A century after its discovery, insulin is still incredibly expensive, but DIY bio-manufacturing could change that in a big way.
"Scientists work in high-security buildings that are banned to the public and then wonder why they are misunderstood."
Neuroscientists say that we may be ignoring a basic fact that could defuse the "screen-time wars" between parents and kids.
Most of medical science focuses on combating disease and managing the impact of aging. But one MIT researcher wants to tackle aging head on. Through decades of research, Dr. Leonard Guarente has uncovered a basic mechanism to regulate aging and co-founded Elysium to turn his research into a product. Elysium’s mission is to help people live healthier for longer. Freethink is proud to present this story in partnership with...
People who suffer extreme brain trauma sometimes fall into what is known as a "persistent vegetative state." What is a vegetative state and how is it different from a coma? Unlike a coma, where the patient is completely immobile and unconscious, people in a vegetative state will sleep, wake, and open their eyes — without showing any sign of awareness or consciousness. They don't speak, move on their own, or respond to...
Diabetes is a high maintenance and high stakes disease requiring constant monitoring and precise decision-making. What if we could outsource that workload to a machine? That’s what one couple decided to do. They made a homemade pancreas that eases the burden of diabetes care… and then released the design to the public for free.
Half of scientists have failed to replicate their own work — but they rarely come forward. A new project wants to change that.
Severe spinal cord injuries (SCIs) -- often called complete injuries by clinicians -- are ones where no readable signal from the brain reaches the spinal cord beneath the trauma, resulting in total paralysis. The possibility that a patient with this type of severe injury might regain movement was once considered so remote that rehab has traditionally seemed a waste of time. And yet, in a handful of patients spanning...
We need a lot more calories to feed a growing world, and these scientists may have figured out how to get them.
It sounds like science fiction, but it could save millions of lives.
Billions spent on projects of questionable benefit - like the plan to capture an asteroid - raises the question: Should NASA take a back seat in the 21st century space race?
After studying a team of canvassers, two researchers found that a single conversation can have a significant and lasting impact on a person's opinion.
The "secret life of antidepressants" could open up a host of new treatments.
How a pediatric cancer drug went from discovery to clinical trials in five years and just $500,000.
If you think staring at rows of numbers and graphs seems humdrum, these musicians agree. They are on a mission to expose new scientific information through sound, by turning flat datasets into musical scores --- creating the soundtrack for science: Listen to Mark Ballora’s sonification of singularity with flutes and electronics: Jenni Evans first met Mark Ballora at a Penn State social gathering. Both were professors at...
When people think about electric cars, sleek, new models usually come to mind. To be sure, they’re incredible feats of engineering. But what about the millions of cars already on the road? Enter EV West. Starting with the classics, this unique shop is converting existing cars into all-electric road warriors. And potentially reinventing the electric car landscape in the process. We visited to see them in action in our latest...
For centuries, prosthetics didn't change much at all, but the past 10 years has seen an incredible leap forward in the way they look and work.
Computer hackers exploit flaws in code to access systems and take what they want; plant diseases work the same way.
Vitamin D deficiency is an age-old problem, but new techniques from archaeology may be the key to catching it early.
Forty years later, IVF shows how fears about new technology can fade.
The Ebola outbreak sparked more medical innovation in two years than TB has in decades, even though TB is killing millions of people a year.
Climate change is increasingly reshaping our world, but communities across America aren’t losing hope — they’re taking action. Learn how 18 communities are using science to guide community-based decision-making.
Margaret Rossiter has made it her lifework to spotlight female scientists who were written out of history books through systematic censorship. Read our Q&A with this groundbreaking historian.
What does it mean for the future of journalism when a computer can turn mounds of data into a cohesive narrative?
Our weekly take on the best stuff from around the web.
Like the day’s newspaper, the brain has a temporary way to keep track of events.
Artificial intelligence will multiply your own intelligence, in ways that will surprise you.
Can mind-readers replace passwords and biometric security?
Thinking about cyborgs in real life typically conjures thoughts of pop culture works like The Matrix. Terminator. Bladerunner. Hollywood loves to sensationalize merging the body with advanced tech. But will it really be so bad? We sat down with Adam Piore, author of The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human to discuss why we should stop freaking out and embrace our cyborg future. Spend any amount of time...
