Richard Feynman’s path integral is both a powerful prediction machine and a philosophy about how the world is. But physicists are still struggling to figure out how to use it, and what it means. BY CHARLIE WOOD The most powerful formula in physics starts with a slender S, the symbol for a sort of sum known as an integral. Further along comes a second S, representing a quantity known as action. Together, these twin S’s form the essence of an equation that is arguably the most effective diviner of the future yet devised. The oracular formula is known as the … Continue reading How Our Reality May Be a Sum of All Possible Realities
The Roland TR-808. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia As AI drum machines embrace humanising imperfections, what does this mean for ‘real’ drummers and the soul of music? Jack Stilgoe is a professor of science and technology policy at University College London, where he researches the governance of emerging technologies. He is also a fellow at the Turing Institute. There’s a moment five minutes into ‘Funky Drummer’ (1970), an instrumental jam by James Brown, when the clouds part and Clyde Stubblefield is left alone. We can hear on the recording Brown instructing his band to ‘give the drummer some’. He tells Stubblefield not … Continue reading Give the drummer some
What if we could harvest energy from human heat, sweat, or vibrations? By Charles Q. Choi STORY BY Knowable In “I Sing the Body Electric,” poet Walt Whitman waxed lyrically about the “action and power” of “beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh.” More than 150 years later, MIT materials scientist and engineer Canan Dagdeviren and her colleagues are giving new meaning to Whitman’s poem with a device that can generate electricity from the way it distorts in response to the beating of the heart. Electronics are now so powerful that a smartphone has more computing power than all of NASA did when it … Continue reading Batteries not included: How your own body could power wearables
Camden Colwell New interpretations of the laws of thermodynamics suggest the infamous “heat death” hypothesis, which foretells the end of all life and organization in the universe, might not hold. BY BOBBY AZARIAN Bobby Azarian is a cognitive neuroscientist, a science journalist and the author of the book “The Romance of Reality: How the Universe Organizes Itself to Create Life, Consciousness and Cosmic Complexity.” Perhaps the most depressing scientific idea that has ever been put forth is the infamous “heat death hypothesis.” It is a theory about the future of the universe based on the second law of thermodynamics, which in … Continue reading Life Need Not Ever End
Research shows how “dark” Brett Martinpersonality traits affect Bitcoin enthusiasm. Di Wang and Brett Martin and Jun Yao STORY BY The Conversation Since the invention of Bitcoin in 2009 the global cryptocurrency market has grown from nothing to a value of around US$2 trillion. From a price of US$1 in 2011, Bitcoin rose to an all-time high of more than US$63,000 in April 2021, and now hovers around the US$42,000 mark. Large fluctuations in cryptocurrency prices are common, which makes them a highly speculative investment. What kind of people are willing to take the risk, and what motivates them? We conducted a survey to find out. In … Continue reading “Impulsive psychopaths” are drawn to Bitcoin and other crypto
Top: A long exposure photo shows the paths of numerous flying insects attracted to a street light. Visual: Matt Mawson/Moment via Getty Images Johan Eklöf’s “The Darkness Manifesto” offers a powerful argument for turning down the lights and embracing the dark. BY SARAH SCOLES JOHAN EKLÖF was a graduate student in 2001 when he found himself deep inside Malaysia’s Krau Wildlife Reserve. He was there to attend a workshop on bats, his favored creatures of the night, and a television crew was on site. “One evening, during dinner, one of the film crew’s large lights was left on, directed up toward the … Continue reading How Light Pollution Is Upending the Natural World
From Aldobrandino da Siena’s Le Régime du corps (1265-70 CE). Sloane MS 2435, f.1.r. Courtesy the British Library Worried that technology is ‘breaking your brain’? Fears about attention spans and focus are as old as writing itself Joe Stadolnik is an independent researcher, writer, and editor. He is working on a biography, ‘The Unsettled Life of Duarte Brandão’, and he writes occasionally for the Los Angeles Review of Books. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. If you suspect that 21st-century technology has broken your brain, it will be reassuring to know that attention spans have never been what they used to be. Even the … Continue reading We’ve always been distracted
BY BRIAN GALLAGHER One question for Joseph Silk, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University and the author of Back to the Moon: The Next Giant Leap for Humankind. Should people live on the moon? Why not? We have to start somewhere if we ever want to leave Earth. And the only realistic place to start is the moon. It’s going to be for a minority, right? For explorers, for people exploiting the moon for commercial reasons, for scientists. They will be living on the moon within the next century. And it will be a starting point to go elsewhere. It’s a much … Continue reading Should People Live on the Moon?
BY BRIAN GALLAGHER One question for J.D. Haltigan, an assistant professor of child and youth mental health at the University of Toronto. How is TikTok affecting mental health? Some of what’s happening on TikTok, particularly with young adolescent females, is contributing to presentations in the clinic consistent with some sort of social-contagion effect around mental illness-like behaviors. This includes most recently the tic-like behaviors, which are more physical manifestations similar to what you might see in clinical cases of Tourette syndrome or autism in young individuals. You’ll see behavioral stereotypies like hand clapping. A number of reports have come out … Continue reading How Is TikTok Affecting Mental Health?
Raw & Rendered Digital connectivity’s democratizing impact on the production, circulation and consumption of culture has been greatly exaggerated. BY ROGERS BRUBAKER, Rogers Brubaker is a professor of sociology at UCLA and the author, most recently, of “Hyperconnectivity and Its Discontents” (Polity, 2022), from which this essay is adapted. Digital hyperconnectivity — the condition in which nearly everyone and everything is connected to everyone and everything else, everywhere and all the time — has colonized the self, recast social interactions, reorganized the public sphere, revolutionized economic life and converted the whole of human culture into an unending stream of digital content served to us by personalized … Continue reading Hyperconnected Culture And Its Discontents