Photo by Hans Reniers on Unsplash

Wet bulb temperature is one of those features of climate change caused by global warming that often gets left out when discussing the radical changes our planet is going to experience in the coming years. Discussion has largely focused on issues such as drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, storm activity, and even unusual cold. The impacts of increased heat have been left out because we assume, incorrectly it turns out, that human beings can adapt to moderate increases in global temperature.

This turns out to be false, particularly in areas prone to hot and humid weather. It all comes down to one…

Photo by Maximalfocus on Unsplash

From Skynet to Star Trek’s Data, we are fascinated and a little bit scared of machine consciousness. Before we start figuring out how to burn Asimov’s three laws of robotics into positronic brains, however, we need to figure out what it means for ourselves to be consciousness.

A theory called the Global Workspace Theory (GWT), now about 30 years old, has been gaining ground in cognitive neuroscience as the best theory of consciousness so far. What’s more AI researchers are starting to pay attention, beginning what may be the race to build a conscious machine.

Before we get into GWT…

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

The philosopher Descartes was the first to suggest that people’s minds and bodies might be completely separate. He did so largely to solve both a religious and a scientific problem of the day. The religious problem was unbelief by scientifically minded people. Descartes firmly believed that his philosophy was on par with mathematical proofs and that people who needed proof of religious ideas like the immortality of the soul would see his work as such. He never did prove the immortality of the soul, only that, if mind (and therefore soul) was separate from the destructible body, then it could…

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Benjamin Franklin once quipped in a letter to a friend that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Perhaps taxes are timeless but death is not so. Rather, it is intimately linked to the direction time flows — the arrow of time. If time flowed backward, I would say that nothing is certain except birth and taxes. (Or maybe “sexat dna htrib”.)

Most people talk about the arrow of time in the context of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the law that entropy always increases with time. …

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

The phrase “public apathy” was coined in the 1940s by marketing researchers. The idea is that if the public doesn’t care about what you are trying to market to them, then they are “apathetic”.

This term is wrongly applied to groups of people who are — on the contrary — experiencing complex and wide ranging emotions about what is happening to them, the outcome of which is inaction.

Dr. Renée Lertzman, a psychologist and social scientist who studies the connection between psychology and ecological degradation, heads Project Inside-Out devoted to developing a new way of doing public outreach. Her Ph.D…

The Starry Night-Vincent Van Gogh/Public Domain

I visited one of the Van Gogh immersive experiences recently, having purchased the tickets months ago on impulse to try something different. The experience exposes you to a lot of his work at once, hundreds of paintings all created in a short period of time. Indeed, for a while his productivity was one painting every 36 hours.

Van Gogh’s work is not intended to be true to life. He was certainly capable of making exact drawings. The effect of his art is to convey through color and thick wavy brushstrokes a world overlaid with emotional intensity. …

Photo by Garidy Sanders on Unsplash

Free will is a big open problem in philosophy. Once upon a time, physics thought it had the problem solved: there was none. The French physicist LaPlace championed the idea that, because all physics was pre-determined by laws both backward and forwards in time and because human beings are physical beings, all our behavior must have been scripted from the beginning of time.

That idea vanished with the development of quantum physics. The world turned out to be random. Our decisions appeared to affect the nature of reality itself with what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”.

You can…

Public Domain. Rabies and hydrophobia : their history, nature, causes, symptoms, and prevention / by George Fleming.

Transmitted by animal bites, rabies is a terrifying disease. Virtually every person who contracts the virus and shows symptoms dies horribly. Victims suffer from severe physical and psychological effects. While it starts out with flu-like symptoms, it progresses to hallucinations, fear, paralysis, aggression, difficulty swallowing, and ultimately coma and death.

What makes it so terrible is its insidious ability to penetrate the central nervous system, seek out neurons, and attack them. Yet, it is precisely this ability that may make it an effective treatment vehicle for disorders of the central nervous system, the most common of which is Parkinson’s disease.

Albert Einstein 1921//Public Domain

We love the story of the lone, eccentric genius.

We believe that the next great leap forward in human understanding must come from a single person — that all of science is waiting for the next Einstein.

Plenty of would-be Einsteins publish their theories, some in non-peer reviewed wastelands like and even, others on if they manage to get an endorsement, and still others in peer reviewed journals where their theories may garner a few citations.

Some email them to me.

Few who entertain such delusions of grandeur understand Einstein’s actual achievements.

Politics is said to be…

Kenneth Wilson — Ginsparg, Paul. “Kenneth g. wilson: Renormalized after-dinner anecdotes.” Journal of Statistical Physics 157.4 (2014): 610–624.

In 1982, Kenneth Wilson won the Nobel Prize in Physics for an unusual achievement. He had developed a theory about scale — size in lay parlance. In particular, Wilson had shown how the rigid barriers that appear to exist between different scales break down close to what are called critical points — place where objects transition from one phase to another. For example, as ice gets closer to melting suddenly what is going on at the molecular level affects what is going on at the macroscopic level and vice versa. …

Tim Andersen, Ph.D.

Research in general relativity and quantum field theory. Principal Research Scientist at Georgia Tech. Book The Infinite Universe (2020) on Amazon.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store