We’ll put you on the right path to maximize your benefits. Photo from iStock. Social Security will pay out nearly $1 trillion in benefits this year. For more than half of all recipients, the payments are more than 50% of their retirement income. But for the eighth year in a row, this critical pay-as-you-go program will take in less in taxes than it pays out in benefits. If nothing is done to change the system and the economy behaves as expected, a financial catastrophe demanding across-the-board benefit cuts will arrive in 18 years. You’ve heard this lament before, of course, along with assurances that, sooner or later, members of Congress will get around to doing something to shore up the system. But focusing on the long-term crisis masks a much more immediate threat, one that can explode long before 2035—perhaps when you, or someone you know, walks into a local […]

Chasing Escobar Javier Peña, as a character, was popularized through the Netflix series ’Narcos.’ But the story of the real Peña—who lives in San Antonio—and his quest to end the reign of Pablo Escobar, is bigger than a screen. A mug shot of Pablo Escobar taken in Colombia in 1981. Inside a church in Medellín, Colombia, Drug Enforcement Agency agent Javier Peña listened as the fourteen-year-old boy in front of him admitted to murdering ten policemen. The boy was one of Pablo Escobar’s sicarios—the hitmen, often teenage boys, hired to kill anyone in Escobar’s way. The teenager didn’t feel any remorse. If he was given an order, he would kill again in a second. He would do anything for Escobar. It’s been decades since that day: Peña’s charcoal black mustache is now a crisp white, and the brown gradient aviators he often sported have been replaced by a small pair […]

How Overexcited Neurons Might Affect How You Age New research makes a molecular connection between the brain and aging—and shows that overactive neurons can shorten life span. A thousand seemingly insignificant things change as an organism ages. Beyond the obvious signs like graying hair and memory problems are myriad shifts both subtler and more consequential: Metabolic processes run less smoothly; neurons respond less swiftly; the replication of DNA grows faultier. Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research develop­ments and trends in mathe­matics and the physical and life sciences. But while bodies may seem to just gradually wear out, many researchers believe instead that aging is controlled at the cellular and biochemical level. They find evidence for this in the throng of biological mechanisms that are linked to aging but also […]

The Sugar Conspiracy In 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long? Robert Lustig is a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specialises in the treatment of childhood obesity. A 90-minute talk he gave in 2009, titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth, has now been viewed more than six million times on YouTube. In it, Lustig argues forcefully that fructose, a form of sugar ubiquitous in modern diets, is a “poison” culpable for America’s obesity epidemic. A year or so before the video was posted, Lustig gave a similar talk to a conference of biochemists in Adelaide, Australia. Afterwards, a scientist in the audience approached him. Surely, the man said, you’ve read Yudkin. […]

When Twins Take Over the Town For one weekend each year, Twinsburg, Ohio, becomes the world capital of seeing double. Photo collage by Elizabeth Renstrom with photos courtesy Donald Hayes. Moses and Aaron Wilcox purchased the town now known as Twinsburg, Ohio, in the early 1800s. According to historical records, the identical twins, who were born on May 11, 1770, in Killingworth, Connecticut, were so alike in “feature, voice and manner” that even their closest friends couldn’t tell them apart. To receive the naming rights to their new plot of land, the Wilcox brothers donated six acres at the center of town for the public square, as well as twenty dollars for the foundation of a schoolhouse. They christened the town Twinsburg in 1819. The Wilcox brothers were inseparable. They attended the same school, worked as business partners and married sisters, Mabel and Huldah Lord, who were not twins. They each […]

How to Find Time Start by asking yourself if time is really the issue. There’s never enough time. You want to exercise, eat well and be healthy. But the day slips by and you don’t go to the gym. You eat that muffin for lunch, instead of the salad you thought you would. You want to do great work, advance your career, produce something meaningful. But your email inbox is overflowing. A coworker drops by to, “ask a quick question.” Soon the working day is done, and you’re exactly where you were the day before. You want to learn a language, guitar, to paint or martial arts. If you could just put time in consistently, you could make it happen. But it stops more than it starts, and years go by while it remains just a notion. Where to Find Time The first thing to realize is that time is […]

Wisława Szymborska on How Our Certitudes Keep Us Small and the Generative Power of Not-Knowing “Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous ‘I don’t know.’” “Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion,” the great painter Richard Diebenkorn counseled in his ten rules for beginning creative projects. “One doesn’t arrive — in words or in art — by necessarily knowing where one is going,” the artist Ann Hamilton wrote a generation later in her magnificent meditation on the generative power of not-knowing. “In every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don’t know.” What is true of art is even truer of life, for a human life is the greatest work of art there is. (In my own life, looking back on […]

A journey to the underwater volcanoes where life may have erupted. A black smoker spews hot, mineral-laden fluid. The containers on the right collect samples of the hydrothermal fluid and any microbes present. Photograph from http://www.whoi.edu. It was nearly midnight aboard the research vessel Atlantis. The ship was about a thousand miles west of Costa Rica, where she’d sailed from, hovering over a hydrothermal vent field in the eastern Pacific. Rutgers microbiologist Costantino Vetriani, seated a few feet away from me in the dark control room, radiated energy despite the hour. He peered intently through his glasses at dozens of monitors, occasionally running a hand over his shaved head. On the live video feed from the remotely operated submersible on the bottom, we watched thick black smoke with a scorching temperature of over 350 degrees Celsius billow from a rocky tower a mile beneath us. It was a stunning sight, […]

