Lab Notes

Short stories and links shared by the scientists in our community

Do Stars Fall Quietly into Black Holes, or Crash into Something Utterly Unknown?

Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University have put a basic principle of black holes to the test, showing that matter completely vanishes when pulled in. Their results constitute another successful test for Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Has lithium-battery genius John Goodenough done it again?

Researchers have struggled for decades to safely use powerful—but flammable—lithium metal in a battery. Now John Goodenough, the 94-year-old father of the lithium-ion battery, is claiming a novel solution as a blockbuster advance.

Starving Prostate Cancer With What You Eat for Dinner

When you dine on curry and baked apples, enjoy the fact that you are eating something that could play a role starving — or even preventing — cancer.

Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith review – the octopus as intelligent alien

"If we can make contact with cephalopods as sentient beings, it is not because of a shared history, not because of kinship, but because evolution built minds twice over."

Octopus: The Footed Void

Their intelligence is all the more striking because it has evolved completely independently of the line that gave rise to us: our last common ancestor—perhaps some simple, slug-like creature—lived well over 540 million year ago.

Watch cuttlefish apparently pretending to walk just like crabs

It could be a strategy to deter predators by making them think soft cuttlefish have a hard shell, or trick prey into thinking they're harmless.

The Scandalous Life of Nurse and Adventurer Kate Marsden

She spent 11 months trekking to Siberia to find a cure for leprosy, but her love life overshadowed everything.

People With Leprosy Were Exiled There—Should It Be a Tourist Destination?

Kalaupapa, Hawaii, is a former leprosy colony that’s still home to several of the people who were exiled there through the 1960s. Once they all pass away, the federal government wants to open up the isolated peninsula to tourism. But at what cost?

Condensed Matters on Soundcloud

Extended and exclusive audio versions of our Condensed Matters series.

Daniel Dennet's Science of the Soul

A philosopher’s lifelong quest to understand the making of the mind.

The Spiritual, Reductionist Consciousness of Christof Koch

What the neuroscientist is discovering is both humbling and frightening him.

Scientific Controversies No. 11: Consciousness

Director of Sciences Janna Levin invites neuroscientist Christof Koch (President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science) and philosopher David Chalmers (Director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Consciousness at New York University) to ask: Do androids actually dream of electric sheep?

Can Integrated Information Theory Explain Consciousness?

A radical new solution to the mind–body problem poses problems of its own

Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness?

Philosophers and scientists have been at war for decades over the question of what makes human beings more than complex robots

Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking

How Julian Jaynes’ famous 1970s theory is faring in the neuroscience age.

How cuttlefish fight

There's a growing body of evidence that cuttlefish are smart enough to assess the relative strength of their opponents to gauge their odds before fighting. They modify their behaviors – including their skin patterns – accordingly.

Male cuttlefish filmed fighting over a female for the first time

Researchers have previously witnessed this behavior in the lab, but this is the first time it's been caught in the wild.

In changing oceans, cephalopods are booming

Cephalopods are known for rapid growth, short lifespans, and extra-sensitive physiologies, which may allow them to adapt more quickly than many other marine species.

Squid Communicate With a Secret, Skin-Powered Alphabet

"Their body plan is so bizarre compared to ours that it’s hard to compare their brain structure and function to something that we know."

Octopuses Do Something Really Strange to Their Genes

"Humans don’t have this. Monkeys don’t. Nothing has this except the coleoids.”

You're Not Hallucinating. That's Just Squid Skin.

Octopuses and cuttlefish are masters of underwater camouflage, blending in seamlessly against a rock or coral. But squid have to hide in the open ocean, mimicking the subtle interplay of light, water, and waves. How do they do it?