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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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The Race to Explore the Ocean’s Twilight Zone

When you go to the “deep end” of the ocean, I’d always been told, don’t fight the undertow or it’ll drag you down. You have to let it sweep you until you can float past it. That’s where you’ll find the best places to snorkel. This was the Caribbean, where I grew up, and where I first ventured past where the waves begin to form, to that place...

Were It Not for Cosmic Good Fortune, We Wouldn’t Be Here

Who doesn’t want the trains to run on time? When stuff runs like clockwork, we’re happy. And thankfully, that’s how the planets orbit the sun: dependable, and always on time. But it wasn’t always like this. Scientists suspect the solar system, some time in its early years, underwent a violent seismic shift. The orbits of the gas giants—Jupiter and Saturn—got...

Portrait of the Human as a Young Hominin

The swifts arrive with thunder at their backs. Winter birds, they appear, loudly, and in great numbers, pursuing the emerging insect swarms just as the wet season begins after more than four months without rain. The arrival of the migratory birds marks the return of fertility and life, the continuation of a seasonal pattern that will last for millions...

Life’s First Peptides May Have Grown on RNA Strands

The idea that life’s deepest, oldest roots were laid down by RNA molecules that evolved ever more complexity has dominated the origins-of-life field for the past few decades, reigning over competing theories that started instead with peptides or DNA. But recently, the field has shifted toward theories that include more than one protagonist. One...

You Eat a Credit Card’s Worth of Plastic Every Week

Martin Wagner was annoyed that his colleagues were always talking about microplastics in the ocean. It was 2010 and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch had been headline news. Here was this massive gyre, formed by circular ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean, reportedly brimming with plastic particles, killing sea turtles and seagulls. Wagner, a professor...

The Oceans Are Teeming with Unknown Species

When a group of marine scientists decided to form the World Register of Marine Species in 2007, it only had a small team of 55 researchers from 17 countries, but a grand and ambitious goal: to create a definitive, online, open-access list of all the names for all the living species in the world’s oceans. The endeavor, known by the acronym WoRMS, emerged...

No Two Human Brains Are Alike

The brains of human beings are different from those of every other species of animal, because all species’ brains have been tuned to their lifestyles through millions of years of evolution. A spider’s brain is geared to weaving webs and catching flies, a fish’s brain is tuned for a life in the water, and a human brain is geared to human affairs. ...

What Is Time?

I think the flow of time is not part of the fundamental structure of reality,” theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli tells me. He is currently working on a theory of quantum gravity in which the variable of time plays no part. And throughout our conversation, I’m trying to get my mind around the idea that even though the universe is made up of “events,”...

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse in Science

Doctor Strange’s latest adventures find him hopping across the multiverse, meeting alternate versions of himself and his enemies as he tries to save not just our universe but every universe. In popular media and our imaginations, Doctor Strange isn’t alone. We surround ourselves with concepts of a multiverse, which present the tantalizing possibility...

How Much Is the Ocean Worth?

A few years ago, Ralph Chami, a financial economist with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was on a boat in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez with researchers studying blue whales. He knew nothing about the whales—only that seeing them in the wild was on his “bucket list”—but the moment Chami saw his first blue whale surface next to their boat, he felt everything...

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