Menu
Donate
SIGN IN

Ross Andersen

Senior Editor, The Atlantic

Ross Andersen is a senior editor at The Atlantic where he oversees the Science, Health and Technology sections. He was formerly the deputy editor of Aeon.

Written by Ross Andersen

Edited by Ross Andersen

Korean Thanksgiving | Aeon
Save

essay

Family life

Korean Thanksgiving

‘Take a photo of the spread,’ my mother says. ‘This way you can remember what to arrange when I’m dead.’

Mary H K Choi

Future reading | Aeon
Save

essay

Stories and literature

Future reading

Digital books stagnate in closed, dull systems, while printed books are shareable, lovely and enduring. What comes next?

Craig Mod

Broken links | Aeon
Save

essay

Information and communication

Broken links

When no ancient chat or post is beyond the grasp of Google, what matters more: the right to forget, or to be remembered?

Alana Massey

Origins | Aeon
Save

essay

Palaeontology

Origins

Paleogenetics is helping to solve the great mystery of prehistory: how did humans spread out over the earth?

Jacob Mikanowski

Homes for the homeless | Aeon
Save

essay

Cities

Homes for the homeless

San Francisco’s homeless are harangued and despised while conservative Utah has a radically humane approach

Susie Cagle

When the truth hurts | Aeon
Save

essay

Knowledge

When the truth hurts

The truth about health or personal relationships can entail pain and regret. Is it sometimes better to stay in the dark?

Jess Whittlestone

Rock of ages | Aeon
Save

essay

Knowledge

Rock of ages

Archaeologists used to be obsessed with religion. Now they can’t be bothered with it. Is the field worse off?

Rose Eveleth

Desert utopia | Aeon
Save

essay

Architecture

Desert utopia

It might be pleasing to dream of arcologies, mega-cities, and space colonies – but no one can design the perfect human community

Jared Keller

What lies beneath | Aeon
Save

essay

History

What lies beneath

From Piltdown to Mormon seer stones, prehistory has always beckoned the trickster, since bad science makes for good stories

Ted Scheinman

To heaven and back | Aeon
Save

essay

Death

To heaven and back

Is the heaven tourism memoir spiritual kitsch for the superficial seeker, or an earnest attempt to wrestle with death?

Mya Frazier

Where’s Bobbi Fischer? | Aeon
Save

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

Earth’s aliens | Aeon
Save

essay

Biology

Earth’s aliens

Alien lifeforms might be living right under our noses, but how can we find them if we don’t know what we’re looking for?

Sarah Scoles



Recent Comments

End of story

Ross Andersen

There’s a famous scene at the end of Anna Karenina, when Levin first lays eyes on his first born. He feels a rush of emotions, but the one that stands out most is a sudden feeling of vulnerability. I remember reading that passage before I had kids, and thinking it was lovely, but it was only after I had kids that it really sunk in. Of course, Tolstoy meant vulnerability to the loss of his child, not vulnerability to his own death, but in a way, the two are connected.

When I was 17, I was in a car—driven by a fellow teenager—that rolled 4 times in the middle of the highway. The car was a top heavy SUV, and as it started to tip over after a hard swerve, I remember time slowi...

READ MORE→ See comment

Samurai, spy, commando: who were the real ninja?

Ross Andersen

My brother and I were obsessed with ninjas as kids, so I’ll give this a shot. My theory: ninjas have the same appeal that spies do, but they have three advantages over spies. For one, like a spy, they play to deep human fantasies of stealth and invisibility, but only moreseo. There is also something more elemental about a ninja’s skills, because they rely oonly n the body or ancient, rudimentary tools, instead of whiz bang technological gadgets. Finally, in the West, ninjas have (more than) a hint of the exotic, and the mystique that comes with a deep tradition, complete with its own costumes and legends.

Having said all that, doesn’t it seem like we’ve passed through peak martial ...

