Science
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How Dreams of Spacefaring Zombies Led to the Launch of Sputnik.

What, you think there’s enough room on Earth for everyone who has ever lived?

Early on a Saturday morning 60 years ago, the millennia-old dream of spaceflight came true as Sputnik 1 rocketed into orbit to become Earth’s first human-made satellite. The mission notoriously shocked the world and minted a new era of human exploration, but what’s less well-known is that Sputnik arose, in part, from a 19th century […]

Physicists Nail Down the ‘Magic Number’ That Shapes the Universe.

A team in Paris has made the most precise measurement yet of the fine-structure constant, killing hopes for a new force of nature.

The fine-structure constant was introduced in 1916 to quantify the tiny gap between two lines in the spectrum of colors emitted by certain atoms. The closely spaced frequencies are seen here through a Fabry-Pérot interferometer. As fundamental constants go, the speed of light, c, enjoys all the fame, yet c’s numerical value says nothing about nature; it […]

How Humans Will Respond to Immortality: An Interview with Philosopher John Fischer.

The scope of The Immortality Project reflects that boundlessness.

Five million dollars is a hefty grant for any academic to receive, let alone a philosopher. And yet that’s exactly what UC Riverside philosophy professor John Martin Fischer received last year for a project that will involve dozens of scientists, philosophers, and theologians from around the world to examine a subject that is probably unknowable: […]

The Nations Guaranteed to Be Swallowed by the Sea.

“We’ve already lost some island atolls. On others the rising sea is destroying homes, washing away coffins and skeletons from graves”

Imagine the street you live on is knee-deep in floodwater, and it’s ruining everything in sight, including your home. Now imagine that those awful floodwaters never, ever recede. Instead, the water just keeps rising and rising until your entire country drowns. For a number of island nations, that’s ultimately the significance of the recent reports […]

Meet Aubrey de Grey, the Researcher Who Wants to Cure Old Age.

He believes that tackling the individual illnesses that haunt old people’s lives is a fundamentally flawed strategy.

Aubrey de Grey has been called many things. “Transhumanist” is one of them, but one he dislikes. “Immortalist” is the tag used to describe him and his colleague Bill Andrews in a documentary shown at South by Southwest this March, though de Grey rolls his eyes when someone drops the word “immortality.” The British gerontologist […]

I Skyped Jacques Cousteau's Grandson on the Bottom of the Ocean.

The expedition is led by Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of the well-known French oceanographer and scuba visionary Jacques Cousteau.

On June 1, a team of six splashed down 63 feet beneath the ocean surface to shack up in Aquarius, the world’s only underwater lab, located off the coast of Florida. They’ll be down there for 31 days, surfacing only on July 2. “Mission 31” will mark the longest stretch spent in the ocean base, […]

Haunted by His Brother, He Revolutionized Physics.

Time. As a physicist, Wheeler had always been curious to untangle the nature of that mysterious dimension.

The postcard contained only two words: “Hurry up.” John Archibald Wheeler, a 33-year-old physicist, was in Hanford, Wash., working on the nuclear reactor that was feeding plutonium to Los Alamos, when he received the postcard from his younger brother, Joe. It was late summer, 1944. Joe was fighting on the front lines of World War […]

The Arctic Seed Vault puts apocalyptic talk of climate change in perspective.

Since 2007, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has maintained a repository of the world’s agricultural heritage.

Since 2007, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has maintained a repository of the world’s agricultural heritage. A series of tunnels bored into the side of a mountain, this vault is climate-controlled, secure against tectonic activity or sea-level rise, and designed to hold up to 4.5 million different seed varieties for centuries to come. Built 900km […]

Floating Utopias for the Age of Rising Seas.

In 1962, haunted by the specter of nuclear annihilation, the sociologist Lewis Mumford penned a new preface to his book, The Story of Utopias.

A two mile-thick ice sheet in Antarctica is collapsing, which all but guarantees at least 10 feet of global sea level rise. That’s grim news for the 44 percent of the world’s population living in coastal areas, who now face the dire prospect of preparing for the coming tides. Developing the necessary engineering solutions, as […]

What the Near Future Is Actually Going to Look Like.

The biggest lie about the future is that it's going to look much different from today.

The biggest lie about the future is that it’s going to look much different from today. I mean, The Jetsons and Futurama are one thing, but in near-future portrayals—those shown in goofball blockbusters like I, Robot and Minority Report—the world is given a glossy, high-tech makeover. These futuristic landscapes suggest we’re about to see a […]

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