Science, Nature, Tech

Burying Carbon Dioxide Sounds Clever But….

    Reading the news these days is hard. I open last week’s issue of The Week and learn that “forever chemicals”—human-made PFAS that keep our eggs from sticking to the pan, our hiking clothes from getting soggy, and our floss gliding between our teeth—will cost billions to remove from the planet. PFAS can take […]

Repair of the World

      The waiter has a toilet plunger over his shoulder. “He locked his keys in his car,” the bartender explains. “He’s trying to get the window down.” I feel ancient: my first thought was a coat hanger. “In my day,” I say—oh my God did I actually just start a sentence that way? […]

Fear of Flushing

    “Automatic flushing toilets, which use sensors to detect when a person has finished using the toilet and flush automatically, are designed to improve hygiene and convenience by eliminating the need for manual flushing.”   That, at least, was the plan. But if you walk into a public restroom, fifty-fifty odds say you will […]

Slouching Toward Chatbots

    Washington University just issued some sensible guidance to researchers excited about the latest AI capabilities: check accuracy, be transparent, be vigilant. A friend who works in the public sector tells me he has outsourced all the boring parts of his job to chatbots. I have begun to ask them frivolous questions: “If I […]

The Genes That Make Us Human—and How We Thwart Them

    Though I often prefer other species, humans do have an extraordinary ability to use language, tell stories, make art, share symbols, show altruism, and improve our own well-being. Why? A new study is the first to identify 267 genes that distinguish modern humans from chimpanzees and Neanderthals. Nearly all those 267 genes helped […]

Bac To The Future

Antibiotics have received a great deal of media attention in the wake of the recent discovery of teixobactin, a new soil bacterium with strong antibiotic properties. Northeasten University professor Kim Lewis and a team of scientists found teixobactin in soil samples from a grass field in Maine through the use of an iChip, a board with holes […]