Category: Science

How Would People React to News About Aliens?

On the night before Halloween in 1938, a strange story crackled over radios across the United States. An announcer interrupted the evening’s regular programming for a “special bulletin,” which went on to describe an alien invasion in a field in New Jersey, complete with panicked eyewitness accounts and sounds of gunfire. The story was, of course, fake, a dramatization of…

The Controversial Theory That Explains the Structure of the Internet

A paper posted online last month has reignited a debate about one of the oldest, most startling claims in the modern era of network science: the proposition that most complex networks in the real world—from the World Wide Web to interacting proteins in a cell—are “scale-free.” Roughly speaking, that means that a few of their nodes should have many more…

The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM

Though their numbers are growing, only 27 percent of all students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the United States are female. The gender gap only grows worse from there: Just 18 percent of American computer-science college degrees go to women. This is in the United States, where many college men proudly describe themselves as “male feminists” and girls…

What Color Is a Tennis Ball?

It seemed like an easy question. The query came from a Twitter poll I spotted on my news feed last week, from user @cgpgrey. “Please help resolve a marital dispute,” @cgpgrey wrote. “You would describe the color of a tennis ball as:” green, yellow, or other. Yellow, obviously, I thought, and voted. When the results appeared, my jaw dropped with…

Astronomers Are Already Planning for the Next ‘Pale Blue Dot’

In 1977, humans launched twin robotic probes into space several weeks apart. The two Voyager spacecraft barreled away from Earth for a tour of our planet’s siblings in the solar system. At each encounter, the Voyagers set records for the best-looking pictures of these planets humanity had ever taken, far better than anything seen through a telescope. There was Jupiter,…

Big-City Life on Very Little Water

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—I was warned right away, at the airport: “We have a water crisis with severe restrictions in place,” read a Buick-sized sign in the arrivals area. So it was true. I had spent the past week in South Africa on a reporting trip and had decided to pass through Cape Town on my way back, in part…

The NASA Space Telescope Trump Wants to Cancel

The Trump administration has released its budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 and put dozens of federal programs on the chopping block, including a brand-new NASA space telescope that scientists say would provide the biggest picture of the universe yet, with the same sparkling clarity as the Hubble Space Telescope’s. The proposal, released Monday, recommends eliminating the Wide Field Infrared…