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Photo by Karen Kasmauski

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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

Illustration by Michael Marsicano

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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

‘Expecting to create an AGI without first understanding how it works is like expecting skyscrapers to fly if we build them tall enough.’ Illustration by Sam Green

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Computing and artificial intelligence
Creative blocks

The very laws of physics imply that artificial intelligence must be possible. What’s holding us up?

David Deutsch

Spinning sugar… Photo by delihayat/Getty

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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

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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 Claire Scully

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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 Charles Gullung/Gallery Stock

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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

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

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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

Contemplating the deep future, in light of the past: philosopher Nick Bostrom at the Oxford Museum of Natural History. Photo by Andy Sansom/Aeon Magazine

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Computing and artificial intelligence
Omens

When we peer into the fog of the deep future what do we see – human extinction or a future among the stars?

Ross Andersen

Is less more? Photo by Thom Atkinson/Gallery Stock

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Food and drink
One week, no food

Intrigued by the buzz around medical fasting, I tried it. A rollercoaster of boredom and energy ensued

S Abbas Raza

Illustration by Richard Wilkinson

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Physics
Radical dimensions

Relativity says we live in four dimensions. String theory says it’s 10. What are ‘dimensions’ and how do they affect reality?

Margaret Wertheim

Photo by Gallery Stock

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Evolution
War in the womb

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

Suzanne Sadedin

It’s in the stars; Ben Bernanke testifies before the Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill June 7, 2012 Photo by Win McNamee/Getty

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Economics
The new astrology

By fetishising mathematical models, economists turned economics into a highly paid pseudoscience

Alan Jay Levinovitz

Touchy, feely. Photo by Gerard Soury/Getty

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Biology
Keep smiling

Is there any reason to think dolphins and humans have a special relationship? Sure, but it might not be a friendly one

Justin Gregg

Grasshopper (Acrididae), Barbilla National Park, Costa Rica. Photo by Piotr Naskrecki/Minden Pictures/Corbis

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Biology
Die, selfish gene, die

For decades, the selfish gene metaphor let us view evolution with new clarity. Is it now blinding us?

David Dobbs

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Consciousness and altered states
Hallucinogenic nights

Sleep paralysis has tormented me since childhood. But now it’s my portal to out-of-body travel and lucid dreams

Karen Emslie

Workers at the Blue Plains Waste Water Treatment Plant, Washington DC. Robert Madden/National Geographic Creative

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Future of technology
Hail the maintainers

Capitalism excels at innovation but is failing at maintenance, and for most lives it is maintenance that matters more

Andrew Russell & Lee Vinsel

Artwork illustrating the concept of an alternate ‘bubble’ universe in which our universe (left) is not the only one. Some scientists think that bubble universes may pop into existence all the time, and occasionally nudge ours. NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Photo by Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty

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Bioethics
Boys and girls alike

An un-consenting child, an unnecessary, invasive surgery: is there any moral difference between male and female circumcision?

Brian D Earp

False positives; numerous microscopic cancerous and non-cancerous human tissue samples. Photo courtesy Wellcome Images

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Mathematics
The problem with p-values

Academic psychology and medical testing are both dogged by unreliability. The reason is clear: we got probability wrong

David Colquhoun