Tania Lombrozo

In The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce describes the mind as "a mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain," engaged in a futile attempt to understand itself "with nothing but itself to know itself with."

In the world of Facebook, relationship status comes in a few flavors: "married" and "divorced," "single" and "it's complicated." When it comes to science, relationship status has its own varieties: love and hate, comprehension and confusion.

Some of these relationships reflect values and emotions, while others are epistemic: They reflect what we know or understand about science.

What's the relationship to science that we should be aiming to achieve? And why does it matter?

"The Good Place," an NBC comedy just beginning its second season, starts with a quirky premise.

Do mass shootings, like the tragic event in Las Vegas on the evening of Oct. 1, change people's minds about gun control?

From a policy perspective, we can ask whether changes in gun regulations would likely affect the occurrence of mass shootings and other forms of gun violence. (We certainly should be asking these questions.)

Curiosity is a familiar feeling among people.

But as soon as we scrutinize that feeling, curiosity reveals itself to be a complex emotion indeed. Just ask yourself: Is curiosity a positive feeling or a negative feeling? Is it more like frustration or more like anticipation? Is it a painful reminder of what we don't (yet) know, or a thrilling beacon towards what we might soon discover?

To appreciate that some questions are better than others, it helps to consider a few examples of questions that are bad.

To find them, try playing Twenty Questions with a young child. In trying to guess an animal, a young child might ask: Is it a koala? Is it an elephant? (Not: Is it a mammal? Does it live in Africa?) These are bad questions in the sense that they're unlikely to yield an efficient solution to the problem of discovering the animal one's adversary has chosen.

Early-childhood and elementary school programs reflect a diverse set of commitments about what children ought to learn, and about how they ought to do so.

Some focus on academic preparation and advancement, with extra attention to reading and mathematics. Some emphasize social-emotional development and community values. Others tout their language classes, or their music program, or the opportunities for children to engage in extended projects of their choosing. Some praise structure and discipline; some prize autonomy and play.

A few years ago, my daughter requested that her nightly lullaby be replaced with a bedtime story.

I was happy to comply, and promptly invented stories full of imaginary creatures in elaborate plots intended to convey some important lesson about patience or hard work or being kind to others.

What makes for a truly merry Christmas? Is your time better spent picking perfect, personalized gifts and decorating your home, or enjoying holiday cheer with family and friends?

Here's a common image of science: Sometimes science gets things wrong, but the scientific process is self-correcting.

In a video released today at Edge.org, psychologist Simone Schnall raises interesting questions about the role of replication in social psychology and about what counts as "admissible evidence" in science.

Twice a year, most Americans do a truly bizarre thing. In coordinated fashion, we change our clocks an hour ahead or behind and proceed as if the new time tells us what we should be doing: when to eat, when to sleep, when to wake and when to work.

Earth, of course, spins and rotates on its merry course, unperturbed by our temporal machinations. If we used to wake after sunrise, we might now wake before morning light. If we used to drive home with the setting sun, we might now drive home in darkness.

If you followed tech news last month, you heard a lot about Apple's new iMac with Retina 5K display. And if you came across advertisements on television or online, you undoubtedly saw the display in action.

Or did you?

The trouble is, you can never really appreciate 5120 x 2880 pixel resolution on, say, a 3840 x 2160 pixel display. You can't represent something in higher resolution than your own resolution permits.

Consider the following two statements of "belief":

Devon believes that humans evolved from earlier primates over 100,000 years ago.

Devon believes that humans were created less than 10,000 years ago.

These claims are clearly at odds. Since they can't both be true, Devon holds contradictory beliefs. Right?

Maybe not.

Hardly a week goes by without some brain imaging study making the rounds in science news.

In the 1960s — well before Spike Jonze's Samantha — MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum introduced the world to Eliza, a psychotherapist (of sorts) who interacted with people through a text interface. She's still around today.

As a (mostly vegan) vegetarian for ethical reasons, I've encountered all sorts of responses to arguments for animal welfare. Here's one that I've heard surprisingly often, nabbed from a comment to a recent article arguing that atheists should be vegan:

In a recent Washington Post piece, Diana Liverman, a professor at the University of Arizona, explains how she used to teach her undergraduates about climate change — and why she stopped.

In a 2006 article for the Los Angeles Times, Sam Harris identified 10 myths about atheism, among them the idea that "atheists are closed to spiritual experience."

Harris explained: "There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly."

The most basic formula in first-order logic is P(x): one predicate, one variable.

It's also the most basic unit of communication — we say something (the predicate) about something (the variable). Delicious chocolate. Chocolate is delicious. Or, if you want to get fancy, you can throw in more formal machinery to specify that I believe chocolate is delicious, or that chocolate is only delicious when it's dark.

Last week, the satirical "news" source The Onion reported that the field of psychology was disbanding as researchers realized they had been studying the mind with nothing but itself.