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Kirsten Thompson, the lead scientist on the Arctic Sunrise, takes water samples for eDNA sampling near Paulet Island at the entrance to the Weddell Sea. Photo by A Trayler-Smith/Greenpeace/Panos

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
The abuses of Popper

A powerful cadre of scientists and economists sold Karl Popper’s ‘falsification’ idea to the world. They have much to answer for

Charlotte Sleigh

An origin myth. A goatherd in the central Kalahari, Botswana in 1995. Photograph by Paul Weinberg/Panos

Essay/
Anthropology
Beyond the !Kung

A grand research project created our origin myth that early human societies were all egalitarian, mobile and small-scale

Manvir Singh

An Orca called Morgan in the Dolphinarium in Harderwijk, the Netherlands, September 2011. Morgan was subsequently transferred to the Loro Parque zoo in Tenerife, Spain. Photo by Marten Van Dijl/AFP/Getty

Essay/
Oceans and water
They are prisoners

Captive orcas are tormented by boredom and family separation, but they cannot be simply released. What’s the solution?

Lori Marino

A young family listening to a radio broadcast in Spandau, Germany in 1927. The writer and theorist Walter Benjamin hoped that the radio would be as much a medium for the production of knowledge among listeners as for its dissemination. Photo by AKG

Essay/
History of science
Scientists for the people

Why the finest minds in 1930s Europe believed that scientists must engage with citizens or risk losing their moral compass

Deborah R Coen

Ginseng root. Photo by Sina Schuldt/picture alliance via Getty

Essay/
Illness and disease
Natural and unnatural

‘Natural’ remedies are metaphysically inconsistent and unscientific. Yet they offer something that modern medicine cannot

Alan Jay Levinovitz

Illustration by Tom Björklund

Essay/
Human evolution
Sheanderthal

Not all Neanderthals were ‘cavemen’: half were women. What can archaeologists tell us about how they lived?

Rebecca Wragg Sykes

A northern gannet (Morus bassanus) breeding colony on Heligoland, Germany. Photo by Brais Seara/Getty

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Evolution
Evolution’s engineers

Organisms do not evolve blindly under forces beyond their control, but shape and influence the evolutionary environment itself

Kevin Laland & Lynn Chiu

Saturn’s rings were discovered by Christiaan Huygens in 1659. This image was taken by the Cassini-Huygens mission in 2016 and shows the entire north pole bathed in the continuous sunlight of summer. Photo Courtesy NASA/JPL

Essay/
History of science
Huygens, senior and junior

How a father’s mere curiosity about nature evolved during the Dutch Golden Age into the son’s focused scientific enquiry

Hugh Aldersey-Williams

Apollo 11 flight crew in biological isolation garments shortly after splashdown and about to be picked up and transferred to the USS Hornet in July 1969. Photo courtesy NASA

Essay/
Space exploration
A lunar pandemic

In the 1960s, NASA went to huge expense to contain possible pathogens from the Moon. What can we learn from the attempt?

Dagomar Degroot

The main room at the Cave of El Castillo in Cantabria, Spain, showing hand prints and depictions of animals. Photo courtesy Gabinete de Prensa del Gobierno de Cantabria

Essay/
Art
Cave art

For Palaeolithic societies, art-making was both a tool for survival and a tactile, joyous exploration of the world

Izzy Wisher

A deadly coral snake moves across fallen pine needles in a woodland in central Florida. Photo by Kristian Bell/Getty

Essay/
Evolution
Eyes in the dark

From cobra to caterpillar, warning signals are a rich natural vocabulary shaped by the communicative dance of predator and prey

David Kikuchi

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

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

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Complexity
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

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