Science

Even as machines known as “deep neural networks” have learned to converse, drive cars, beat video games and Go champions, dream, paint pictures and help make scientific discoveries, they have also confounded their human creators, who never expected so-called “deep-learning” algorithms to work so well. No underlying principle has guided…

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Brains, beyond their signature achievements in thinking and problem solving, are paragons of energy efficiency. The human brain’s power consumption resembles that of a 20-watt incandescent lightbulb. In contrast, one of the world’s largest and fastest supercomputers, the K computer in Kobe, Japan, consumes as much as 9.89 megawatts of…

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The world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, has failed to find any of the hoped-for particles that would lead physicists beyond the Standard Model of particle physics. But it’s possible that the LHC has been producing such pivotal new particles all…

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You probably can’t remember what it feels like to play Super Mario Bros. for the very first time, but try to picture it. An 8-bit game world blinks into being: baby blue sky, tessellated stone ground, and in between, a squat, red-suited man standing still—waiting. He’s facing rightward; you nudge…

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When new species evolve, where do their viruses come from? As little more than free-ranging bundles of genetic material, viruses desperately need to hijack their hosts’ cellular machinery and resources to replicate, over and over again. Without its host, a virus is nothing. Because of that dependence, some viruses have…

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When Rebecca Goldin spoke to a recent class of incoming freshmen at George Mason University, she relayed a disheartening statistic: According to a recent study, 36 percent of college students don’t significantly improve in critical thinking during their four-year tenure. “These students had trouble distinguishing fact from opinion, and cause…

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Suppose aliens land on our planet and want to learn our current scientific knowledge. I would start with the 40-year-old documentary Powers of Ten. Granted, it’s a bit out of date, but this short film, written and directed by the famous designer couple Charles and Ray Eames, captures in less…

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When it became possible to remove a tumor from a patient and study it in a dish, the field of oncology was transformed. Sergiu Paşca, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, wants psychiatry to experience the same kind of revolution. Yet the brain presents an even greater challenge than cancer. Without…

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Scientists have been using quantum theory for almost a century now, but embarrassingly they still don’t know what it means. An informal poll taken at a 2011 conference on Quantum Physics and the Nature of Reality showed that there’s still no consensus on what quantum theory says about reality—the participants…

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Daniel Kish sees more than you might expect, for a blind man. Like many individuals deprived of sight, he relies on his non-visual senses to perceive, map, and navigate the world. But people tend to find Kish’s abilities rather remarkable. Reason being: Kish can echolocate. Yes, like a bat. As…

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