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You’re taking your bicycle out of the shed, getting ready to go to work. Do you have your lock? Check. Wallet? Check. Keys? Check.

Finally, you turn to your bicycle helmet, and, with a groan, place that unsightly and unwieldy piece of polycarbonate upon your crown. After all, you say to yourself, bicycle helmets are a crucial safety precaution.

Here’s the problem: there’s no evidence that bicycle helmets make you any safer. Experts range from believing that they have no effect whatsoever to thinking that they make you very slightly more unsafe. This is because even just wearing a helmet…


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Eating meat is wrong. It causes almost unimaginable levels of suffering for trivial levels of (perceived) convenience and taste preference. It is spectacularly wasteful, being at least 10 times less efficient per acre than growing plants [1]. And it is woeful for the environment — and unlike commodities like electricity, it does not even improve human life in the process.

This year, 72 billion land animals will be killed around the world for food. This is a daily death toll of 200 million, easily tripling the total body count from World War II. When we include accidental wild animal deaths…


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Jacques-Louis David’s 1787 painting ‘The Death of Socrates’. Socrates was the founder of moral philosophy, depicted here facing execution by poison for trumped-up charges of “impiety”.

Between 1974 and 1978, Ted Bundy brutally raped and murdered over 30 women. Bundy was the prototypical psychopath. He had no empathy, no conscience, no moral code. When interviewed about his murders, he would respond with things like “I don’t feel guilty for anything. I feel sorry for people who feel guilt.”

The problem that disturbs me is whether we could ever really say that what he did was objectively wrong. If Ted Bundy were perfectly rational, is there any argument we could use to get him to care about other people’s suffering? …


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Philosopher of science Karl Popper.

Much of modern science sound bizarre and completely goes against common sense. At the same time, a great deal of quackery and gobbledygook purports to be “scientific”. Given this situation, it would be useful to know if there was something concrete separating science from non-science. This is something philosophers call ‘the demarcation problem’.

The philosopher of science Karl Popper famously proposed the criterion of falsifiability: an idea is scientific if and only it can be unambiguously proved wrong. To Popper, the reason why theology and psychoanalysis are not scientific is that you can always weave a story to connect the…


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If you lived in 18th century Switzerland, the Bernoullis were the family you wanted to have at your cocktail party. In four generations, they produced eight of the world’s most gifted mathematicians; the greatest intellectual dynasty the world has ever seen. One of the Bernoulli children, Nicolas, had a mathematical problem he liked to challenge his brothers with. The problem: you are offered a bet in which you flip a coin. If you get heads, the casino gives you $2, and you are allowed to flip the coin again. If you get heads a second time, you are rewarded with…


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In 1929, our place in the universe was forever changed. Edwin Hubble, working at the Mount Wilson Observatory, made the observation that the universe is expanding: distant galaxies are travelling away from us, with more distant galaxies travelling away faster. He did this by observing the gravitational redshift — the shift toward the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum — that occurs when light is emitted from receding galaxies. Moreover, he found that the increase in velocity is in direct proportion to the galaxies’ distance from us, with a constant of proportionality called Hubble’s constant, denoted H. Mathematically, this is…


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On the 26th of April 1920, scientists and members of the public piled into a crowded lecture hall to hear astronomy’s most legendary debate. The night’s motion: was our galaxy the only one? Arguing for the motion was the young and ambitious astronomer Harlow Shapley, and against it was his more senior Herbert Curtis of Lick Observatory.

Many of Shapley and Curtis’ central points hinged upon observations of nebulae (the term used to apply to any diffuse astronomical object) and their distances from Earth. However, the data just weren’t there to come to a decisive conclusion.

Finding such data would…


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The idea of black holes goes back further than most people imagine. The first theoretical prediction of their existence goes back to the 1780s and was made by John Michell, one of the great unsung figures in eighteenth-century science. In a remarkably prescient letter, Michell called dubbed the hypothesised objects “dark stars”.

Born in 1724 in the small village of Eakring, Nottinghamshire, Michell studied at Cambridge University. A true polymath, he later went on to teach there, instructing students in everything from Hebrew to geology. In 1761, Michell was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, before settling down…


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Throughout 95% of human existence, our species survived entirely through hunting and foraging. Around twelve or thirteen thousand years ago, in a fertile region of land in the modern Middle East, somebody hit upon the idea that we ought to grow our own food, and thus, agriculture was born.

Most people would seem to be of the opinion that this was a good thing. The ‘Agricultural Revolution’ has been described as a necessary step in the march of progress toward our modern lives. Instead of nomadic bands, the switch to agriculture caused societies to organise themselves around permanent settlements and…


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Jean-Jacques Rousseau (left) and Thomas Hobbes (right), two influential philosophers of human nature

Have you ever thought about what your theory of human nature is? We all have one. Far from being an intellectual curiosity, a tacit theory of human nature is required to make practical and ethical judgements, process information from the world around you, and communicate and interact in a social environment. If you and I have premises which rest on different assumptions about humans’ natural dispositions, however, then our surface-level disagreements may be rooted in a schism of much deeper philosophical convictions. There is a hierarchical structure to moral and intellectual judgements regarding humans, and we’re often looking at the…

Sam Enright

Undergrad interested in economics, philosophy, psychology and effective altruism.

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