How Maxwell’s Demon Continues to Startle Scientists
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. The universe bets on disorder. Imagine, for example, dropping a thimbleful of red dye into a swimming pool. All of those dye molecules are going to slowly spread throughout the water. Physicists quantify this tendency to spread by counting the number of possible ways the dye molecules […]
Do We Have Free Will? Maybe It Doesn’t Matter
It’s hard to change people’s beliefs about free will. So, it can feel like a relief to realize that even when you can change people’s beliefs, it seems to make no moral difference anyway.Illustration by Triff / Shutterstock Belief is a special kind of human power. Agustin Fuentes, an anthropologist at the University of Notre […]
Here’s How We’ll Know an AI Is Conscious
Zombies are supposed to be capable of asking any question about the nature of experience. It’s worth wondering, though, how a person or machine devoid of experience could reflect on experience it doesn’t have.Photograph by Ars Electronica / Flickr The Australian philosopher David Chalmers famously asked whether “philosophical zombies” are conceivable—people who behave like you […]
I Have Come to Bury Ayn Rand
Economics:A prominent evolutionary biologist slays the beast of Individualism.
How Intelligent Could Life Be Without Natural Selection?
Evolution:Don’t be surprised if alien life forms are a lot like us.
Was the Golden Rule Born in the Mind of a Monkey?
As economic inequality increased in many wealthy nations in recent years, a debate has developed around the question of whether inequality is bad for national economies—and bad for their citizens. A captivating video clip of monkey behavior (see below), taken from a 2011 TED talk by primatologist Frans de Waal, has become a surprising piece of […]
Consciousness Is Just a Feeling
Cognitive Science:With help from Freud, this neuropsychologist locates consciousness in choice.
Literature Should Be Taught Like Science
Literature:This renegade professor says literature is a machine that accelerates the human brain.
A Simple Way to Reduce Cognitive Bias
It’s encouraging to know that merely paying attention to the details of your environment can make you a little more rational.Illustration by yulianas / Shutterstock Would you like to be more rational? Of course you would. Who doesn’t want to behave and think more reasonably? Good news: New research, from Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, suggests […]