Yuan Xuan

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How to supercharge the way you learn

What is the easiest way to learn? David Robson meets a group of scientists and memory champions competing to find techniques that make facts stick... fast.<p>Face to face with the world’s leading memory experts, my mind is beginning to feel very humble. Ben Whately, for instance, tells me about the …

The Brain

Why do we get sleep in our eyes?

Our eyes fill up with gunk as we sleep, but what is it? As Jason G Goldman discovers, the stuff has a more important job than it seems.<p>The first thing I do when I wake up each morning is look at the long list of notifications that have silently accumulated on my phone as I slept. The second thing I …

Marine Mammals

The people who are lost in time

What is it like to lose your memory after brain injury, drug abuse – or energetic sex? Christian Jarrett reports on the strange causes and consequences of amnesia.<p>After a car crash, the patient reported that her memories were wiped clean each night.<p>One morning in 2008, Naomi Jacobs, then 32, woke …

The Brain

A five-step guide to not being stupid

Even the smartest people can be fools. David Robson explains how to avoid the most common traps of sloppy thinking.<p>If you ever doubt the idea that the very clever can also be very silly, just remember the time the smartest man in America tried to electrocute a turkey. Benjamin Franklin had been …

Critical Thinking

Flavour alphabet: What A to Z tastes like

James Wannerton taste flavours when he reads words – even single letters – so BBC Future asked him to tell us the taste of the alphabet. Find out what strange tastes your initials spell out – and let us know the meals it evokes. Vomit-coated rubber bands, anyone?<p><b>Semolina</b><p><b>Baked beans</b><p><b>Salt</b><p><b>Rubber</b> …

Bands

Five things Alice in Wonderland reveals about the brain

Lewis Carroll’s popular tales contain some hidden truths about the human brain that are still inspiring neuroscientists to this day. David Robson takes a leap down the rabbit hole.<p>Lewis Carroll was remarkably modest about his masterpiece. “The heroine spends an hour underground, and meets various …

Literature

'I will be turned into compost when I die'

What do you do when you baulk at the idea of cremation or standard burial? Rose Eveleth talks to a woman planning an unusual alternative.<p>When Grace Seidel dies, she’s not going to be buried in a cemetery. She won’t be cremated either. In fact, none of the usual options have ever really felt right …

Composting

The seven ways to have a near-death experience

Seeing a light and a tunnel may be the popular perception of death, but as Rachel Nuwer discovers, reports are emerging of many other strange experiences.<p>In 2011, Mr A, a 57-year-old social worker from England, was admitted to Southampton General Hospital after collapsing at work. Medical personnel …

Inflammation

The future of 3D computer graphics... from 1982

Back in the early 1980s, a spinning square world heralded the start of a computer animation revolution, as this archive BBC footage shows.<p>Back in 1982, computing was really going mainstream. Tron, the story of a computer programmer trapped inside a mainframe, was making millions at the box office; …

Box Office

Can a city become too big?

The number of megacities has been increasing so rapidly in the last few decades that many are experiencing serious growing pains. Molly Crain investigates.<p>There are now some three dozen megacities in the world, each sprawling areas home to more than 10 million people. Bigger cities come with …

Urbanism

What’s the most we can remember?

People with extraordinary memory talents suggest that your mind may be capable of retaining more than you think, says Adam Hadhazy.<p>Unlike digital cameras with full memory cards that cannot snap any more pictures, our brains never seem to run out of room. Yet it defies logic that one adult human …

Humanity

Are you nicer than a child?

It’s commonly held that young children are, well, selfish, but as Caroline Williams discovers, they are often kinder than adults.<p>Last Christmas I took my young son to the theatre. The show, called Antarctica, was for 4-7 year olds and, from an adult perspective, it was all a bit surreal. The actors …

Psychology

Amazon’s ultimate product? Monopoly

The best of the week’s long reads in science and technology, including why Amazon launches new products, the benefits of religion and the threat of a potentially catastrophic volcano.<p><b>Environment</b> | Volcanoes and climate<p>If aliens were watching the Earth through telescopes during 1815, they would …

Peter Thiel

The surprising downsides of being clever

Can high intelligence be a burden rather than a boon? David Robson investigates.<p>If ignorance is bliss, does a high IQ equal misery? Popular opinion would have it so. We tend to think of geniuses as being plagued by existential angst, frustration, and loneliness. Think of Virginia Woolf, Alan …

Psychology

The odd thing that happens when injustice benefits you

It stings when life’s not fair – but what happens if it means we profit? As Tom Stafford writes, some people may perform unexpected self-sabotage.<p>Frans de Waal, a professor of primate behaviour at Emory University, is the unlikely star of a viral video. His academic's physique, grey jumper and …

Psychology

Will we ever… live in underground homes?

As cities get more crowded, why not build down? Kieran Nash profiles some of the world’s most unusual underground constructions, from Australian rock homes to Beijing’s subterranean spaces.<p>In many respects, Bernadette Roberts’ three-bedroom house is like any other. “Lounge, dining area, kitchen – …

Urban Design