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.

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The Damage We’re Not Attending To - Issue 87: Risk

World War II bomber planes returned from their missions riddled with bullet holes. The first response was, not surprisingly, to add armor to those areas most heavily damaged. However, the statistician Abraham Wald made what seemed like the counterintuitive recommendation to add armor to those parts with no damage. Wald had uniquely understood that the...

The Things We Can’t Control Are Beautiful - Issue 87: Risk

Poker players like to brag they win with luck not skill. So do investment bankers. Scientists. And writers. Skill, we insist, is our ticket to success. Who can blame us? It’s a useful delusion to bank our identity on skill, says Maria Konnikova. We can’t stand trembling in the chaos. We need some way to convince ourselves we can cash in. That skill...

The Contagion Detective - Issue 87: Risk

The COVID-19 pandemic was some epidemiologist’s nightmare when Adam Kucharski was writing Rules of Contagion. Released this week, the book, which includes brief mentions of the encroaching COVID-19 storm, draws on ideas from “outbreak science” to illuminate how and why viruses spread. Information from biology, Kucharski expertly demonstrates, has helped...

What I Learned from Losing $200 Million - Issue 87: Risk

I’d lost almost $200 million in October. November wasn’t looking any better. It was 2008, after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. Markets were in turmoil. Banks were failing left and right. I worked at a major investment bank, and while I didn’t think the disastrous deal I’d done would cause its collapse, my losses were quickly decimating its commodities...

This Philosophical Argument Convinced People to Give More to Charity - Facts So Romantic

How much would you pay to prevent your own child becoming blind?Photograph by 1000Photography / ShutterstockLast fall Fiery Cushman, the director of the Moral Psychology Research Lab at Harvard, and I announced a contest: We would award $1,000 to the author of an argument that effectively convinces research participants to donate a surprise bonus payment...

How the Pandemic Has Tested Behavioral Science - Facts So Romantic

In the interplay between behavioral science and policy, puffs of smoke abound.Photo illustration by metamorworks / ShutterstockIn March the United Kingdom curiously declined to impose significant social distancing measures in response to the global pandemic. The government was taking advice from the so-called “Nudge Unit,” a private company called Behavioral...

The Dr. Strange of the American Revolution - Facts So Romantic

In Rush, author Stephen Fried confirms what earlier biographical writings on the doctor had observed: that history misunderstood him, “had not taken him seriously enough as a founder, a writer, a teacher, and a revolutionary in politics, medicine, religion, public health, and philosophy.”.Painting by John Trumbull / WikicommonsI ascribe the Success...

Uncovering the Spark of Life - Issue 86: Energy

This summer, NASA’s Perseverance rover will set out on a voyage to the edge of the Jezero crater on Mars. The goal of the mission is to learn more about our neighboring planet, and to collect core samples that will one day return to Earth. The hope is that by studying the ancient carbonate rocks that line the northern edge of the crater, we might glean...

The Idea of Entropy Has Led Us Astray - Issue 86: Energy

Last summer, in the early days of a heat wave that would culminate in the highest temperatures ever recorded in Paris, I biked across the city to meet my friend Romain Graziani. At a sidewalk café, we sipped burnt espresso and watched the air shimmer weirdly over the cobbles. Romain, who is a scholar of ancient Chinese texts, shared an idea that had...

The Black Sheep of Black Holes - Facts So Romantic

Primordial black holes could have formed in the absence of any matter, from quantum fluctuations that would go on to form, after billions of years, the filament-like scaffolding around which all galaxy clusters now coalesce. NASAThe Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar once remarked that black holes, regions of spacetime whose gravitational...

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