I reviewed four new science books for The New York Times. They span millions of years, beginning with the birth of humanity and ending with a serious look at AI.
Even as the number of hours in the day remains fixed, the number of decisions we must make grows. Organic versus non? Public versus private? Paper versus digital? Modern adults must navigate real and virtual worlds, and if they have children, they need to keep an eye on their increasingly complicated worlds as well. Indeed, there is now a well-established body of science showing that there are only so many decisions you can make in a day before all your choices become bad ones. Decision-making doesn’t just feel exhausting, it really drains us.
The sins of the fathers may be visited on the deoxyribose nucleic acids of the sons. I wrote about the "Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance" for Slate.
The sensation of suddenly realising you can do something reprehensible, and no one is there to witness it
The Bengalese finch is an aviary bird, bred over centuries for its attractive plumage. It comes in various combinations of white, black and brown. One particularly pretty version is silver. It is also prized for its gregarious and easy-going nature and its complex warbling song. Which is strange because the finch's closest wild relative, the white-rumped munia has a simple, predictable song as well being incredibly shy and easily upset. How could the finch, bred for its colour, have evolved these other elaborate traits as well?
Solving the puzzle of the Bengalese finch promises to throw light on a much larger question in biology: how nature creates complex things.
Ever since Galileo argued that the sun was the center of the solar system, the idea of Earth as the universal hub has been the classic example of scientific arrogance. It's certainly a foolproof example of the way humans consider themselves the rule by which everything else should be measured, but when we use it, there's a sense that we don't make that kind of mistake anymore. Yet even today scientists are swayed by the notion that humans stand at the center of the biological universe, especially when it comes to what we care about most: our minds.
A young boy who underwent lifesaving brain surgery wakes up with a different British accent. The Age.