Many people have made a lot of money spreading myths and misinformation about metabolism. Advertisements for nutritional supplements, diet books, and pseudoscientific health websites claim they can help boost your metabolism. Sometimes part of the talk is that metabolism, which is how your body uses energy, slows down in middle age or that women have a slower metabolism than men. The myths persist in part because the diet and supplement industries are so profitable and so poorly regulated. But misinformation also creeps in because metabolism is really hard to study. Now, as evolutionary anthropologist Herman Pontzer writes in our cover story, scientists have discovered that much of what people think they know about metabolism isn’t true. It doesn’t slow down in middle age, to begin with, and there are no gender differences. He and his colleagues have also traced the evolution of human metabolism – we use far more energy than other great apes – and provide even more evidence that what makes humans human is cooperation.

Astronomers recently witnessed the synthesis of heavy elements for the first time. It all started when a distant star exploded and its core turned into a dense neutron star. Then its partner in a binary star system did the same. The two neutron stars wrapped around each other in a harrowing accident that dumped neutrons into atoms of iron or other lighter elements. The dramatic collision triggered gravitational waves that traveled 130 million light-years to Earth, accompanied by light with a spectrum that showed the presence of the heavy element strontium, the first direct observation of an element heavy in the process of forging. Nuclear astrophysicist Sanjana Curtis explains how the heaviest elements are made and why it’s no exaggeration to say we’re made of stardust.

One of the articles in this issue deals with death, mourning and the extinction of languages ​​and cultural traditions… but believe me, it’s a pleasure to read. Anthropologist Piers Vitebsky shares his life’s work with the indigenous Sora people, who live in the highlands of eastern India. He began documenting their language and religious practices in the 1970s and witnessed massive cultural shifts as young Sora converted to more mainstream religions. The traditional mourning rituals he describes are among the most elaborate and psychologically astute rites any religion has invented. He uses the term “theodiversity” to describe what is lost as people let go of long-held beliefs about the origins of the world and the nature of life and death.

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists who helped prove that the universe is not locally real. Really. Their work in quantum physics has advanced quantum computing and expanded human knowledge, and that’s undoubtedly very important, but it’s also pretty unnerving. Things aren’t “real” unless someone is watching them. “Local” refers to the idea that things can only be influenced by their environment, but it turns out that they can be influenced in weird and extremely long ways. Science journalist Daniel Garisto recounts how quantum physics went from crack pottery to hot field and why quantum entanglement could be both mind-blowing and useful. We hope you enjoy what he calls “one of the most disturbing discoveries of the past half-century.”