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What’s in a brain? Photo by Gallery Stock

Essay/
Neuroscience
The empty brain

Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer

Robert Epstein

Photo by Alex Webb/Magnum

Essay/
Childhood and adolescence
The play deficit

Children today are cossetted and pressured in equal measure. Without the freedom to play they will never grow up

Peter Gray

Photo by Karen Kasmauski

Essay/
Biology
The obesity era

As the American people got fatter, so did marmosets, vervet monkeys and mice. The problem may be bigger than any of us

David Berreby

Death and the word; William conquers Harold and the English language. From Cotton Vitellius A XIII(1) f3v. Photo courtesy British Library

Essay/
Language and linguistics
English is not normal

No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language

John McWhorter

Photo by Chang Szeling/Gallery Stock

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Night school

New evidence suggests that we can learn while we sleep, but do we really want to put our hours of rest to work?

Kenneth Miller

Photo by Raymond Depardon/Magnum

Essay/
Meaning and the good life
Indifference is a power

As legions of warriors and prisoners can attest, Stoicism is not grim resolve but a way to wrest happiness from adversity

Lary Wallace

Photo by Tim Flach/Getty

Essay/
Work
Fuck work

Economists believe in full employment. Americans think that work builds character. But what if jobs aren’t working anymore?

James Livingston

Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of healthy spermatozoa emerging from a cavity in the rete testis of the testes. Photo by Innerspace Imaging/Science Photo Library

Essay/
Human reproduction
The macho sperm myth

The idea that millions of sperm are on an Olympian race to reach the egg is yet another male fantasy of human reproduction

Robert D Martin

Illustration by Michael Marsicano

Essay/
Cosmology
Exodus

Elon Musk argues that we must put a million people on Mars if we are to ensure that humanity has a future

Ross Andersen

A family party, Italy, 1983. Photo by Leonard Freed/Magnum

Essay/
Meaning and the good life
The meanings of life

Happiness is not the same as a sense of meaning. How do we go about finding a meaningful life, not just a happy one?

Roy F Baumeister

Renaissance man: Portrait of a Young Gentleman in His Studio by Lorenzo Lotto, c. 1530. Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. Photo by Corbis

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
Master of many trades

Our age reveres the specialist but humans are natural polymaths, at our best when we turn our minds to many things

Robert Twigger

Photo by Redux/eyevine

Essay/
Sex and sexuality
Kept women

Mistresses are big business in China, where no official is a real man without his own ernai. What’s in it for the girls?

James Palmer

Photo by Jason Madara/Gallery Stock

Essay/
Economics
Are coders worth it?

In today’s world, web developers have it all: money, perks, freedom, respect. But is there value in what we do?

James Somers

Alan Watts: ‘Half monk and half racecourse operator.’ Illustration by Stephen Collins

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Off-beat Zen

How I found my way out of depression, thanks to the writings of the English priest who brought Buddhism to the West

Tim Lott

Photo posed by a model. Phillip Suddick/Getty

Essay/
Philosophy of mind
The problem of mindfulness

Mindfulness promotes itself as value-neutral but it is loaded with (troubling) assumptions about the self and the cosmos

Sahanika Ratnayake

Illustration by Michael Marsicano

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
How the light gets out

Consciousness is the ‘hard problem’, the one that confounds science and philosophy. Has a new theory cracked it?

Michael Graziano

Illustration by Claire Scully

Essay/
Biology
Does life have a purpose?

Nobody expects atoms and molecules to have purposes, so why do we still think of living things in this way?

Michael Ruse

Photo by Bruce Gilden/Magnum

Essay/
Fairness and equality
Poor teeth

If you have a mouthful of teeth shaped by a childhood in poverty, don’t go knocking on the door of American privilege

Sarah Smarsh

Photo courtesy Dick Swanson/U.S. National Archives

Essay/
Future of technology
The golden quarter

Some of our greatest cultural and technological achievements took place between 1945 and 1971. Why has progress stalled?

Michael Hanlon

Illustration by Paul Blow

Essay/
Ethics
A theory of jerks

Are you surrounded by fools? Are you the only reasonable person around? Then maybe you’re the one with the jerkitude

Eric Schwitzgebel

A resident of the 6th floor of an apartment block gazes at the damage after the balcony fell from his 13 year old apartment in Shenyang, China. Photo by Stringer/Reuters

Essay/
Making
Chabuduo! Close enough …

Your balcony fell off? Chabuduo. Vaccines are overheated? Chabuduo. How China became the land of disastrous corner-cutting

James Palmer

Photo by Julian Calverley/Getty

Essay/
Ethics
Kids? Just say no

You don’t have to dislike children to see the harms done by having them. There is a moral case against procreation

David Benatar