String Theory and the Multiverse—Do we share our universe?

*This essay aims to summarize how seriously the concept of a multiverse should be taken, based off of theoretical, mathematical, and experimental evidence. As we as humans accumulate vast amounts of information through science, we will surely come across some surprises; it is important to know how to rationally come to terms with new knowledge that challenges the way we…

Hippolytus and the psychology of fanatics

Around 2400 years ago, the celebrated Greek playwright Euripides produced several dramatic tragedies, which we moderns continue to enthusiastically study today. Medea is perhaps the most famous of his plays, telling the story of how the sorceress Medea exacts a brutal revenge on her husband, Jason, who left her for a new wife. In addition to witnessing how Medea viciously calculates her revenge, we also are…

What makes something beautiful?

We know beauty when we see it. A snowy Himalayan landscape, a Tchaikovsky symphony, or a Bernini sculpture can all inspire a deep sense of wonder and emotional pleasure within us. To a more or less degree, we tend to equate this feeling with the experience of beauty. If we find something beautiful, our emotional and…

Why study (or draw) a fruit fly?

A few years ago, I had never imagined that I would spend several hours of my winter holidays sketching the central nervous system and muscle plan of a fruit fly. Perhaps you feel share the same thought—why would anyone looking for artistic inspiration turn to the fruit fly? If you want to showcase an animal subject, it may…

Change, Ovid, and Nature

“Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.” Everything changes, nothing perishes.         – Ovid, Metamorphoses

The immortality of stories

Why are humans so devotedly enthralled by stories? If one non-biological interest has remained constant throughout recorded history and across cultures, it may be our captivation with stories. Consider the oldest recorded story we know of: Aeschylus’ Orestia, a trilogy that recounts the tragic homecoming of Agamemnon from Greece after the Trojan war. This trilogy has survived since the 450s BCE! That is, 4,500 years…

Energy, the brain, and Thanksgiving

Humans do a lot of things that no other species does. It is not difficult to come up with examples for these uniquely human things either: we create sculptures, drawing, and paintings; we establish professional sports teams; we have businesses and governments; we compose music; and we study how Nature works. No other species on Earth…

Stargazing—a wonder from science and art

“All other animals look downward; Man, Alone, erect, can raise his face towards Heaven.” – Ovid, Metamorphoses —“The Creation” Ovid was a Roman poet who wrote one masterpiece of a text called the Metamorphoses. You may also recognize this title because Franz Kafka, a German author, wrote a similar sounding work called the Metamorphosis. (Although the themes explored…

Sketch of three birds on a branch

This is the finished version of a sketch of birds I started some weeks ago, showing three songbirds perched together on a tree branch. The leftmost bird is a blue winged warbler, the middle is a zebra finch, and the rightmost is of an imaginary design. (I am sure that in the diversity of birds, this particular…

Synapses, Science, and Aesthetics

Capturing images  of Nature is a powerful method of scientific inquiry. The purpose of imaging is not to awaken the inner photographer in each scientist, but rather to derive some insight about the structure and biological function of a given object of study. For example, you can use X-ray crystallography to find out the structure…

Considerations for quantum consciousness

We humans have developed a variety of ways to explore our own nature. Literature, art, and philosophy are particularly well-known ways of doing so. As less conventional examples, we can understand ourselves through scientific means: physics and neuroscience let us understand the physical nature of reality, behavior, and the mind. I think that the most intellectually stimulating…