Babies in the Womb Begin Learning Language from Their Mothers

Babies only hours old are able to differentiate between sounds from their native language and a foreign language, scientists have discovered: Sensory and brain mechanisms for hearing are developed at 30 weeks of gestational age, and the new study shows that unborn babies are listening to their mothers talk during the last 10 weeks of [Read More…]

Why You Won’t Be the Person You Expect to Be

Somewhere an 87 year old man is looking back on his life and saying to himself, “You know, when I was 65 I just didn’t have a clue.” They called this phenomenon the “end of history illusion,” in which people tend to “underestimate how much they will change in the future.” According to their research, [Read More…]

Medieval Churches with Stained Glass Were Photocatalytic Air Purifiers

A researcher has found that tiny gold particles found in medieval gold paint reacted with sunlight to destroy air-borne pollutants: The glaziers who created gold-painted stained glass windows for medieval churches in Europe inadvertently developed a solar-powered nanotech air-purification system. According to Zhu Huai Yong, an associate professor at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, [Read More…]

Jerry Seinfeld Explains How to Write a Joke

The comedian describes the anatomy of his Pop-Tart joke and shows his longhand writing process. [Read more…]

Why Your Friends Have More Friends Than You

For any network where some people have more friends than others, it’s a theorem that the average number of friends of friends is always greater than the average number of friends of individuals. This phenomenon has been called the friendship paradox. Its explanation hinges on a numerical pattern — a particular kind of “weighted average” [Read More…]

Why Ancient Romans Never Dreamed of Being Video Game Designers

Many of the dream jobs of the 21st century, says Kevin Kelly, were created by the capabilities of our machines: Before we invented automobiles, air-conditioning, flatscreen video displays, and animated cartoons, no one living in ancient Rome wished they could watch cartoons while riding to Athens in climate-controlled comfort. Two hundred years ago not a [Read More…]

Pastors Who Didn’t Make the Cut

From a church search committee report: The following is a confidential report on several candidates being considered for our new Pastor. Adam: Good man but problems with his wife. Also one reference told of how his wife and he enjoy walking nude in the woods. Noah: Former pastorate of 120 years with not even one [Read More…]

Apple Products Account for 14 Percent of All Crime in NYC

If you go to NYC, guard your iPhone carefully: The NYPD has released statistics that imply, basically, that Apple product theft makes up 14 percent of all reported crime in the city. It’s absurd and sad and sort of predictable but mostly just the sad and absurd. Apple products were reported stolen in NYC 11,447 [Read More…]

Where Can Silence Be Heard?

Audio ecologist Gordon Hempton defines silence as “the complete absence of all audible mechanical vibrations, leaving only the sounds of nature at her most natural. Silence is the presence of everything, undisturbed.” This natural silence, though, is becoming increasingly rare—even in the most remote locations: [Hempton] says there are fewer than a dozen places of [Read More…]

The Wilderness of Childhood

Novelist Michael Chabon wonders whether denying children the freedom to roam is stifling their imaginations: Childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure, a tale of privation, courage, constant vigilance, danger, and sometimes calamity. For the most part the young adventurer sets forth equipped only with the fragmentary map—marked here [Read More…]