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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.

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We Are Beast Machines - Issue 107: The Edge

I have a childhood memory of looking in the bathroom mirror, and for the first time realizing that my experience at that precise moment—the experience of being me—would at some point come to an end, and that “I” would die. I must have been about 8 or 9 years old, and like all early memories this one too is unreliable. But perhaps it was at this moment...

Neuroscience Weighs in on Physics’ Biggest Questions - Issue 107: The Edge

For an empirical science, physics can be remarkably dismissive of some of our most basic observations. We see objects existing in definite locations, but the wave nature of matter washes that away. We perceive time to flow, but how could it, really? We feel ourselves to be free agents, and that’s just quaint. Physicists like nothing better than to expose...

The Spiritual Consciousness of Christof Koch - Issue 107: The Edge

Consciousness is a thriving industry. It’s not just the meditation retreats and ayahuasca shamans. Or the conferences with a heady mix of philosophers, quantum physicists, and Buddhist monks. Consciousness is a buzzing business in neuroscience labs and brain institutes. But it wasn’t always this way. Just a few decades ago, consciousness barely registered...

Weird Dreams Train Our Brains to Be Better Learners - Facts So Romantic

Neural networks need to “dream” of weird, senseless examples to learn well. Maybe we do, too.Photo Illustration by MDV Edwards / ShutterstockFor many of us over the last year and more, our waking experience has, you might say, lost a bit of its variety. We spend more time with the same people, in our homes, and go to fewer places. Our stimuli these...

Order Flocking Out of Chaos - Issue 107: The Edge

At first, they trickle in: one bird here, a few birds there. Then, at dusk’s cue, a dark smudge materializes on the horizon. Thousands of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) slowly come into focus, etching flight paths across the winter sky as they stream toward their evening roost in north-central England. Suddenly, the flock dips and twists like a horse...

The Disneyfication of Atomic Power - Issue 107: The Edge

John Jay Hopkins’s visit to Japan in 1955, as an informal emissary of “Atoms for Peace,” must have seemed surreal to everyone involved. Hopkins was the head of an old American shipbuilding firm based out of Groton, Connecticut. Electric Boat Company had struggled in the 1920s and 1930s with its reputation as a “merchant of death,” having sold warships...

The Safety Belt of Our Solar System - Issue 107: The Edge

David McComas has a favorite “astrosphere,” the environment created by a star’s stellar wind as it buffets the surrounding interstellar medium. It belongs to a star named Mira. In an image from 2006, Mira is heading to the right, at 291,000 miles an hour, 10 times faster than the speed our sun ambles around the Milky Way. You can make out a “bow shock”...

The Math of the Amazing Sandpile - Issue 107: The Edge

Remember domino theory? One country going Communist was supposed to topple the next, and then the next, and the next. The metaphor drove much of United States foreign policy in the middle of the 20th century. But it had the wrong name. From a physical point of view, it should have been called the “sandpile theory.” Real-world political phase transitions...

The Witness Is a Whale - Issue 107: The Edge

In their film, The Witness Is a Whale, filmmakers Nick and Cheryl Dean take us on a remarkable journey to understand the private lives of whales and their societies in the sea as revealed through the behavior of these magnificent giants. This stunning wildlife documentary is also a riveting detective story revealing espionage and deception that spans...

Looking for Life on Mars - Issue 107: The Edge

Terri Randall’s hope when she makes films about space exploration—like Chasing Pluto, for example, or Death Dive to Saturn—is that viewers share scientists’ excitement. That rush of success and discovery. “Look at this moment, and look at his eyes, and look at what he’s so excited to do, and work on for so many years, and take so many risks to answer...

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