last days?

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What Makes Us Happy?

In 1937, Harvard researchers began following the lives of 268 students. Year after year, the men were interviewed and given medical and psychological exams. The goal? Find a formula for happiness.

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As Good as Dead

Is there really such a thing as brain death?

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Bites of Passage

The battle to contain the Asian tiger mosquito–one suburban, above-ground pool at a time.

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Moscow's Stray Dogs

The complex, highly evolved world of Moscow’s subway-riding stray dogs.

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Cary in the Sky with Diamonds

In the 1950s, L.S.D. became a Beverly Hills’ therapy fad, and it profoundly changed idols like Cary Grant.

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Designer Drugs

In the early ’80s, underground chemists cooked up synthetic versions of heroin that took over the market in California—and left young users with symptoms typically associated with Parkinson’s.

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Until Cryonics Do Us Part

When spouses get upset because their husband or wife wants to be frozen upon death, it’s not because they find the practice sacrilegious. It’s because their partner is consciously considering a future without them.

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Recovering from a Brain Injury

A first-person account. “If you’re the sort of person who has only ever had to deal with colds and cuts, food poisoning and the odd virus…what strikes you most is the glacial pace of recuperation.”

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The Anosognosic’s Dilemma (Parts 1-5)

Through a series of interviews and historical inquiries, Errol Morris dissects Anosognosia, ”a condition in which a person who suffers from a disability seems unaware of or denies the existence of his or her disability.”

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Secret of AA

75 years after its founding, it’s still hard to explain exactly why Alcoholics Anonymous works.

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Sergey Brin’s Search

One of the founders of Google discovered that he carried a gene that meant a 50% chance of developing Parkinson’s. In response, he is working to change and expedite the way that Parkinson’s research is conducted.

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Tuna's End

Will we deplete the worldwide Bluefin Tuna population beyond repair?

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Heard the One About the Rocket Car?

The urban legend about the guy who hooked a rocket up to the back of his car and drove/flew it into a mountain? The anonymous author claims the story is about him and some of his small town high school buddies.

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The Velluvial Matrix

Atul Gawande’s recent commencement address at Stanford’s School of Medicine graduation. “Each of you is now an expert. Congratulations. So why—in your heart of hearts—do you not quite feel that way?”

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Home

After the explosion of the Columbia shuttle in 2003, two American astronauts aboard the International Space Station suddenly found themselves with no ride home.

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Hot Air

Why don’t TV weathermen believe in climate change?

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Piecing Together the Stasi’s Dark Legacy

In the chaotic days before the Berlin Wall fell, the East German secret police shredded 45 million pages. Fifteen years later, a team of computer scientists figured out how to put it all back together.

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Farewell then, Dr Andrew Wakefield

The doctor behind the autism-vaccine uproar is removed from the General Medical Council for being “dishonest,” “misleading” and “irresponsible” in his research into the MMR vaccine.

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Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains

What fragmented reading experiences do to neural circuitry. (It’s not good.)

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The Demon in the Freezer

How smallpox went from eradicated disease to the ideal weapon of bioterrorists.

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Brain Gain

The not-so-underground culture of neuroenhancing drug use, and where it’s headed.

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Nick Nolte: Malibu’s Mad Scientist

How the actor ended up with a house full of tourniquets and syringes, an unflinching belief in the restorative powers of “ozone,” and the brain scan of someone who has “experienced the equivalent of blunt trauma.”

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Sexy Beast

A profile of the mysterious and moderately intelligent Giant Pacific Octopus.

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The Pill That Could Cure Alcoholism

How an alcoholic doctor simultaneously saved his own life and made what could be the medical breakthrough of the century.

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Atomic John

The truck driver who reverse engineered the atomic bomb.

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5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … Goodbye, Columbia

The Columbia shuttle was to be a revolution for NASA. But a year before its first launch, the shuttle was several years behind schedule, had cost $1 billion, and wasn’t guaranteed to ever get off the ground.

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The Itch

What the sensation of uncontrollable itch and the phantom limbs of amputees can tell us about how the brain works.

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The Data-Driven Life

A growing movement is seeking a deeper knowledge of themselves through tracking sleep, exercise, sex, food, location, productivity. Technology has made it possible—but hasn’t taught us how to interpret the findings.

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We’re Lucky We Weren’t Wiped Out

The volcanic ash cloud from Eyjafjallajokull has caused travel chaos and misery. But we were lucky. An eruption in the future could wipe out the human race.

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An Elephant Crackup?

Recently, African Elephants have been killing people, raping rhinos, and exhibiting uncharacteristically aggressive behavior. An investigation reveals deep similarities between elephants’ and humans’ reaction to childhood trauma.