When nerve cells in the brain communicate, they create tiny electric fields that can be sensed – and sometimes altered – from outside the skull.
Humanity is locked in an arms race with diseases: we update our vaccines, and diseases evolve new ways to try to sneak past them. Cutting-edge research is exploring how to stimulate immunity without using vaccines, using the new gene-editing technology known as CRISPR.
The immersive world of VR may have therapeutic benefits for people combating phobias, anxiety, and PTSD.
By 2050, there may be more plastic by weight in the ocean than there are fish. To add to that, 1.3 billion tons of the food produced each year globally is wasted or lost. Canadian innovator Luna Yu hopes to transform these problems by turning waste into biodegradable plastics.
When Maayan Harel paints a portrait, her subject isn't sitting in front of her. She doesn't even have a photograph to work from. Instead, she looks at clues from ancient human DNA. Last month, scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem made headlines when they revealed Harel's portrait of a Denisovan, an extinct group of archaic humans that may have lived with Neanderthals. The first Denisovan remains were...
Let's imagine aliens exist. You have the extraordinary task of crafting a message that they might conceivably understand. How would you do it? And what would you say? Daniel Oberhaus has a few ideas.
Bird populations are paying the price for our electric lights. These volunteers are working to change that.
Google releases some beautiful VR, human trials of gene-editing technology CRISPR, and importing Cuba's cancer vaccine.
In a lab in Arizona, dozens of bodies sit preserved at 320 degrees below zero. They each paid $200,000 to be frozen on the hope that, one day, medicine will advance far enough to once again bring them back from the dead.
Scientists have developed software that could save one billion dollars (and two million animals) each year.
More than one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime; new discoveries are helping them fight back.
Businesses have gotten to space; now what?
Unpacking the science behind human performance with The Sports Gene author David Epstein
Virtual reality users experience more lucid dreams, a paralyzed man gets movement back, and self-lacing shoes. These are our favorite stories this week.
From advanced plant-based meat alternatives to real meat grown in a lab, the days of eating meat from once-living animals could be numbered.
We take a look at a few of the not-so-obviously-bizarre things we've launched beyond the earth's atmosphere.
A future of eating meat without ethical or environmental implications is more real than ever before. While plant-based alternatives are growing in popularity, the real black horse with game-changing potential seems to be actual meat… grown in science labs. The question at this point is not whether this approach is viable or scalable, but simply: will people want to eat it?
The FDA banned triclosan from hand soap, but new research shows that it can supercharge old antibiotics.
If you thought dragons existed only in the domain of historical fantasy fiction like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, think again. Dragons are real and their blood just may be our biggest hope when it comes to tomorrow's antibiotics. Dragons Are Real The largest of any earthly lizard, Komodo dragons walk the earth to this day. They’re not only real, but they’re also much like their larger, fictional counterparts, fit...
Engineering bacteria in the microbiome could fix previously untreatable genetic disorders.
The only treatment for retinoblastoma is surgical removal of the eye—but scientists may have found another way: cancer-killing viruses.
Baltimore’s kids are obsessed with dirt bikes. Some people think that's a problem, but teacher Brittany Young is using dirt bikes to get kids into engineering and STEM education. Her organization, B-360 Baltimore, aims to use dirt bike culture to help end the cycle of poverty, disrupt the prison pipeline, and bring together communities — while giving dirt bikes a better reputation. Dirt bikes are a controversial issue in...
Epidemiologist Dr. Gary Slutkin of Cure Violence says we need to treat violence as a disease and a public health crisis and employ the same types of strategies we use in medicine to treat violence.
The maker movement is grieving a big loss with the shutdown of Maker Media. Freethink's Alexandra Cardinale spoke with some of the most creative people at the final Maker Faire.
His daughter couldn’t go on school field trips with her classmates, so Craig Chaytor designed a virtual reality adventure just for her.
