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.

Those of my generation have seen enormous advances in speech recognition systems.

In the early days, the user had to train herself to the system, exaggerating phonemes, speaking in slow staccato bursts. These days, it's the system that trains itself to the user. The results aren't perfect, but they're pretty darn good.

On Jan. 9, 2007, 10 years ago today, Steve Jobs formally announced Apple's "revolutionary mobile phone" — a device that combined the functionality of an iPod, phone and Internet communication into a single unit, navigated by touch.

It was a huge milestone in the development of smartphones, which are now owned by a majority of American adults and are increasingly common across the globe.

This post was updated on Oct. 17.

The last of three debates between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will take place Wednesday night in Las Vegas.

The debates, sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, have the stated mission of offering "the best possible information to viewers and listeners" in the lead-up to the general election.

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?

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department Health and Human Services convene an advisory committee to develop dietary guidelines based on the latest scientific and medical research. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines won't be released until later this year, but they're already generating debate.

Many illnesses are contagious. You'd do well to avoid your neighbor's sneeze, for example, and to wash your hands after tending to your sick child.

But what about mental illness?

The idea that anxiety, autism or major depression could be transmitted through contact may sound crazy — and it probably is. There's a lot we don't know about the origins of mental illness, but the mechanisms identified so far point in other directions.