About the SA Blog Network


Critical views of science in the news
Cross-Check HomeAboutContact
  • Profile

    Every week, hockey-playing science writer John Horgan takes a puckish, provocative look at breaking science. A teacher at Stevens Institute of Technology, Horgan is the author of four books, including The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996) and The End of War (McSweeney's, 2012). Follow on Twitter @Horganism.
  • Tripping in LSD’s Birthplace: A Story for “Bicycle Day”

    Albert Hofmann, shown here in a poster for Bicycle Day, discovered LSD's effects on April 19, 1943, in Basel, Switzerland.

    Exactly 71 years ago, April 19, 1943, Albert Hofmann, a chemist for Sandoz, in Basel, Switzerland, ingested a minute amount—just 250 micrograms–of a compound derived from the ergot fungus. He soon felt so disoriented that he rode his bicycle home, where he experienced all the heavenly and hellish effects of lysergic acid diethylamide. Psychedelic enthusiasts [...]

    Keep reading »

    Crows Like My Pal George Aren’t Just Smart, They’re Also Jokers

    The intelligence of crows is clearly adaptive, but what about their sense of humor?

    Corvid cleverness is making news lately. Two of my favorite science writers, Sharon Begley and James Gorman, describe a variety of experiments—reported in PLOS One by researchers in New Zealand–in which crows mimic the hero of Aesop’s ancient fable “The Crow and the Pitcher.” By dropping objects into containers of water, crows raise the water’s [...]

    Keep reading »

    Does Growing Time Lag for Nobels Portend End of Fundamental Discoveries in Physics?

    Richard Feynman, shown here receiving his Nobel Prize in 1965, warned in 1967 that the era of fundamental discovery in physics must come to an end.

    Some idiot over at National Geographic just wrote a column titled “Science Is Running Out of Things to Discover,” and the commenters are hammering him. Yeah, I’m the idiot, and I thought I’d use this blog for a follow-up. First of all, notwithstanding the headline, my National Geographic column is really about physics, not science [...]

    Keep reading »

    Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Pointless Universe–Solved?

    In "The Cardboard Box," a gruesome double murder provokes Sherlock Holmes to ponder the problem of evil. The artist Sidney Paget produced this illustration of the story for Strand Magazine, 1893. From Wikimedia Commons,

    The Sherlock Holmes era of my life has, sadly, ended. I just completed The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Kindle edition, four novels and 56 short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. In a previous post, I commented on an anomalous riff by Holmes–who usually dwells with autistic obsession on crime-solving and shuns metaphysics—in “The Naval Treaty” on [...]

    Keep reading »

    Obama and Putin Agree to Seek End of War

    Does secret peace plan agreed upon by Presidents Putin and Obama involves destroying their nuclear arsenals by the end of this year and submitting international disputes to the World Court. Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed/Files.

    Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama have agreed to a plan to end war, according to a recording of a conversation between the two Presidents recently made available to “Cross-check” by the hacker collective Anonymous. The conversation took place last week, when Putin called Obama to discuss Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Putin said, “Barack, here is [...]

    Keep reading »

    Cool Sh*t I’ve Read Lately

    The New Yorker "consistently produces the best long-form science journalism out there."

    I get tired, now and then, of being such a sourpuss–a Debbie Downer, as my girlfriend calls me, always complaining about something. The wrongness of drone strikes and neuro-weapons research, the downside of psychiatric drugs and tests for cancer, hype about optogenetics and deep brain stimulation and theories of cosmic creation. I want to be [...]

    Keep reading »

    Did My Daughter Solve the Riddle Posed by Cosmic Theorist Andrei Linde?

    Photo by James Randi reveals how Andrei Linde performed jumping-match trick, but Skye Horgan has proposed an alternative method.

    Russian-born physicist Andrei Linde, now at Stanford, has been in the news lately because of his contributions to inflation, a theory of our universe’s creation that has recently won support (although not from me). I’d like to tell a tale about Linde’s talent not for solving cosmic mysteries but for magic. The story also involves James [...]

    Keep reading »

    My 1992 Profile of Cosmic Trickster and Inflation Pioneer Andrei Linde

    Andrei Linde is a pioneer of inflation, evidence of which has reportedly been found by a gravitational-wave observatory at the South Pole.

    Yesterday, I expressed doubts about claims that observations of gravitational waves provide “proof” of inflation, a 24 year old theory of cosmic creation. Afterwards, I watched a moving video of dumbstruck inflation pioneer Andrei Linde and his wife Renata Kallosh getting the news of the observations. The video brought back memories of a weekend I [...]

    Keep reading »

    Why I Still Doubt Inflation, in Spite of Gravitational Wave Findings

    Inflation, in spite of evidence from the BICEP2 observatory, still suffers from the "Alice's Restaurant Problem."

    I hope I was wrong about inflation. For decades, I’ve been bashing this theory of cosmic creation, lumping it together with strings, multiverses (which inflation has helped popularize) and other highly speculative propositions sprung from theorists’ fecund minds. [See Addendum below for an exchange between me and multiverse popularizer "Mad Max" Tegmark.] Proposed more than [...]

    Keep reading »

    Much-Hyped Brain-Implant Treatment for Depression Suffers Setback

    Trial for depression treatment pioneered by neurologist Helen Mayberg has been suspended, but she remains upbeat.

    All of us—researchers, journalists, patients and their loved ones–are desperate for genuine progress in treatments for severe mental illness. But if the history of such treatments teaches us anything, it is that we must view claims of dramatic progress with skepticism, or we will fall prey to false hopes. Case in point: a depression treatment, [...]

    Keep reading »

    Search this blog:

    • Year:
    • Month:
    • Keyword:

    More from Scientific American

    Scientific American MIND iPad

    Give a Gift & Get a Gift - Free!

    Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

    Subscribe Now >>


    Email this Article