There are currently over 7 billion human beings alive on Earth --- and in 2050 the world's population will rise by almost 2 billion. That's a lot more mouths to feed considering that roughly 11 percent of the world goes hungry today. To prepare for this future, we'll need to scale up food production in a sustainable way --- without using more land and lowering emissions --- and figure out more efficient farming and...
Any father would do whatever it takes to save their child’s life. So when Steve Levine found out that his daughter was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease, he started thinking of any way he could help. The problem was that his daughter was born with reversed left and right ventricles, the weaker of which would run the risk of giving out as she aged. She had a pacemaker installed at age two, and doctors gave her...
Working toward sustainability, cities are searching for ways to make funerals more eco-friendly. Green burials and human composting could be the solution.
Traditional methods of vaccination have come up against difficult challenges. They can also be expensive and time-consuming to produce, curtailing efforts to control outbreaks or head off a flu season caused by an unexpected strain. A newer type of vaccines, using RNA, could alleviate these issues. Faster, cheaper, and safer, RNA vaccines show great potential to meet evolving threats.
Coprolite, aka dinosaur poop, is giving scientists a surprising glimpse into the world of the dinosaurs. Learn what industry leader Karen Chin has been learning from dino dung.
With the weather and ice data from old ship’s logs, Dr. Kevin Wood realized it was possible to reconstruct the history of sea ice in the Arctic to better understand climate change.
As more and more former football players exhibit symptoms of CTE, one company thinks their new helmet can address the problem of player safety.
How the founders of the "coffin clubs" got started – and their advice for others.
In addition to healing injuries, the approach could be useful for repairing skin damage, countering the effects of aging, and modeling skin cancer.
Scientists aren't exactly sure yet what the "virome" is up to, but it's probably important.
Brain regeneration used to be considered a medical fantasy. But research shows that fantasy could eventually become a reality.
The "Human BioMolecular Atlas" will map the active genes in over 200 types of cells and 80 different organ systems.
The event will seek to answer one of the most interesting technology questions of the early 21st century: How close are we to integrating humans with machines?
When the New Horizons spacecraft launched in 2006, Pluto was still a planet and the iPhone didn't exist.
Companies gather to discuss impact of A.I. A possible neural lace breakthrough. And unmanned cargo ships. This is the coolest stuff we've read this week.
Rethinking Autism: Interview with NeuroTribes Author Steve Silberman
Deepfakes have ignited fierce media criticism and call into question the public’s ability to discern fact from fiction. But the technology behind Deepfakes, called GANs, has enormous potential to drive innovation beyond fake social media videos. Read more to find out some of the amazing things being done with this technology.
Jacquie Berglund considers herself more of a wine drinker than a beer drinker, yet she is building an empire around the beer brand, Finnegans. When Berglund purchased the brand for only a dollar, she knew that if Finnegans were to make an impact, the beer needed to be in every pub in Minnesota. Now you can find Finnegans in four Midwest states. But Finnegans is more than a beer company. From combating food insecurity to...
After a 30-year struggle, Atlantic salmon modified with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon has been approved by the FDA. Its producers say it solves problems related to climate change, ocean pollution, and food scarcity. Skeptics call it playing god. Both call it the Frankenfish.
For amputees, the sensation of a ‘phantom limb’ can be a terrible or disorienting experience -- feeling a hand, arm or leg that isn’t there anymore. But researchers at Johns Hopkins have recognized that these sensations are a clue, and they’re using it to restore the sense of touch.
To feed an additional two billion people by 2050, global food production will have to increase by roughly 50%. While conventional wisdom would only consider habitable land for food production, one couple in the Netherlands is taking a different approach. They have become the operators of the world's first and only floating dairy farm.
Bioengineered fish have been known to cause mixed feelings. Unnatural, right? Well, after 30 years of debate on whether we should be eating “Frankenfish,” this funky food source is finally coming to a store near you. Like it or not, GMO salmon and possibly other genetically engineered animal meats will soon be on the shelves of your local supermarket. And, these new futuristic foods may be revolutionizing the global food...
A paralyzed woman runs a half marathon in an exoskeleton, Sri Lanka defeats malaria, incomes are rising. Here's some good news since most of what we hear is just the bad.
