Essays

Latest Popular


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

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 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

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 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

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

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

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty

Essay/
Gender and identity
Gender is not a spectrum

The idea that ‘gender is a spectrum’ is supposed to set us free. But it is both illogical and politically troubling

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

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

Spinning sugar... Photo by delihayat/Getty

Essay/
Illness and disease
The case against sugar

A potent toxin that alters hormones and metabolism, sugar sets the stage for epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes

Gary Taubes

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

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

Photo by Charles Gullung/Gallery Stock
Essay/
Childhood and adolescence
Childhood, disrupted

Adversity in childhood can create long-lasting scars, damaging our cells and our DNA, and making us sick as adults

Donna Jackson Nakazawa

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

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

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

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

Illustration by Fumitake Uchida

Essay/
Logic and probability
Beyond true and false

Buddhist philosophy is full of contradictions. Now modern logic is learning why that might be a good thing

Graham Priest

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

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 Corbis

Essay/
Information and communication
The new mind control

The internet has spawned subtle forms of influence that can flip elections and manipulate everything we say, think and do

Robert Epstein

Photo by Michael Lewis/Gallery Stock

Essay/
Sleep and dreams
Broken sleep

People once woke up halfway through the night to think, write or make love. What have we lost by sleeping straight through?

Karen Emslie

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

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

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

Photo by Ulrich Lebeuf / M.Y.O.P/ Eyevine

Essay/
Sex and sexuality
Pornucopia

Critics say that porn degrades women, dulls sexual pleasure, and ruins authentic relationships – are they right?

Maria Konnikova

Beast-machines. The City Rises by Umberto Boccioni (1910). MOMA. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Essay/
Neuroscience
The real problem

It looks like scientists and philosophers might have made consciousness far more mysterious than it needs to be

Anil K Seth

A gospel choir leads the congregation in song during a Sunday service at the National Pentecostal Church, Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Dieter Telemans/Panos

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
One more time

Why do we listen to our favourite music over and over again? Because repeated sounds work magic in our brains

Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis

Photo by Gallery Stock
Essay/
Evolution
War in the womb

A ferocious biological struggle between mother and baby belies any sentimental ideas we might have about pregnancy

Suzanne Sadedin