Category: Science

An Asteroid Named Aretha

In 2001, Aretha Franklin took the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. She wore a bleach-white jumpsuit and feather boa, her hair teased up in her trademark style, glossy as obsidian. A guitar twanged over the cheers of a packed house. “What is that, Teddy?” Franklin said, addressing her son, the evening’s guitarist. “Play that riff…

Is the Dinosaur-Apocalypse Story Wrong?

It’s a story we all learned as children: 66 million years ago, a six-mile-wide asteroid slammed into Earth with the force of 10 billion atomic bombs, unleashing giant fireballs, crushing tsunamis, continent-shaking earthquakes, and suffocating darkness—and driving dinosaurs extinct almost overnight. But is it true? In fact, some scientists argue that this is a false narrative. Instead, they present an…

Why the Wildfires of 2018 Have Been So Ferocious

How bad is California’s current fire season? Numbers don’t seem to capture it. The Mendocino Complex Fire is the largest wildfire in the state’s history, with nearly 500 square miles burned. The Holy Fire, in the state’s south, has forced 20,000 people to leave their homes. And 16 other blazes, requiring 14,000 firefighters, are devouring woodlands elsewhere in the state.…

Human-like AI is dangerous for society

The voice on the other end of the phone sounded just a little too human. In May, Google shocked the world with a demo of Duplex, its AI robocall assistant for accomplishing real-world tasks. The system can do things that you, as a busy person, might have little time or patience for, like booking a hair appointment or a restaurant…

The Moral Dilemma of Pet Food

When my boyfriend and I got our first cat, Pete, a long-legged tuxedo, we fed him Friskies. Depending on the type of person you are, you either breezed through that sentence finding nothing remarkable, or you immediately judged me for buying pet food—ahem, pet “food”— made of ground-up chicken bones, beef tallow, soybean hulls, and other delightful byproducts. I know…