With a growing population, changing consumption behavior and a climate crisis, how will we feed our future world? The answer may not be increasing resources--land, water, and employees--but rather improving production efficiency. The key question: How do we increase the amount of food we produce while using the same or fewer resources? In the first episode of our original series, Future of Food, we take a look at...
A recycled road has been paved with asphalt that contains the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of plastic bags, along with thousands of glass bottles and printer cartridges’ worth of waste toner. In addition to the sheer amount of recycled materials the process will divert away from landfills, these longer-lasting roads also help to reduce the carbon footprint of construction.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are War, Death, Famine, and Pestilence — what Revelation doesn't tell you is that this last rider sits atop not a horse but a mosquito. The bane of your summer evenings is, in much of the world, a dangerous disease vector; mosquito borne diseases kill hundreds of thousands (and infect hundreds of millions) every year. Mosquitoes carry such dreaded diseases as malaria, yellow fever, West...
Sending things into space is really expensive. But what if we didn't have to? What if everything in space was made in space?
Gene therapy uses a virus to replace missing or defective genes. It sounds counterintuitive, but it could be the key to curing previously incurable diseases.
Despite rigorous prep, astronauts often have to improvise when things go wrong in space. And a lot more duct tape is involved than you may expect.
The story of how one man gave his space-loving best friend a final resting place in the final frontier.
Regulations forced companies that planned to sell satellites to other countries to register, in effect, as arms dealers.
Should terminally ill patients be allowed to try experimental procedures? Hear the amazing, true story of the AIDS activists who fought for a "right to try." And won.
For a couple decades people thought nuclear power was the answer to pretty much everything. And they came up with some ideas we’ll generously call visionary.
When building robots, scientists often struggle to perfect the robot's movements. They turn to the natural world in order to solve this problem, finding inspiration from animals such as spiders, dogs, and even humans. However, studies show that even though we live in a world that is largely built for humans, robots that appear to be too "human-like" make people uneasy. Thus, researchers at Carnegie Melon developed a...
At a maximum security prison in Oregon, select inmates watched 60 minutes of nature videos every day for a year. Inspired by the research of Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, the study was intended to measure the psychological benefits of exposure to nature. The results were incredible. Nearly half the inmates said the images soothed them, while violent acts in the prison dropped by 26%. Additionally, guards reported the inmates...
The world is changing. Fast. And it’s changing because people are changing it. People with new ideas and new perspectives. People who aren’t satisfied with the status quo and aren’t afraid to think differently. At Freethink we’re building a movement. Of rebels, hackers, pioneers, idealists, engineers, tinkerers, scientists, geeks, nerds, influencers, outcasts, artists, activists, do-gooders, disruptors, troublemakers,...
Author and Harvard professor Steven Pinker lays out what he see as a basic paradox. The news today seems worse than ever - but based on a number of key metrics, Pinker argues the world is better than it’s ever been. Pinker explores the data and makes the case for how can we tackle the world’s problems while not drowning in negativity. That’s the focus of his latest book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science,...
Arguments on social media are notorious. People often naturally form an echo chamber of people with similar beliefs, and when people outside it start arguments, the discussion often becomes antagonistic. Is there a better way? Science suggests that a good starting point is by practicing intellectual humility. By admitting the possibility that we ourselves could be wrong, we’re able to better evaluate arguments and construct...
Superhuman is back with Season 5! Premiering Wednesday, August 7th, we'll be meeting the scientists, cyborgs, and real life heroes who are pushing the frontiers of groundbreaking medical technology. Can't wait until then? Get to know the Superhuman cast below. The Emerging Cyborg Meet Alec McMorris When his cousin’s car skidded into a guardrail on an icy Utah road in 2013, Alec McMorris rushed to help him. While trying to...
From how to make good habits (and keep them) to a crisis at the NIH, it's a new edition of our week in ideas.
A step toward human organs in animal embryos, the Hubble Telescope was a game changer, and Americans aren't doing much to protect themselves online.
Breakthrough could mean the end of test animals, violent crime nearly cut in half, and drones that pollinate flowers.
Some of the predictions might look outlandish now, but at the time they actually seemed quite plausible.