How extreme rituals forge intense social bonds
Giving up on wilderness means a barren future for the Earth
How mathematics can make epidemics history
Do cricket dynasties prove that sporting success is genetic?
Trial by fire
From fire-walking and head-slashing to the ice-bucket challenge, ritual pain and suffering forge intense social bonds
Earth is not a garden
Some of the world’s most powerful conservationists are giving up on wilderness. They are making a big mistake
The calculus of contagion
In the battle against disease, the difference between a raging epidemic and a passing fever comes down to a single number
Runs in the family
Cricketing dynasties seem to imply that talent is genetic. Yet the evidence from other sports queers the pitch
The Grand Tour, 2.0
Can today’s travel deliver on the promise of the Grand Tour – or is the idea of edifying travel utterly bankrupt?
The humanitarian future
Can humanitarian agencies still fly the flag of high principle, or are they just relics of an imperial model of charity?
The first cut
Most American boys are circumcised as a matter of course. Now, many of them feel violated. Should the practice be banned?
Flora Lichtman, Sharon Shattuck
Lock up your wives!
Advice columns from decades past provide a chilling glimpse into the horrors of marriage counselling before feminism
Humans are wired for bad news, angry faces and sad memories. Is this negativity bias useful or something to overcome?
Predictive policing could help prevent crime. But do we want a future where computer oracles and spies track us from birth?
When the storyline of one’s life hits a dead end, a redemption narrative offers an alluring, if dubious, transformation
Do individuals have a right for their medical records to remain private after death, or can public interest prevail?
The US gun lobby claims that guns save lives and keep us safe from criminals – what do social scientists say?
From teen-targeting vampires to Lady Báthory’s bloodbaths, we love stories of stolen youth. What if it were possible?
Life doesn’t make trash
A genome is not a blueprint for building a human being, so is there any way to judge whether DNA is junk or not?
How plagues really work
The next pandemic will erupt, not from the jungle, but from the disease factories of hospitals, refugee camps and cities
Reading Howl in China
My generation, once impassioned by the Western literature of rebellion, is now lulled by ‘Wealthy Socialism’
About a boy
Movies and memoirs give us a romantic view of living with a child with Asperger’s but the reality is very different
A second hurricane is battering New Orleans, this time it is an HIV catastrophe whipped up by prejudice and poverty
Nathan Caswell, Jeremiah Zagar
The first smile
Why do laughter, smiles and tears look so similar? Perhaps because they all evolved from a single root
The god effect
Religion spawns both benevolent saints and murderous fanatics. Could dopamine levels in the brain drive that switch?
The cochlear switch
And so I entered a new world where every tap, squeak, clang, whisper and consonant exploded and sizzled inside my head
The 12-step dogma
The new science of addiction makes 12-step programmes seem like folk medicine. Is the concept of a higher power obsolete?
War in the womb
A ferocious biological struggle between mother and baby belies any sentimental ideas we might have about pregnancy
Where does earth end and space begin? Finding the border between the two is not as simple or scientific as you might think
What were drugs?
The war on drugs was always a war against an idea. But ideas have a shelf-life, too, and this one has lost its potency
The great forgetting
Our first three years are usually a blur and we don’t remember much before age seven. What are we hiding from ourselves?
Know thy selfie
If Narcissus were here he’d be busy on instagram. Can we have a virtuous sense of worth without the vanity of self-love?