Nautilus

Nautilus is a different kind of science magazine. We deliver big-picture science by reporting on a single monthly topic from multiple perspectives. Read a new chapter in the story every Thursday.

Latest articles

Do We Have Free Will? Maybe It Doesn't Matter - Facts So Romantic

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 / ShutterstockBelief is a special kind of human power. Agustin Fuentes, an anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame, eloquently claims as...

Gaia, the Scientist - Issue 99: Universality

There exists a social hierarchy within science that strikes people who are not mixed up in it as ridiculous. It goes like this: Mathematicians are superior to Physicists, who are, in turn, superior to Chemists, who are of course, superior to Biologists. There’s also a pecking order within each of these disciplines. Take biology, for example: Geneticists...

How to Conquer COVID-19 Amid a Confederacy of Dunces - Issue 99: Universality

Robert Burioni is a virologist at the San Raffaele University in Milan, Italy, and a serious scientist. But in 2016, something happened that changed his course. He was on television with two anti-vaxxers—a famous actress and a former DJ—who were taking on vaccines, reported Science magazine.1 At the last moment, he was given a chance to respond on camera....

The Vast Viral World: What We Know (and Don’t Know) - Issue 99: Universality

Slightly ovoid in shape and somewhat blurred at the edges, the black splotches were scattered across a mottled gray background, looking much like a postmodern painting. At a meeting of the Medical Society of Berlin in 1938, Helmut Ruska, a German physician and biologist, was presenting the first images ever seen of virus particles. The splotches were...

A Quiet Path Out of the Coronavirus Shadow - Issue 98: Mind

Eleven years ago, I sat down across from a man named Edward Espe Brown. I had returned home to Texas from a four-month stay at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in California, endured a breakup, and was feeling adrift. I told Ed that I was struggling with powerful feelings of sadness and loss. I didn’t know what to do.I’ve thought often of the conversation...

I Am Not a Machine. Yes You Are. - Issue 98: Mind

I’m trying to explain to Arthur I. Miller why artworks generated by computers don’t quite do it for me. There’s no human being behind them. The works aren’t a portal into another person’s mind, where you can wander in a warren of intention, emotion, and perception, feeling life being shaped into form. What’s more, it often seems, people just ain’t no...

The Trouble with Brain Scans - Issue 98: Mind

One autumn afternoon in the bowels of UC Berkeley’s Li Ka Shing Center, I was looking at my brain. I had just spent 10 minutes inside the 3 Tesla MRI scanner, the technical name for a very expensive, very high maintenance, very magnetic brain camera. Lying on my back inside the narrow tube, I had swallowed my claustrophobia and let myself be enveloped...

Here’s How We’ll Know an AI Is Conscious - Facts So Romantic

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 / FlickrThe Australian philosopher David Chalmers famously asked whether “philosophical zombies” are conceivable—people...

This Tenet Shows Time Travel May Be Possible - Issue 98: Mind

Time travel has been a beloved science-fiction idea at least since H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine in 1895. The concept continues to fascinate and fictional approaches keep coming, prodding us to wonder whether time travel is physically possible and, for that matter, makes logical sense in the face of its inscrutable paradoxes. Remarkably, last year...

I Have Come to Bury Ayn Rand - Issue 98: Mind

My father, Sloan Wilson, wrote novels that would help define 1950s America. I loved and admired him, but the prospect of following in the footsteps of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and A Summer Place was like being expected to climb Mount Everest. My love of nature provided an alternative path. I would become an ecologist, spending my days researching...

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