Variables

 
Reported features, essays, op-eds, columns, and reviews.

Modern Life and Its Diseases: The Light Connection

From shift work in brightly-lit buildings to late evenings spent staring at a screen, routine exposure to artificial light is associated not just with psychiatric disorders, but with certain cancers. Unlocking the biological mechanisms that respond to artificial light is one of the great challenges facing scientists today.

How Scientists Can Win the War(s) on Science

The reason science is drawn into ideological fights in the first place is that advocates want to be seen as having science on their side. And while these battles can make researchers feel like collateral damage, they must accept the fact that they can’t stop them from happening.

Rethinking the Rules for Police Interrogations

A growing body of research suggests that standard police interrogation techniques can contribute to false confessions. When these tools are used on people who are prone to confessing falsely — like children or the intellectually disabled — the results can be disastrous, and the law does not protect them.

Five Questions for Steven Pinker

In the debut of the “Undark Five” — a new feature in which our editors put five questions to influential, provocative, sometimes controversial scientific thinkers — Harvard psychologist, linguist, and author Steven Pinker meditates on journalism, violence, and the contextual fluidity of language.

The App Will See You Now

Smartphones can provide unique insights into our social lives, including data on how often we typically call or text with other people, or how regularly we get out of the house. New apps that track abrupt changes in those patterns can signal possible depression — although studies on their efficacy are still scarce.

Living With Deep-Sea Mining

Supporters of the nascent deep-sea mining industry, which seeks to prospect among mineral-rich hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, argue that it can be done sustainably and with minimal disturbance to the surrounding seafloor. They might be right — but only if sound conservation science continues to inform the process.

Mother’s Little Helper

A recent study suggested that flibanserin, a newly approved drug aimed at treating low libido in premenopausal women, was less effective — and more risky — than previously thought. But as supporters and detractors of the drug squared off, a more fundamental question was lost: Does the disorder really exist?

Return of the Blue Dragon

For the 11 years that Shurna DeCou worked as a journalist in the Cayman Islands, she followed the struggle to protect — and along the way fell in love with — the blue iguana. Today, in large part due to volunteer efforts, their numbers are recovering. Whether that trend will continue, however, is far from certain, as threats loom in all directions.

Coincidence, Or Simple Con?

The word con stands for the confidence game: You willingly give your confidence, or trust, to someone who abuses that confidence for personal ends. But con games often succeed, in part, because they also play on our apparent inability to dismiss the improbable as purely coincidental.

Tracker 2.0: Rogue Press Officers

Tracker 2.0, now wearing fancier clothes and appearing as a regular column, will continue to turn a discerning eye on science journalism — the good, the bad, and the occasionally mystifying — with the hope that our analyses will help to keep science writing vibrant, alive, and free from temptation.

The Ache for Order, the Virtue of Chance

As a species, we crave predictability and order. What a surprise, then, to find that — from the mutation of genes to the process known as diffusion — randomness is essential to the workings of nature — and perhaps even required for human beings to exist at all.

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