Some mammals have a dangerous-looking penis because their glans is covered in spines. In a few cases, we know why they’re there (typically, to induce ovulation during copulation). But in many other species, the purpose of the spiky bits is something of a mystery. »
We think in binaries: plant/animal, day/night, edible/disgusting, safe/dangerous. Breaking the world into discrete chunks helps us make rapid decisions about how to behave, but can also make us uneasy when we’re faced with things that don’t easily fit into one of our mental boxes. »
How did H.P. Lovecraft conquer popular culture? In The Atlantic, writer Philip Eil examines the posthumous history of Lovecraft’s works and the current mania for all things Cthulhu. At the same time, he asks: How can fans reconcile their affection for Lovecraft’s fiction with the author’s virulent racism? »
Psychologists John and Julie Gottman spent years observing couples’ behavior and developed a method that claims to predict a romantic relationship’s chances of long-term success. They’ve (of course) used what they learned to create a $750-per-couple workshop that aims to help people become better partners. »
European languages often use the same word for “story” and “history,” but many English speakers regard these words as antonyms. But how different are they really? At The Last Word on Nothing, Ann Finkbeiner asked some practicing PhD historians for their opinions.
“Albert Einstein made mistakes, and like many physicists he sometimes published them. For most of us, the times when we go astray are happily forgettable. In Einstein’s case, even the mistakes are noteworthy.” Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss explores “what Einstein got wrong,” in the latest issue of SciAm.… »
You’re biased about your biases. “We judge whether we have a bias by examining our thoughts, and because we believe our thoughts are rational, we often think we’re not biased when we are... And the more we convince ourselves that we don’t have certain biases, the more likely we are to exhibit them.” [Nautilus] »
For the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The New Yorker has published online the full text of John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” to which the magazine devoted the entire editorial space of its August 31, 1946 issue. “It does so in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible… »
There’s some damn good reading over at Popular Science right now—they’ve collected ten stories by some of science fiction’s best writers, imagining possible futures. »
‘They will never make a movie about him. He doesn’t have a troubled life. He has a family, and they seem happy, and he’s usually smiling.’’ A student describes the “super normal” Terry Tao, one of the world’s greatest mathematicians, in a recent NYT Mag longread, which, ICYMI, is outstanding. Read it here.
On July 14, this unprecedented image forever changed our view of Pluto. But New Horizons did not beam this photo to Earth as you see it here. It arrived unassembled: rough, lossy, colorless. Revealing Pluto’s true face would require some effort, and a specialized team of scientists with an... unconventional name. »
Lots and lots of things might lay claim to being the “worst story ever written.” But the reigning champion, according to huge swathes of fandom, is probably The Eye of Argon, first published in a fanzine in 1970. You can read the whole thing online. »
The Pacific Northwest is due for a continent-rending earthquake. Experts believe the odds of a Big One happening in the next half century are about one in three, the odds of a Very Big One roughly one in ten, and that, in either case, we are disastrously unprepared. »
Was Star Trek: First Contact really the best Star Trek movie? Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks so, and he’s making a really strong case for it on Twitter right now, in response to our unfortunate oversight in leaving it off our list of time-travel movies. His thoughts on Picard’s arc are well worth reading. »
“I Don’t Believe in God, but I Believe in Lithium” is the self-told story of Jaime Lowe’s twenty-year struggle with bipolar disorder. It is also a lesson in science, medicine, geography, history, and humanity. Mostly, though, it is very good, and you should read it. »
“As the 21st century unfolds, science fiction increasingly comes to seem like a realist rather than a speculative genre,” says one essay/book review in the L.A. Review of Books. It’s just one of a few great pieces up at the LARB site right now, about the choice of futures we face: Mad Max versus Star Trek. »