Category Archives: Humanity

Is music what makes us human?

Kevin Berger writes: In the past two years, the debate over whether music is universal, or even whether that debate has merit, has raged like a battle of the bands among scientists. The stage has expanded from musicology to evolutionary biology to cultural anthropology. This summer, in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, more than… Read More »

Nature knows how to avoid network collapse

Ruth DeFries writes: Sometime in the first billion years of the planet’s 4.5-billion-year history, a cell emerged in a primordial stew of chemicals brewing in liquid water. At that moment, the predictable chemistry and physics of the early Earth gave way to seething, roiling complexity. Primitive life thrived in the deep sea, where underwater volcanoes… Read More »

What makes Elon Musk and Carl Sagan worlds apart

Shannon Stirone writes: There’s no place like home—unless you’re Elon Musk. A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship, which may someday send humans to Mars, is, according to Musk, likely to launch soon, possibly within the coming days. But what motivates Musk? Why bother with Mars? A video clip from an interview Musk gave in 2019 seems… Read More »

Economic growth has become a malignancy

Here is Dr. Mike Ryan speaking at a @trocaire event yesterday about the catastrophe we're walking into. I genuinely think this is the most important clip you'll ever see. pic.twitter.com/eKxBWEu7SM — Eoghan Rice (@rice_e) February 18, 2021 Mike Ryan, World Health Organization

The ongoing collapse of the world’s aquifers

Matt Simon writes: As California’s economy skyrocketed during the 20th century, its land headed in the opposite direction. A booming agricultural industry in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, combined with punishing droughts, led to the over-extraction of water from aquifers. Like huge, empty water bottles, the aquifers crumpled, a phenomenon geologists call subsidence. By 1970,… Read More »

Insect populations suffering death by 1,000 cuts, say scientists

The Guardian reports: Insect populations are suffering “death by a thousand cuts”, with many falling at “frightening” rates that are “tearing apart the tapestry of life”, according to scientists behind a new volume of studies. The insects face multiple, overlapping threats including the destruction of wild habitats for farming, urbanisation, pesticides and light pollution. Population… Read More »

Human-made stuff now outweighs every living thing on Earth

ScienceAlert reports: All of the Amazon’s splendid greenery. Every fish in the Pacific. Every microbe underfoot. Every elephant on the plains, every flower, fungus, and fruit-fly in the fields, no longer outweighs the sheer amount of stuff humans have made. Estimates on the total mass of human-made material suggest 2020 is the year we overtake… Read More »

What complexity science says about what makes a winning team

Jessica Flack and Cade Massey write: In Philip K Dick’s classic science fiction novel Ubik, one of the main characters, Runciter, is in charge of assembling a team of individuals called ‘inertials’. The hope is that they will counteract the power of ‘precogs’ and ‘telepaths’, recruited by corporations to carry out espionage and other nefarious… Read More »