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Life, Death, and ERVs

In a phenomenon known as Peto’s paradox, large mammals do not develop cancer more often than small mammals, despite having more cells that could go haywire. On Life Lines, Dr. Dolittle writes “Some researchers suggested that perhaps smaller animals developed more oxidative stress as a result of having higher metabolisms. Others proposed that perhaps larger…

How Not to Hook Up; How to Love

The first time I saw myself was in a dream. I was maybe six. I was a girl, a noble leader really. I had straight dark hair that reached down to my feet. I was walking on a tightrope, toward the right, toward a handsome prince who approached me. Then I woke up.

Death Is an Angel

“Death is the only wise adviser that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will…

Strife in the Middle East is the legacy of the world’s first and second-most popular religions, along with their less popular older sibling, Judaism. But near-constant warfare is also the result of imperialism and nationalism, and the military-industrial complex; there is no one not to blame.

Too Hot, So Long

A hot work environment killed at least 13 people in 2012 and 2013 (not counting cases from nineteen states, including California, that operate their own OSHA programs). On The Pump Handle, Celeste Monforton writes “the report shows the diversity of jobs and situations in which workers are at risk of suffering a heat-related illness or…

Ebola: Horror and Hope for a Cure

As an unprecedented outbreak of Ebola crosses borders in West Africa, people are asking new questions about the virus and its potential to turn into a global pandemic (hint: it’s not gonna happen). Greg Laden writes “The disease is too hot to not burn itself out, and it has no human reservoir. Ebola accidentally broke…

DNA: The Web Inside the Strands

Only 1% of the human genome codes for proteins, which might make you wonder what the rest of the nucleotide sequence is good for. In 2012 the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (or ENCODE) announced that a full 80% of the genome played a biochemical role, interacting with proteins in some way. But a new study…

It’s still a sprawling action movie, complete with boilerplate plot, senseless acts of violence, and the satisfying crunch of large-scale destruction. But make no mistake: Guardians of the Galaxy is a riot, and Marvel’s master plan to take over Hollywood is well under way.

California Drought Feels Fine

On Significant Figures, Peter Gleick examines the rather relaxed attitudes of some Californians to an extreme drought fostered by three years of dry weather. Gleick writes “reservoirs are at record low levels. Deliveries of surface water to some farmers are lower than at any time in recent history. Streams are drying up and fisheries are being…

More Money than Brains

If the IT resources exist to simulate 90 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections between them, mediated by dozens of different neurotransmitters and organized into highly specialized networks, there’s still no reason to expect intelligence to emerge or a ghost to glom on to the machine.