“If one of Gusick’s core samples contains definitive evidence of a pre-Clovis settlement, it will be the biggest find in Paleoindian archaeology since Edgar Howard plucked his first projectile out of the New Mexican desert. It would tell us, perhaps once and for all, that the first Americans were people of the sea.”
The Atlantic‘s Ross Andersen travels to China to visit the world’s largest radio dish built for seeking out extraterrestrial intelligence. On the trip he meets Liu Cixin, China’s preeminent science-fiction writer, for a wide-ranging discussion about the risks of making contact.
In Arctic Siberia, Russian scientists are trying to stave off catastrophic climate change—by resurrecting an Ice Age biome complete with lab-grown woolly mammoths.
A deep exploration of cosmology and the issues we face when it comes to understanding what we still don’t know: “Cosmology’s hot streak has stalled. Cosmologists have looked deep into time, almost all the way back to the Big Bang itself, but they don’t know what came before it.”
An in-depth interview with the SpaceX founder on how we could make it to Mars—and why it’s important for us to get there.
Ross Andersen explores the history and rituals of winemaking—including the current-day growth of “biodynamic wine”:
I had come back to AmByth to help hasten the vines’ resurrection by taking part in a ritual. I’d been invited the month before, while dining with Philip Hart and his wife, Mary. We’d talked for several hours that night, around their fireplace, wine glasses in hand. They asked me why I was so interested in biodynamic wine. I told them it was the relationship between wine and mysticism that really interested me. The conversation drifted to religion, and Mary told me she was a Christian, and considered herself born again. Philip didn’t come out and say what he believed, but it was clear he took Steiner’s metaphysics quite seriously. A disagreement between them broke out at one point: Mary said, ‘as a Christian’, she was turned off by the pagan elements of biodynamics.
What happens to life sentences if the human lifespan is radically extended? A philosopher talks about future punishment:
Even in my most religious moments, I have never been able to take the idea of hell seriously. Prevailing Christian theology asks us to believe that an all-powerful, all-knowing being would do what no human parent could ever do: create tens of billions of flawed and fragile creatures, pluck out a few favourites to shower in transcendent love, and send the rest to an eternity of unrelenting torment. That story has always seemed like an intellectual relic to me, a holdover from barbarism, or worse, a myth meant to coerce belief. But stripped of the religious particulars, I can see the appeal of hell as an instrument of justice, a way of righting wrongs beyond the grave. Especially in unusual circumstances.
A trip to experience what sculptor Charles Ross is building in the New Mexico desert. Star Axis is a naked-eye observatory that he’s been working for more than 40 years:
“O’Bryan walked me slowly down the steep side of the mesa, to the desert floor, so I could see Star Axis in its entirety. The work’s centrepiece is a 10-storey staircase that lets you walk up through the rock of the mesa, your eyes fixed on a small circular opening that cuts through the top of the pyramid. The first section of the staircase is roofless and open to the sky, but the end of it has a stone overhang that makes it look and feel like a tunnel. This ‘star tunnel’, as Ross calls it, is precisely aligned with Earth’s axis. If you bored a tunnel straight through the Earth’s core, from the South Pole to North Pole, and climbed up it, you’d see the same circle of sky that you do when you walk through Ross’ tunnel. Gazing up through it in the afternoon glare, I saw a patch of blue, the size and shape of a dime held at arm’s length. But if the sun had blinked for a moment, fading the heavens to black, I’d have seen Polaris, glittering at the end of the tunnel, like a solitary diamond in the void.”