Imprisoned in the fortress of Taureau, a tiny thumb of rock off the windswept coast of Brittany, the French revolutionary Louis-Auguste Blanqui gazed toward the stars. He had been locked up for his role in the socialist movement that would lead to the Paris Commune of 1871. As Blanqui looked up at the night sky, he found comfort in the possibility of other worlds. While life on … [Read more...] about Is time a linear arrow or a loopy, repeating circle? – Paul Halpern
‘These foundations [of mathematics] are, moreover, a perpetual source of reflection and discovery for the masters of the science. Even in number system you will find material for long reflection. Remember that Leibniz did not disdain to occupy himself with it.’ – Paul Valéry, letter to Pierre Honnorat, 1942There are almost too many examples of the power … [Read more...] about The secret intellectual history of mathematics – Mordechai Levy-Eichel
An 'octomite', or a speculative alien produced by natural selection. Courtesy Helen Cooper/Cambridge University Samuel Levin is a postgraduate student in zoology at the University of Oxford. 1,400 words Edited by Pam Weintraub Republish for free What would convince you that aliens existed? The question came up recently at a conference on astrobiology, held … [Read more...] about Proof of life: how would we recognise an alien if we saw one?
Imagine throwing a baseball and not being able to tell exactly where it’ll go, despite your ability to throw accurately. Say that you are able to predict only that it will end up, with equal probability, in the mitt of one of five catchers. The baseball randomly materialises in one catcher’s mitt, while the others come up empty. And before it’s caught, you … [Read more...] about The elegant physics experiment to decode the nature of reality – Anil Ananthaswamy
Cicada, North Carolina, May 2011. Photo courtesy Wikimedia. Derek J Skillings is a biologist and philosopher of science. He is currently a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been published in Philosophy of Science and Trends in Ecology and Evolution, among others. 1,400 words Edited by Sally Davies Republish for free Cicadas … [Read more...] about I, holobiont. Are you and your microbes a community or a single entity?