The appeal of ISIS isn’t so far from that of Tolkien
Was the evolution of our species inevitable or a matter of luck?
Arnold Toynbee shines a light on the humanities’ role today
Could we explain the world without cause and effect?
Return of the king
The ‘cosplay Caliphate’ of ISIS is a deadly fantasy, but a familiar one in the West. It feeds the same urges as Tolkien
Last hominin standing
Was human evolution inevitable, or do we owe our existence to a once-in-a-universe stroke of luck?
Humanist among machines
As the dreams of Silicon Valley fill our world, could the dowdy historian Arnold Toynbee help prevent a nightmare?
Why things happen
Either cause and effect are the very glue of the cosmos, or they are a naive illusion due to insufficient math. But which?
Critics say that porn degrades women, dulls sexual pleasure, and ruins authentic relationships – are they right?
The orangutan trap
An orangutan steals crops from a poor farmer in Indonesia and is shot in retribution. Who is to blame?
How could they?
Some people are ruthless. Some lose control. Yet most violence remains unfathomable. A new theory lights up the darkness
The comic’s quandary
Does heckling let the real comedian stand up and shine, or does it trample a punchline and mangle a routine?
Rise of the ripped
With bodies sculpted to look like comic-book heroes, today’s muscle men create an impossible template for masculinity
When we meet aliens, it won’t be a friendly encounter nor a conquest: it will be a gold rush. Can we make sure it’s ethical?
See through words
The metaphor designer isn’t trying to make something beautiful. She wants to change your view on things. Here’s how
Travel is supposed to make us feel more alive so why is the hotel room a place of such loneliness and despair?
Losing the thread
Older than bronze and as new as nanowires, textiles are technology — and they have remade our world time and again
A good forgetting
Personal identity is tied to memory, but sometimes we find peace, clarity and a true sense of completeness in the lapses
Ethics of a Nazi judge
Konrad Morgen prosecuted his fellow Nazis, but not for the Final Solution. How should history judge him?
When a child goes to war
Our myths are full of young heroes yet our media calls them tragic victims. What is the truth about child soldiers?
Bed bugs crawl under our covers, suck our blood and disappear, leaving us on a razor’s edge between reality and delusion
New research puts us on the cusp of brain-to-brain communication. Could the next step spell the end of individual minds?
The myth of victory
War isn't like it used to be. Victory is more elusive, and a strong military doesn't count as much
The war on Rome
For centuries, Americans saw the Catholic Church as a dangerous foreign enemy. Not any more. What changed?
Evolution works through tiny corridors of space and time, churning genes and transforming species before our very eyes
Generational thinking is seductive and confirms preconceived prejudices, but it’s a bogus way to understand the world
Slaves of history
If you descend from slaves in Senegal, your shame is an open secret and your life limited by stigma and disrespect
A higher plane
For centuries, altitude sickness thwarted our attempts to reach sacred heights. What mysterious force repelled us?
In the beginning
Cosmology has been on a long, hot streak, racking up one imaginative and scientific triumph after another. Is it over?
Seen through game theory, cancer and police corruption are pretty much the same thing. And for one of them, there’s a cure
Still seeking omega
The Vatican still refuses to endorse evolutionary theory – setting a billion believers at odds with modern science
The info moralist
Persecuted little guy, or powerful revolutionary – what sort of wunderkind was Aaron Swartz?