articles by Undark


With billionaires launching, is it time to implement a new international space treaty?

More than half a century after humans first set foot on the moon, there remains no clearly established, agreed-upon rules governing space activity.

Arts & Culture

Edgar Allan Poe's life and work were intertwined with science, as a new biography sets out to prove

In a new biography titled “The Reason for the Darkness of the Night,” John Tresch links Edgar Allan Poe and the forging of American science.

Arts & Culture

In Hawking Hawking, author Charles Seife presents a humanising portrait of the celebrated physicist, his love of the limelight

In the book, Seife explains how Hawking was very keen on becoming a public figure. He loved the idea of communicating his work not merely to his colleagues but to the widest possible audience. And he loved being the centre of attention.


Donated by India, COVID-19 vaccines languish and may expire in Afghanistan amid misinformation, scepticism

A mixture of scepticism and misinformation perpetuated on social media has slowed an already under-resourced vaccination campaign in Afghanistan.

Arts & Culture

Nathaniel Rich's Second Nature brings to fore devastating results of man-made alterations to the natural world

Many people don’t know yet how to respond to widespread environmental and public health crises as well as ethical quandaries that pop up in decisions about where we live, the food we eat, what species’ genes we modify, and what environments we want to conserve.

Arts & Culture

In Four Lost Cities, a historical analysis of growth and decline of civilisations on different continents over millennia

Newitz tells fascinating stories about the people in these metropolises and how researchers came to understand how they lived their lives. Many of the discoveries are not just a result of traditional archaeological investigations, but also of new technologies and analytical methods.


In Beloved Beasts, Michelle Nijhuis shows that history can help contextualise and guide modern conservation

Through the eyes and actions of individuals, Beloved Beasts portrays the evolution of the surprisingly young field from a pursuit almost solely of the privileged Western elite to “a movement that is shaped by many people, many places, and many species.”


From the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have a roadmap to lowering the costs of medicine

The decades-long trend of rising drug prices, described by Eroom’s Law, is in part a result of regulatory inefficiencies.


Language of space exploration rhetoric can affect public perception of space activities

Would we want futuristic Mars settlements to operate like modern-day Earth towns, or could we do better?

Arts & Culture

In Radiant, Liz Heinecke explores the creative bond between Marie Curie and the American dancer Loïe Fuller

The most enduring message of Radiant, besides its tribute to the generative power of friendship, is that light can blind as surely as it can clarify.


Border disputes between India and China are threating climate science in the Himalayas

Both countries have a lot to gain from climate cooperation, as they face similar challenges like curbing pollution and safeguarding the glaciers that feed their rivers.


In pulmonologist Michael J Stephen’s book Breath Taking, a timely and compelling look at respiration

Arriving at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic's winter wave, pulmonologist Michael J Stephen's first book, Breath Taking: The Power, Fragility, and Future of Our Extraordinary Lungs, could not come at a better time.

Arts & Culture

In 'The Doctors Blackwell' Janice P Nimura goes beyond the myths surrounding a pioneering female physician

In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from an American medical school.


Future seems uncertain: Breathing life into the Corpse flower that smells like death

Corpse flowers aren’t doing great in their native home of Sumatra, as they are dwindling because of deforestation for lumber and crops.

Arts & Culture

The strange history of books bound in human skin: Megan Rosenbloom's latest is a deep dive into the practice  

As Rosenbloom crisscrosses the globe to confirm the purported origins of skin-bound books — a cracking detective story in itself — her journey offers unusual insight into what defines informed consent, what separates homage from exploitation, and how power disparities can breed casual inhumanity.

Arts & Culture

In The Great Secret, Jennet Conant explores the link between a WWII tragedy and a cancer breakthrough

The Great Secret is at its heart a scientific detective saga starring Alexander in its first half and Rhoads in its second, as the raw material of Alexander's dogged scientific work is transformed into the effective (and sometimes not so effective) standard cancer treatment of chemotherapy.


With ill-conceived resettlement schemes, Chennai's river restoration projects weigh heavily on riverside poor

Sathyavani Muthu Nagar is one of hundreds of informal settlements in the process of being demolished by Chennai officials — part of a vast effort, they say, to restore the city’s heavily polluted and constricted waterways.


Anti-vaxxers to AIDS denialism, should online platforms be held accountable for the misinformation they host?

As people take to the internet to spread misinformation like cures for autism and encourage AIDS denialism, social media algorithms boost their messages.


World Environment Day 2020: To prevent future pandemics, it is important to bridge the human—animal health divide

Veterinarians, as well as wildlife biologists, livestock farmers, and zookeepers, remain an untapped resource for combatting diseases that threaten people.


In Afghanistan, the wild ephedra shrub breathes new life into country's meth epidemic

Once the ephedra lands in these district centers, often outside areas of Afghan government control, it is milled to a fine powder and sold in bulk quantities at open-air markets that have sprung up with the express purpose of providing supplies to local meth-producers.