Category: Science

Gossip Is Underrated

Word on the street is that gossip is the worst. An Ann Landers advice column once characterized it as “the faceless demon that breaks hearts and ruins careers.” The Talmud describes it as a “three-pronged tongue” that kills three people: the teller, the listener, and the person being gossiped about. And Blaise Pascal observed, not unreasonably, that “if people really…

How Language Hijacked the Brain

I’m sitting in the sun on one of the first mild days of the spring, talking with a modern-day flintknapper about the origins of human language. His name is Neill Bovaird, and he’s neither an archaeologist nor a linguist, just a 38-year-old bearded guy with a smartphone in his pocket who uses Stone Age technology to produce Stone Age tools.…

China Is Genetically Engineering Monkeys With Brain Disorders

Guoping Feng applied to college the first year that Chinese universities reopened after the Cultural Revolution. It was 1977, and more than a decade’s worth of students—nearly 300,000—sat for the entrance exams. Feng was the only one in his high school to get in. He was assigned—by chance, essentially—to medical school. Like most of his contemporaries with scientific ambitions, he…

The Tipping Point When Minority Views Take Over

In the 1970s, the business professor Rosabeth Kanter published an influential account of an American company that had recently recruited women to its sales team. The quality of those women’s working lives, Kanter noted astutely, depended on their representation. When they made up just 15 percent of the workforce, they faced stereotyping, harassment, isolation, disproportionate performance pressures, and other disadvantages.…

‘We Choose to Go to the Moon Again’—But When?

The bumper stickers have made an appearance at many congressional hearings in the last several years.“2033: We can do this,” they say, affirming the year by which some hope humans will set foot on Mars. Lawmakers wave them in front of the scientists, space executives, astronauts in the room, the people they hope can make it happen. But before NASA…

What Should We Do About the International Space Station?

The International Space Station was never meant to last forever. This was a distant concern in late 1998, when the United States, Russia, Japan, and European nations started launching hardware into space to assemble the largest human-made structure in orbit around Earth. But as the years went on—as the station’s operations expanded, as humans lived and ate and slept inside…

Moving Animals to Safe Havens Can Unexpectedly Doom Them

Despite everything that had been done to save them, the quolls were still dying. And this time, it wasn’t for the expected reason. Quolls are small Australian mammals that superficially resemble ferrets, but are more closely related to kangaroos and koalas. Being hunters, they tackle all kinds of small prey. But if they attack cane toads—large invasive amphibians that were…