Water lilies in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Photo © Frans Lanting/Lanting.com

Essay/
Biology
Is the Earth an organism?

The Gaia hypothesis states that our biosphere is evolving. Once sceptical, some prominent biologists are beginning to agree

W Ford Doolittle

French chefs take part in a videoconference with President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace in Paris, 24 April 2020. Photo by Ludovic Marin/Reuters

Essay/
Technology and the self
Zoom and gloom

Sitting in a videoconference is a uniformly crap experience. Instead of corroding our humanity, let’s design tools to enhance it

Robert O’Toole

Detail of a miniature of Arthur slaying the Spanish giant on the island of Mont-Saint-Michel (1471-1483), by Jean de Wavrin. Royal 15 E IV f. 156. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Library

Essay/
Stories and literature
Empire of fantasy

By conquering young minds, the writing of J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis worked to recapture a world that was swiftly ebbing away

Maria Sachiko Cecire

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Shane Battier #31 of the Miami Heat drives against Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers, 14 November 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Noah Graham/NBA/Getty

Essay/
Sports and games
All stars

Is a great team more than the sum of its players? Complexity science reveals the role of strategy, synergy, swarming and more

Jessica Flack & Cade Massey

Community block party in the rain. Baltimore, 2018. Photo by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum

Essay/
Race and ethnicity
Sociology’s race problem

Urban ethnographers do more harm than good in speaking for Black communities. They see only suffering, not diversity or joy

Robyn Autry

Popular this month

The boxer Muhammad Ali with his daughter Laila outside the 5th Street Gym in Miami, 1980. Photo by Brian Morgan/Popperfoto/Getty

Essay/
Family life
The biology of dads

The bodies and brains of fathers, not just mothers, are transformed through the love and labour of raising a child

James K Rilling

Coloured scanning electron micrograph of a macrophage white blood cell (purple) engulfing a tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) bacterium (pink). Photo by Science Photo Library

Essay/
Biology
Life with purpose

Biologists balk at any talk of ‘goals’ or ‘intentions’ – but a bold new research agenda has put agency back on the table

Philip Ball

Władysławowo beach, Poland, August 2020. Photo by Kacper Kowalski/Panos Pictures

Essay/
Neuroscience
How close is too close?

The neuroscience of peripersonal space explores how you create, defend or relax the buffer zone between you and the world

Frédérique de Vignemont & Colin Klein

Władysławowo beach, Poland, August 2020. Photo by Kacper Kowalski/Panos Pictures

Essay/
Neuroscience
How close is too close?

The neuroscience of peripersonal space explores how you create, defend or relax the buffer zone between you and the world

Frédérique de Vignemont & Colin Klein

A drunkard is challenged to walk in a straight line. Detail from Walking the Chalk (1838) by Charles Deas. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Essay/
Food and drink
Drunks and democrats

Violent, lively and brash, taverns were everywhere in early colonial America, embodying both its tumult and its promise

Vaughn Scribner

Photo by Wang Zheng/Getty

Essay/
Space exploration
Do we send the goo?

The ability to stir new life into being, all across the Universe, compels us to ask why life matters in the first place

Betül Kaçar

Engineers prepare to enter HAM 6 (left) to install the new septum window between HAM 5 and 6 through which LIGO’s laser beam passes. Staff must wear full bunny suits and goggles to protect their eyes from any stray laser light. The structure visible inside HAM 6 supports the photodetector that ultimately detects gravitational waves. Photo courtesy Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

Essay/
Philosophy of science
Keep science irrational

Is hard data the only path to scientific truth? That’s an absurd, illogical and profoundly useful fiction

Michael Strevens

The boxer Muhammad Ali with his daughter Laila outside the 5th Street Gym in Miami, 1980. Photo by Brian Morgan/Popperfoto/Getty

Essay/
Family life
The biology of dads

The bodies and brains of fathers, not just mothers, are transformed through the love and labour of raising a child

James K Rilling

Leonard Bernstein (far right) with members of the Ex-Concentration Camp Orchestra on 10 May 1948 in Munich, Germany. Bernstein was on a working tour of Europe when he conducted this small orchestra comprised of Holocaust survivors at a displaced persons camp. Photo courtesy of Sonia Beker, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Essay/
Meaning and the good life
Humanity at night

A violinist plays in a concentration camp. A refugee carries a book of poetry. Art sustains us when survival is uncertain

Sarah Fine

Coloured scanning electron micrograph of a macrophage white blood cell (purple) engulfing a tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) bacterium (pink). Photo by Science Photo Library

Essay/
Biology
Life with purpose

Biologists balk at any talk of ‘goals’ or ‘intentions’ – but a bold new research agenda has put agency back on the table

Philip Ball

Franz Brentano c1910, possibly in the garden of his summer house in Schönbühel bei Melk, Austria. Photo courtesy the Brentano Archive at the University of Graz

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
With charisma to spare

Franz Brentano, philosopher and psychologist, was an iconic teacher eclipsed by his students, Freud and Husserl among them

John A Goldsmith

Three-year-old twins Estaban and Salome Hernandez at home with their parents Fabio and Mabel, 15 March 2020. The Hernandez family were awaiting the result of the Washington DC school lottery which determines which school they will attend. Photo by Michael S Williamson/Washington Post/Getty

Essay/
Genetics
The genes we’re dealt

The new field of social genomics can be used by progressives to combat racial inequality or by conservatives to excuse it

Erik Parens