Groundwater: Overpumped, Undervalued, and Essential to Water and Food Security

William M. Alley and Rosemarie Alley— Groundwater is the source of drinking water for about half the world’s people, as well as the dominant source of household water in rural areas. Many large cities depend solely or largely on groundwater. Groundwater is also critical to food production, providing more than

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Silent Assassins: How Owls Adapted to Nocturnal Hunting

Mike Unwin— You needn’t be a birder to recognize an owl. The round face and large, forward-facing eyes immediately distinguish it from any other bird. And it is arguably this face—with its superficially human expressions—that explains why owls have maintained such a hold on our imaginations. It has led us to personify the

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Stage Fright, Shyness, and Speaking to the Crowd

Joe Moran— I have been shy for as long as I can remember. For half of my life it just seemed an inconvenience, something to live with rather than be curious about. I became interested in shyness as a subject—one that might repay careful reflection—when I began to find my

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Why Israel’s Population Matters

Alon Tal— Some fifty years ago, environmentalists began to speak out about the grave environmental impacts of an exponentially growing population. These concerns resonated with large elements of the public, even as the implications flew in the face of some axiomatic assumptions about modern, Western society. Growing populations are associated

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Finding Solace in the Cosmos

David Bercovici— I was born in 1960, and by the time I decided I wanted to be a scientist at the young age of 12, the Vietnam War had been going on for my entire life. As far as any of us of that generation were concerned, the war had

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Vera Rubin and the Discovery of Dark Matter

James Owen Weatherall— When Vera Rubin was first invited to use the telescope at the Palomar Observatory, in the mountains outside San Diego, the form she was asked to fill out included the following notice: “Due to limited Facilities, it is not possible to accept application from women.” In pencil, someone

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Politics in the Age of Social Media

Emily Weinstein & Howard Gardner— While there was never a “golden age” of politics, journalism, or democracy, social media has permanently disrupted assumptions that were widely shared for much of the twentieth century. In that earlier era, political parties were strong; candidates for major offices were vetted by people who

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Surprises Springing from Trees

Fiona Stafford— At a secret location somewhere in the White Mountains of California is the world’s oldest individual tree. This ancient Great Basin bristlecone pine (pinus longaeva) has been growing there for more than 5,000 years, at least two centuries longer than its nearest rival, which is a mere 4,850,

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World AIDS Day: Remembering the Epidemic

Peter Selwyn— Thirty-five years ago, in the summer of 1981, the AIDS epidemic officially began. Thirty-five years can seem like a lifetime, and in many cases they were, in a sense, as young men and women died in their twenties and thirties from a disease that was relentless, devastating, and

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Podcast: The Science of Human Evolution

How have humans evolved and what drives this evolution? Evolutionary biologist Scott Solomon, author of Future Humans, discusses the science of human evolution. Listen in iTunes.