READ MORE→ See comment

Smoke gets in your eyes

Ross Andersen

What is creativity? Wikipedia defines it as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” You can see why people would be tempted to use creativity boosting drugs. Art is hard work. Original ideas are difficult to produce. There is a great deal of competition. There are smart people everywhere. Many of them are spending every waking hour trying to squeeze out new ideas. They are camping out at the frontier of human thinking, and they are performing experiments, until voila, one works, and all of the sudden, there is a new idea in the world. Many people believe that these new ideas are babies, produced by the merging of two parent ideas. ...

READ MORE→ See comment

The end of sleep?

Ross Andersen

In a recent essay for Aeon, Karen Emslie wrote eloquently about what it is like to write in the wee hours of the night:

If I write in these small hours, black thoughts become clear and colourful. They form themselves into words and sentences, hook one to the next – like elephants walking trunk to tail. My brain works differently at this time of night; I can only write, I cannot edit. I can only add, I cannot take away.

Don Delillo called this the “night side of the mind,” and it’s one that I know well. In the middle of the ni...

READ MORE→ See comment

Books are dangerous

Ross Andersen

The Age of Wonder, by Richard Holmes changed my life and thinking in a very specific way. I did not discover a new personal philosophy or politics within its pages. It is not a book of great truths. It is a popular biographer’s take on a thin slice of time in the history of science. It was its aesthetic that lodged inside me. It set something to working inside my mind, something that lingered for a few years, doing lord knows what beneath the surface of my consciousness, until it breached like a Humpback whale, and rearranged my entire life.

As a ...

READ MORE→ See comment

The neurofix

Ross Andersen

Last year, the philosopher Lisa Guenther wrote a stirring essay about the phenomenology of solitary confinement for Aeon. In her essay, Guenther sought to argue that solitary confinement was torture of the worst kind. Key to her analaysis was her claim that humans are relational beings. “Prisoners might enter [solitary] with good vision, good hearing, and stable mental health,” she wrote. “But the longer they remain in isolation, the greater chance their sensory awareness, cognitive ability, and emotional stability will erode. This is because, as relational be...

READ MORE→ See comment

Paradigms lost

Ross Andersen

In his excellent book, Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story, Jim Holt says that “all men” (and presumably all women) “are beggars before this question.” What question? This one:

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why indeed? Let’s work backwards.

First off, it should be uncontroversial that there is something. Even if you’re a solipsist who is skeptical about the existence of the external world, it doesn’t take much epistemological courage to admit that you exist, or at least some hazy set ...

READ MORE→ See comment

The hand-held’s tale

Ross Andersen

Most days, I feel lucky to live during dynamic times. I have spent my life embedded in a culture that generates new technologies at an unimaginable rate. The Internet didn’t take off until I was an adolescent. Now it seems more fundamental to human life than heavy infrastructure. Ditto for mobile phones, our main portal to the Internet in this day and age. I got my first mobile phone a few months shy of my 18th birthday. It was a boxy thing with a green backlit screen and black calculator numerals. Now I use my phone to stream Aeon’s serene nature videos with my daughter ...

READ MORE→ See comment

Bucket lists are a good way to ruin the experience of nature

Ross Andersen

To know whether a thing exists, we must first know what it is. There are many dictionary definitions of “wilderness,” but lets skip those and pick one with some teeth. According to The Wilderness Act, a bill that was signed into American law by Lyndon Johnson in 1964, a “wilderness” is “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

It was difficult to pass The Wilderness Act. It took eight years and more than fifty drafts. Its authors labored over their definitions, and it shows. “A community of life untrammeled by man,” has a nice ring to it. And yet, later, in a more practical section of the bill, “w...

READ MORE→ See comment

Master of many trades

Ross Andersen

In his 1994 book, Collective Intelligence, French philosopher Pierre Levy argued that the 1772 publication of Frenchman Denis Diderdot and Jean d’Almbert’s Encyclopedie marked “the end of an area in which a single human being was able to comprehend the totality of knowledge.” Intellectual historians have made this announcement many times. Aristotle was once described as the last man to know everything there was to know. So were the Bacons, both Roger and Francis. Ditto for Da Vinci, Kepler, Milton, Kircher, Leibniz, Kant, Goethe, Mill, Poincare, and Weber.

Of course, no one has ever known everything. How could they? Humans don’t even know everything, collectively. Consilie...

READ MORE→ See comment