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Philip Ball

Freelance writer, London

Philip Ball is a British science writer, whose work appears in Nature, New Scientist and Prospect, among others. His latest books are The Beauty of Chemistry: Art, Wonder, and Science (2021) and The Modern Myths: Adventures in the Machinery of the Popular Imagination (2021). He lives in London.

Written by Philip Ball

The story trap | Aeon
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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

Machine envy | Aeon
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Engineering

Machine envy

Giant instruments are giving us a sea of data. Can science find its way without any big ideas at the helm?

Philip Ball

Small things | Aeon
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Biology

Small things

The discovery of a microscopic world shook the foundations of theology and created modern demons

Philip Ball

Life rocks | Aeon
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Cosmology

Life rocks

Could meteorites be akin to lifeboats from other planets? Or do they reveal more about life on Earth than off it?

Philip Ball

Beauty ≠ truth | Aeon
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Beauty and aesthetics

Beauty ≠ truth

Scientists prize elegant theories, but a taste for simplicity is a treacherous guide. And it doesn’t even look good

Philip Ball

Science fictions | Aeon
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History of science

Science fictions

Is the scientific endeavour always a bold and noble quest for truth? Not when it is writing its own history

Philip Ball

Making good | Aeon
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Art

Making good

Repairing things is about more than thrift. It is about creating something bold and original

Philip Ball

Too many worlds | Aeon
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Philosophy of science

Too many worlds

Nobody knows what happens inside quantum experiments. So why are some so keen to believe in parallel universes?

Philip Ball

Why our imagination for alien life is so impoverished | Aeon
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Stories and literature

Why our imagination for alien life is so impoverished

Philip Ball

Quantum common sense | Aeon
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Quantum theory

Quantum common sense

Despite its confounding reputation, quantum mechanics both guides and helps explain human intuition

Philip Ball

How natural is numeracy? | Aeon
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Mathematics

How natural is numeracy?

Where does our number sense come from? Is it a neural capacity we are born with — or is it a product of our culture?

Philip Ball

Sim ethics | Aeon
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Future of technology

Sim ethics

Say you could make a thousand digital replicas of yourself – should you? What happens when you want to get rid of them?

Philip Ball



Recent Comments

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Why our imagination for alien life is so impoverished

Philip Ball

Just to throw a cat among the pigeons, one scientist who has thought a fair bit about this and who has a very different take on what aliens might look like is Simon Conway Morris. He believes that under anything close to Earth-like conditions, convergent evolution will produce beings very similar to us - see for example here. I’m not at all persuaded that evolution is this convergent, especially if we have no good reason to believe it must have the same biochemical basis as o...

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Omens

Philip Ball

Doing something? Not a chance. The likelihood that we understand the universe well enough to know how, or if, it will end, is very close to zero. Until we know what dark energy is (and probably dark matter), we’re not going to be able to say very much about the End of Days. And this is fantastic. The fact that we don’t understand the composition of 96% of our own universe, let alone whether there are others, is a wonderful thing for cosmology, and for science as a whole. It means there are very exciting times to come. Will the end be a Big Crunch, or a Big Rip, or just a sad, bleak Heat Death? Or (my guess) none of the above? We just don’t know. It is exhilarating that we can even imagine...

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