How a woke brand is made. Convincing 100 women to show up at a warehouse and take photos of their chests is no easy feat. Convincing them through a Craigslist ad is nearly impossible. But that’s what lingerie company ThirdLove did in 2013 while developing a proprietary app that was designed to predict better bra sizes. “The app was problematic, to say the least,” said a former engineer we’ll call Ben. “It basically only worked if the photos were good.” When people tried out the at-home instructions exactly — take two pictures in front of a full-length mirror in good lighting while wearing a tight tank top, making sure the phone is at waist-height — the results were reliably accurate. But getting people to do that was difficult. “The app was problematic, to say the least” Then there was the matter of data security. Co-CEO David Spector told Inc the […]

The Inside Story of How McDonald’s Innovated the Quarter Pounder In a change that has been as seismic for McDonald’s as the drive-through window, the chain has reintroduced its signature burger with fresh—never frozen—beef. And that’s just the start. A cryptic missive went out in the spring of 2018 to all 3.6 million people who follow McDonald’s on Twitter. The tweet read, simply: “100% Fresh Beef + John Goodman = ASMR(ish)” and included a link to a video. In the split-screen clip, the Big Lebowski and Roseanne star stares into the camera and—somewhat unnervingly—whispers a carnal ode to the fast-food giant’s Quarter Pounder burger, accompanied by the sounds and visuals of an appetizing-looking patty sizzling on the grill. “Hey, you,” Goodman murmurs intently. “McDonald’s new fresh-beef Quarter Pounder is hotter and juicier. It’ll leave you speech-less. I can almost feel that juice sizzling…. Oh baby, the melted cheese is hugging […]

Netflix or Hulu? HBO or Showtime? Disney Plus or HBO Max? Here’s help LookingLooking at the apps on my Roku TV marketplace — Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now, Apple TV Plus, and Crunchyroll, just to name a few — I’m overwhelmed at the veritable avalanche of streaming services available to me. Disney Plus is under a week away, while HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock are not far behind. The streaming wars, ushered in by an era of Peak TV, are in full effect. No one can watch everything; money and time are finite resources, after all. To make it a little easier on you (and your wallet), we here at Polygon broke down nearly every streaming service — how much it costs, what to watch, and who should subscribe — from the big guys like Netflix to niche collections like Mubi. A word of advice: If you’re going to […]

How To Wipe a Computer of All Your Personal Data And also recycle it once you’re done. Whether you’re selling it, trashing it, or reusing it, that old computer of yours has a bunch of extremely private data stored inside. And there’s a good chance that tossing files in the recycling bin and hitting factory reset won’t protect you. If a hacker finds the pattern your computer used to move those 0s and 1s around, they can reverse engineer the original state of your computer and pull out the goods. This guide will take you through how to factory reset your computer or take a step beyond that by hiring a professional company to ensure your data has been destroyed (or smash up the computer yourself). What Is a Factory Reset? A factory reset will definitely make it impossible for you to practically access programs or files on your computer. […]

This mental disorder gives us a unique insight into the digital age. We start with the case of a woman who experienced unbearable tragedy. In 1899, this Parisian bride, Madame M., had her first child. Shockingly, the child was abducted and substituted with a different infant, who soon died. She then had twin girls. One grew into healthy adulthood, while the other, again, was abducted, once more replaced with a different, dying infant. She then had twin boys. One was abducted, while the other was fatally poisoned. Madame M. searched for her abducted babies; apparently, she was not the only victim of this nightmarish trauma, as she often heard the cries of large groups of abducted children rising from the cellars of Paris. As if all this pain was not enough, Madame M.’s sole surviving child was abducted and replaced with an imposter of identical appearance. And soon the same […]

When you chase empty goals you become restless. Focus on your own potential and forget external expectations. Do you sometimes feel like you’re wasting your potential? And do you also feel unsure about how you can even reach your full potential? If so, you’re like any other ambitious person who wants to make the best of his/her life. Because to me, that’s what “reaching your potential” means. We all have limited time on our hands. Some live longer than others. But you and I both know that it’s not about how long you live, it’s about what you do with the time you’re alive. It’s about leaving everything on the table and making sure you live up to your inner drive. Look, when I talk about reaching your potential, I’m not talking about what other people or society thinks we should do with our lives. When you chase empty goals […]

The Secret Hit-Making Power of the Spotify Playlist Starley Hope thought she was done with the music biz after writing “Call on Me.” The song felt like her last shot at success after spending years trying to make it as a songwriter. “I decided I was going to give it up and get a ‘real job,’” she told the website Music Love. She released the track as her debut single in July, expecting it to be her swan song. It wasn’t. “Call on Me” currently sits at No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100. It hit number one on the Swedish charts, and went gold or platinum in nine countries. Hope wrote a certified hit single, one dwarfed only by the remix from Aussie DJ Ryan Riback. Although you hear it all over the radio now, Spotify users found themselves bouncing along to her synthy strains seven months ago. The song […]