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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

New Bond Street, London, England. Photo by Matt Stuart/Magnum
Essay/
Neuroscience
Now you see it, now you…

Seeing things that are hidden; failing to see things in plain sight. How magic exploits the everyday weirdness of perception

Vebjørn Ekroll

Illustration by Tim McDonagh/Handsome Frank

Essay/
Knowledge
How to choose?

When your reasons are worse than useless, sometimes the most rational choice is a random stab in the dark

Michael Schulson

Chess queen, 1965 Photo by Anna Kaufman Moon/Hulton Archive/Getty
Essay/
Childhood and adolescence
Where’s Bobbi Fischer?

Little girls sign up to play chess in droves. So why are so few of the world’s top players women?

Hana Schank

Cards from the Visconti di Modrone set, Italy, 1466. Courtesy the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Essay/
Stories and literature
The truth about tarot

Whether divining ancient wisdoms or elevating the art of cold reading, tarot is a form of therapy, much like psychoanalysis

James McConnachie

Photo by Gallery Stock
Essay/
Personality
How luck works

You’re at the casino and you win big – a lucky fluke, divine intervention or inner smarts? The answer’s against the odds

Carlin Flora

Lost in the game: in its pure form, play has no external purpose or reward. Photo by Tim Wimbourne/Reuters

Essay/
Ethics
Tennis with Plato

In play an adult can become like a child, fully absorbed in the here-and-now. Play, not work, brings us fully to life

Mark Rowlands

Courtesy of Big Robot Games/Jim Rossignol

Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Hunger games

A new wave of videogames offers lessons in powerlessness, scarcity and inevitable failure. What makes them so compelling?

Will Wiles

The Spanish National Dance Company perform during rehearsals for Don Quixote. Photo by Quim Llenas/Getty
Essay/
Beauty and aesthetics
Against flow

In the myth of flow, the performer soars when the music starts. But it’s grit and self-analysis until the very last bar

Barbara Gail Montero

At the World Chess Championships in London, 2013. Photo by Andrew Testa/Panos

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
Concentrate!

The challenge of chess – learning how to hold complexity in mind and still make good decisions – is also the challenge of life

Jonathan Rowson

In the Adirondacks Rockwell Kent (1882-1971). Photo © Christie's Images Ltd
Essay/
Music
The story trap

We use neat stories to explain everything from sports matches to symphonies. Is it time to leave the nursery of the mind?

Philip Ball

Photo by Gordon  Wiltsie/National Geographic 

Essay/
Sports and games
Rules of ascent

For mountaineers, it’s not enough to get to the top – it must be done a certain way. But why is the harder way better?

Paul Sagar

US cyclist Tyler Hamilton rides with a broken collarbone in the 2003 Tour de France. Photo by Offside/Lequipe

Essay/
Bioethics
A doping manifesto

The rules on doping in sport are incoherent – should we change them to allow the right kind of performance enhancement?

Julian Savulescu

Rebecca Ruiz during a high school game in Carmichael, California, spring 1997. All photos courtesy of the author
Essay/
Neurodiversity
Soccer broke my brain

I was 17 when concussion put me on the bench for good. Only now do we understand how sports injuries affect the mind

Rebecca Ruiz

American comedian Lenny Bruce performs on stage, late 1950s. Photo by Julian Wasser/Pix Inc./LIFE /Getty.

Essay/
Dance and theatre
The comic’s quandary

Does heckling let the real comedian stand up and shine, or does it trample a punchline and mangle a routine?

Lary Wallace

Photo by Aeon

Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Return to Nib’s Knoll

As kids, we make secret worlds – in trees, in our imaginations, even online – but can we go back to them when we’re grown?

Robin Sloan