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The discovery of ‘zero’ and why it matters

Today it seems obvious and self-evident, but the existence of ‘zero’ escaped from the mathematicians’ and the philosophers’ imagination for centuries. It is not clear when it was first discovered (some might say invented), nor by whom, in part because its use has been subjected to many changes throughout centuries …

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Historical mysteries and conspiracy theories

Skepticism and science against superstition “It’s good to keep your mind open –but not so open that your brain falls out” Walter Kotschnig, 1940 – usually attributed to Carl Sagan In the dark years of medieval times, the unsuspecting population of Europe would systematically become witness of a magical phenomenon …

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What the placebo effect is and isn’t

“Untreated a cold will last a week, but treat a cold and it will only last 7 days.” There’s a widespread understanding that a placebo effect is one where some kind of “mind over matter” phenomenon takes place. That, somehow, a “believer” of a treatment being given to him, when …

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Is education without teachers the future of education?

“Any teacher that could be replaced by a machine, should be!” Arthur Clarke, 1980 Sugata Mitra was working in a school in India, where privileged children received education from the best trained teachers available. Year by year he saw every new generation all the more familiar with the new technologies …

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The invention of the World Wide Web

“The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.” Tim Berners-Lee Some say that scientific discoveries do not depend on individuals; that, in a way, science moves forward no matter what; that if something is not discovered …

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How Stalin and Lysenko bankrupted Soviet science

Lysenko constituted the most respected figure of the soviet scientific community for more than 20 years. The acknowledged biologist had the direct support of Stalin and was awarded with many titles during his career. The methods he introduced were forcefully applied throughout the Soviet Union, and in China. He was …

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