Why We Die, and Why It's Fine

Here’s a nice thought to start the day: the natural world operates through an endless exchange of life and death. The ecosystem, and all of the organisms it houses, squeezes its vital resources from the debris of the dead, recycling the decaying elements from lives once lived to enhance existence on earth (today’s guest, Tyler Volk, even explains how this interplay enhances the capacity for life by a factor of about 200).The professor of biology at N.Y.U. goes on to illuminates a number of death’s other mysteries. Like, how is it that we are formed from atoms with a seemingly infinite lifespan, yet we, living organisms, die? And, since mammals are destined for death, why does each species’ natural timeline remain the same throughout its evolutionary development? 

Volk’s work employs fascinating new research to answer some of western culture’s longest standing questions about life— detailing the complex, but beautiful, webbing of life and death that connects our smallest cells with the grand sweep of human history, shining light on powerful questions raised by everybody from Nietzsche and Thomas Mann to Woody Allen. Finally, after years of exhaustive research on the subject, Volk describes his own outlook on death, explaining the sort of gratitude he has developed toward the process.

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

Science confirms: Earth has more than one 'moon'

Two massive clouds of dust in orbit around the Earth have been discussed for years and finally proven to exist.

J. Sliz-Balogh, A. Barta and G. Horvath
Surprising Science
  • Hungarian astronomers have proven the existence of two "pseudo-satellites" in orbit around the earth.
  • These dust clouds were first discovered in the sixties, but are so difficult to spot that scientists have debated their existence since then.
  • The findings may be used to decide where to put satellites in the future and will have to be considered when interplanetary space missions are undertaken.
Keep reading Show less

New study reveals what time we burn the most calories

Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.

Photo: Victor Freitas / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
  • While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
  • Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
Keep reading Show less