space
Where Do You Draw the Line Between the Sky and Space?

On his 108-minute flight in 1961, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, reached a peak altitude of 327 kilometres (203 miles), after blasting off the planet atop a mighty Vostok rocket. After launch shook his tiny capsule violently, Gagarin experienced the feeling of weightlessness, and saw the curvature of the Earth first-hand. By all accounts, he crossed the mysterious border between the Earth and space. Or did he? It has been more than half a century since Gagarin's historic journey, but there is still no universally accepted definition of where space begins. Read More >>

sex
Sexbot Slaves: How Sexbots Could Affect Actual Human Relationships

There is only one true sexbot that you can go out and buy today. Her name is Roxxxy, and she is a 'robot companion' intended to look human, or something very close. She's 5'7" and slender. She's got a wide range of hair and eye colours. And depending on the model you choose, she can 'hear' you, 'talk' to you, and 'feel' you. Read More >>

medicine
Why Life Before Anaesthesia Made Doctors More Caring

In 1812, the English novelist Frances Burney described her mounting terror as she prepared to undergo a mastectomy without any anaesthetic. Having two hours to wait until the dreaded event (her 'execution', as she put it), she wandered into the room where the operation was going to take place and 'recoiled'. In an effort to control her fear she 'walked backwards & forwards till I quieted all emotion, & became, by degrees, nearly stupid – torpid, without sentiment or consciousness'. Read More >>

health
How Yesterday’s Drugs Became the Medicines of Today

My sister is a witch. Or, more precisely, a Wiccan astrologer and tarot reader. Growing up as a kid who worshipped Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking, I found it hard to square her worldview with my own. Read More >>

crime
How Biotech Could Make Life in Prison a Living Hell

At the University of Oxford, a team of scholars led by the philosopher Rebecca Roache has begun thinking about the ways futuristic technologies might transform punishment. In January, I spoke with Roache and her colleagues Anders Sandberg and Hannah Maslen about emotional enhancement, 'supercrimes', and the ethics of eternal damnation. What follows is a condensed and edited transcript of our conversation. Read More >>