Walter Pitts rose from the streets to MIT, but couldn’t escape himself. Walter Pitts was used to being bullied. He’d been born into a tough family in Prohibition-era Detroit, where his father, a boiler-maker, had no trouble raising his fists to get his way.
Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours. When you examine the lives of history’s most creative figures, you are immediately confronted with a paradox: They organize their lives around their work, but not their days.
Contrary to popular belief, peace and quiet is all about the noise in your head. One icy night in March 2010, 100 marketing experts piled into the Sea Horse Restaurant in Helsinki, with the modest goal of making a remote and medium-sized country a world-famous tourist destination.
MacArthur Fellow Danielle Bassett says learning works best when you don’t overthink it. Lauren R. Weinstein is a cartoonist based in New Jersey. She is currently working on a graphic novel tentatively entitled How to Draw a Nose. Her previous books include Girl Stories and The Goddess of War.
From our knees to our eyeballs, our bodies are full of hack solutions. The Greeks were obsessed with the mathematically perfect body. But unfortunately for anyone chasing that ideal, we were designed not by Pygmalion, the mythical sculptor who carved a flawless woman, but by MacGyver.
You may think twice about your diet when you follow the metabolic fate of your food. Let’s admit it. Few of us like to think, much less talk about our colons. But you might be surprised at the importance of what gets into your colon and what goes on inside it.
Thomas1 was a highly successful and mild-mannered lawyer who was worried about his drinking. When he came to see me at my psychotherapy practice, his wine intake had crept up to six or seven glasses a night, and he was starting to hide it from his family and to feel the effects at work.
Travelling induced jet lag isn’t the only thing that causes untimely fatigue.
We seek novelty, but not too much. Humans have a drive to eat. We have a drive to drink. We have a drive to reproduce. Curiosity is no different, says George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.
The science of the wandering mind. Every emotion has a purpose—an evolutionary benefit,” says Sandi Mann, a psychologist and the author of The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good. “I wanted to know why we have this emotion of boredom, which seems like such a negative, pointless emotion.
Why we shouldn’t worry about leaving print behind. In A History of Reading, the Canadian novelist and essayist Alberto Manguel describes a remarkable transformation of human consciousness, which took place around the 10th century A.D.: the advent of silent reading.
One day in March 2010, Isak McCune started clearing his throat with a forceful, violent sound. The New Hampshire toddler was 3, with a Beatles mop of blonde hair and a cuddly, loving personality. His parents had no idea where the guttural tic came from. They figured it was springtime allergies.
Nanoscale thermal physics guarantees our decline, no matter how many diseases we cure. The inside of every cell in our body is like a crowded city, filled with tracks, transports, libraries, factories, power plants, and garbage disposal units.
An ex-convict on how to set your mind free. With a sigh, Johnny Perez rises from his plastic chair, unfolds his lanky frame and extends his wingspan until the tips of his middle fingers graze the walls. “It was from here to here,” he says. “I know because I used to do this all the time.
How Julian Jaynes’ famous 1970s theory is faring in the neuroscience age.Julian Jaynes was living out of a couple of suitcases in a Princeton dorm in the early 1970s.
Looking around our planet today, it’s hard not to be struck by humanity’s uniqueness. We are the only species around that writes books, runs experiments, and builds skyscrapers.
For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. —President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address (2016) Patrick Soon-Shiong wants to turn cancer treatment upside down.
Aleksander Sochaczewski's 1894 painting depicts Poles exiled to Siberia.When Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, in The House of the Dead, that “Man is a creature that can get accustomed to anything,” he was talking about the cruelties and deprivations of life in Siberian prison camp.
The emperor of physics defends his controversial theory of mind.
Tantalizing evidence suggests that brain activity shifts to increase wisdom as we age. At the 2010 Cannes Film Festival premiere of You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, director Woody Allen was asked about aging. He replied with his characteristic, straight-faced pessimism. “I find it a lousy deal.
This mental disorder gives us a unique insight into the digital age. We start with the case of a woman who experienced unbearable tragedy. In 1899, this Parisian bride, Madame M., had her first child. Shockingly, the child was abducted and substituted with a different infant, who soon died.
To see additional images from NASA Ames, click the icon on the image at the top of this page. NASA Ames is filled with the exotic technologies of a future that didn’t quite come to pass. Ancient computers still operate equipment in the machine shop.
Henri Bergson’s debate with Albert Einstein reached and swayed the 1921 Nobel committee. On April 6, 1922, Einstein met a man he would never forget.
