Seven Puzzles for the Seventh Month

(July 4, 2019) The Old Bridge Four people with one flashlight between them have to cross a rickety two-person capacity bridge in the next 17 minutes before a hurricane destroys it: Alice...

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Global Population and Kids

(June 20, 2019) The only proven method for curbing population growth is to eradicate extreme poverty and give people better lives, including education and contraceptives. — Hans Rosling, Factfulness Quick quiz to get...

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Terraforming Mars

Part 2 of 2

(June 6, 2019) Last week, we looked at the difference between "terraforming-lite," warming Mars to the point where it has a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere and liquid water oceans, and "full terraforming," where...

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Terraforming Mars

Part 1 of 2

(May 30, 2019) Say the word quickly and it doesn't sound that difficult. We know how to warm Earth (unfortunately) so it shouldn't take much to warm much smaller Mars. After that, it's...

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The Universe: Whodunnit?

(May 16, 2019) Cosmology is essentially a whodunnit but, unlike your typical 600-page detective yarn, this story doesn't unfold clue by clue until the denouement in last few pages. The puzzle — basically,...

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Sunshine Vitamin vs. Skin Cancer

(May 2, 2019) It's a conundrum: Ultraviolet B radiation from the sun is both the best source of vitamin D — the "sunshine vitamin" — and the the major cause of skin cancer....

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Our Worst Mistake, Part 2

(April 11, 2019) Last week, we looked at anthropologist Jared Diamond's claim that the Neolithic Revolution, when most hunter-gatherers settled down to become farmers, was "the worst mistake in the history of the...

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Our Worst Mistake, Part 1

(April 4, 2019) The downturn in human nutrition began long before Ray Kroc brought Big Macs to the masses, Coca Cola conned developing countries into buying their addictive sugary concoctions and Nestlé...

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Measuring the Meter

(March 21, 2019) We're spatial creatures. We live in a three-dimensional world, with our fourth "dimension" — time — conceptualized in terms of space. That is, we refer to time as if it...

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No Celtic? Blame the Volcano

(March 6, 2019) Celtic is virtually absent in the English language, despite the fact that almost everyone in what is now England spoke a branch of Celtic before Germanic speakers invaded the country...

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Delusion is My (and Your) Middle Name

(February 21, 2019) Quick quiz: Would you rather receive $100 right now or $120 a month from now? Most people take the $100 right now, despite the extraordinary offer of 20 percent...

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James Dyson's Electric Car

(February 7, 2019) "Anyone who can convince people to part with $400 for a hair dryer knows a thing or two about marketing." — Steve Hanley, CleanTechnica James Dyson built 5,127 prototypes before...

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Cancer, Part 2: Turtles, Birds and Rabbits

(January 24, 2019) Last week, we looked at some of the many reasons why the diagnosis and treatment of cancer are so difficult and controversial. A common way of illustrating the problem is...

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Cancer, Part 1: The Unwinnable War

(January 17, 2019) Like the War on Drugs, the $500 million War on Cancer was doomed from the get-go. In the case of drugs, you're fighting human nature. With cancer, the opponent is...

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Looking for Aliens

(January 3, 2019) Seems we're hearing a lot about aliens these days. They're humans supposedly swarming over the border, snails invading our lakes, plants taking over the dunes. Even cancer cells, those utterly...

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