Brian Kernighan Remembers the Origins of ‘grep’

This month saw the release of a fascinating oral history, in which 76-year-old Brian Kernighan remembers the origins of the Unix command grep. Kernighan is already a legend in the world of Unix— recognized as the man who coined the term Unix back in 1970. His last initial also became the “k” in awk — […]

Birds had to relearn flight after meteor wiped out dinosaurs

Birds had to rediscover flight after the meteor strike that killed off the dinosaurs, scientists say. The cataclysm 66m years ago not only wiped out Tyrannosaurus rex and ground-dwelling dinosaur species, but also flying birds, a detailed survey of the fossil record suggests. As forests burned around the world, the only birds to survive were […]

Ancient Rome’s Collapse Is Written into Arctic Ice

On March 15, some time ago, several dozen famous politicians—sturdy men, duly elected senators who claimed to love their republic—attacked their chief executive while he walked into the Senate. They stabbed Gaius Julius Caesar 23 times, as he fell to the floor, defenseless, and bled to death, setting off a chain of wars that formally […]

The popular creation story of astronomy is wrong

In the early years of the 17th century, Johannes Kepler argued that the universe contained thousands of mighty bodies, bodies so huge that they could be universes themselves. These giant bodies, said Kepler, testified to the immense power of, as well as the personal tastes of, an omnipotent Creator God. The giant bodies were the […]

Inside the Plan to Print All of Wikipedia and Send It to the Moon

The Arch Mission Foundation is printing out all 25 million pages of the English version of Wikipedia and sending it to the moon. That way, even if humans don’t make it, a comprehensive record of our existence will survive for millennia. In short, it appears like the only way to totally destroy Wikipedia would be […]

Treadmills Were Meant to Be Atonement Machines

If you are one of the 51.8 million people in the U.S. who use a treadmill for exercise, you know there’s much pain for your muscle-and-fitness gain. On your next 30-minute jog, as you count down the final seconds, ponder whether the hard work made you a better person. Consider whether the workout would feel […]

Artificial Intelligence Opens the Vatican Secret Archives

Known as In Codice Ratio, it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to scour these neglected texts and make their transcripts available for the very first time. If successful, the technology could also open up untold numbers of other documents at historical archives around the world. Source: theatlantic

Civilization Is Built on Code

The word “code” derives from the Latin codex, meaning “a system of laws.” Today “code” is used in various distinct contexts—computer code, genetic code, cryptologic code (such as Morse code), ethical code, building code, and so forth—each of which has a common feature: They all contain instructions that describe a process. Computer code requires the […]

Archaeologists investigate what life was like after dark in the ancient world

A few years ago, when we began thinking about the night lives of our ancestors, we found little academic work on the subject. The more we thought about the nocturnal, whether it was during the Paleolithic (which co-author April Nowell studies), or during Classic Maya times (which co-author Nancy Gonlin researches), the more we realized […]

Are we sure there wasn’t a coal-burning species 55 million years ago?

If you’ve ever wished that a new study came packaged with some science fiction exploring the implications, this is your lucky day. Of course, not every research paper lends itself to a short story, but a manuscript by NASA’s Gavin Schmidt and the University of Rochester’s Adam Frank asks a fun question: are we sure […]