An oft-repeated line in A Series of Unfortunate Events, a Netflix TV show recently adapted from a book series, feels apt for the moment. “In a world too often governed by corruption and arrogance,” it goes, “it can be difficult to stay true to one’s philosophical and literary principles.
On 27 August 1883, the Earth let out a noise louder than any it has made since. It was 10:02 AM local time when the sound emerged from the island of Krakatoa, which sits between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia.
Where did language come from? Cormac McCarthy is best known to the world as a writer of novels. These include Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road. At the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) he is a research colleague and thought of in complementary terms.
If I claimed that Americans have gotten more self-centered lately, you might just chalk me up as a curmudgeon, prone to good-ol’-days whining. But what if I said I could back that claim up by analyzing 150 billion words of text? A few decades ago, evidence on such a scale was a pipe dream.
Suppose you wanted to build the perfect dog from scratch. What would be the key ingredients in the recipe? Loyalty and smarts would be musts. Cuteness would be as well, perhaps with gentle eyes, and a curly, bushy tail that wags in joy in anticipation of your appearance.
In a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode from 2007, Larry David and his wife Cheryl and their friends attend a ceremony to celebrate his public donation to the National Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental advocacy group.
We are going to start recording and automatically transcribing most of what we say. Instead of evaporating into memory, words spoken aloud will calcify as text, into a Record that will be referenced, searched, and mined. It will happen by our standard combination of willing and allowing.
Alien life could be so advanced it becomes indistinguishable from physics. Perhaps Arthur C. Clarke was being uncharacteristically unambitious. He once pointed out that any sufficiently advanced technology is going to be indistinguishable from magic.
The surprising performance and physics of the fish kick. I tug my black swim cap over my hair, strap on my pink goggles, and keep a focused calm, like Michael Phelps before a race. It’s lap swim on a Monday afternoon at my local YMCA, and I’m going to attempt the fish kick.
For many years I lived in Eugene, Oregon, also known as “track-town USA” for its long tradition in track and field. Each summer high-profile meets like the United States National Championships or Olympic Trials would bring world-class competitors to the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.
Literature’s evolution has reflected and spurred the growing complexity of society. Reading medieval literature, it’s hard not to be impressed with how much the characters get done—as when we read about King Harold doing battle in one of the Sagas of the Icelanders, written in about 1230.
War, murder, music, art. We would have none without metaphor. The other day I fixed something—a rarity for me. The flotation device in the toilet water tank was rubbing against the side, getting stuck halfway up so that the tank didn’t fill completely. I own a hammer and know how to operate it.
And how to make it think differently. As a kid, I saw the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes. As a future primatologist, I was mesmerized. Years later I discovered an anecdote about its filming: At lunchtime, the people playing chimps and those playing gorillas ate in separate groups.
In April 1997, at the snooker world championship held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, Ronnie O’Sullivan stepped up to the table to play a frame in what was expected to be a routine victory in his first-round match against Mick Price.
Alex Honnold doesn’t experience fear like the rest of us. Alex Honnold has his own verb. “To honnold”—usually written as “honnolding”—is to stand in some high, precarious place with your back to the wall, looking straight into the abyss. To face fear, literally.
In some sense, Lee Rogers Berger found himself and the drowning woman at the same time.
The surprising relationship between mindset and getting old. In 1979, psychologist Ellen Langer and her students carefully refurbished an old monastery in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to resemble a place that would have existed two decades earlier.
With 2015 now behind us, what truly stands out? Other than (alas) holding the record for hottest year in recorded history? Amid a confusion of good, bad, and disturbing news, what I find noteworthy is that 2015 was by far humanity’s best year in space—exploring the universe around us.
The latest cover of The Disconnect, a new online magazine, features an animated digital fingerprint that is unique to you, the reader. It tells you what browser you’re using, what time zone your clock is set to, and what kind of hardware your computer or device has.
I had a tough time in high school. Like many other young adolescents, I saw myself as fundamentally flawed, and felt a searing isolation. Nothing I looked forward to brought any hope. I stopped getting out of bed. I cut myself. I drafted a suicide note.
The surprising importance of spontaneous order and noise to how we think. One of the core challenges of modern AI can be demonstrated with a rotating yellow school bus. When viewed head-on on a country road, a deep-learning neural network confidently and correctly identifies the bus.
From bulging biceps to 7-foot wingspans to a striking paucity of fat, elite athletes’ bodies often look quite different from those of the rest of us. But it’s not only athletes’ bodies that are different; their brains are just as finely tuned to the mental demands of a particular sport.
Are we happier with few or many choices? One subject settles the debate—dating. In the age of online dating there are more romantic options than there are fish in the, well, you know.