Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Inventions & Discoveries

The tools and technology that help us understand and change the world

Inventions & Discoveries

The Death of Anton Chekhov, Told in Proteins

New forensics techniques are allowing researchers to solve historical mysteries based on the small traces we leave on everyday objects.

preserved body with head on mat of peat moss
Inventions & Discoveries

Bodies in the Bog: The Lindow Mysteries

In the 1980s workers in an English peat bog started unearthing bodies, the apparent victims of violence.

Photo illustration of leaf shape filled with transistor and other electronics
Inventions & Discoveries

Can Science Build a Better Leaf?

Better photosynthesis, bomb-sniffing spinach, and that’s just the start of the ways plants are inspiring scientific innovation.

Woman in glasses standing beside lectern with a bowl in the foreground
Inventions & Discoveries

Interview: Jennifer Doudna

Distillations talks to the biochemist about the discovery of CRISPR-Cas9, the tool’s promise, and dangers of its misuse.

Picture of shipping containers
Inventions & Discoveries

Armageddon’s Fingerprints

Around the world a network of detectives searches for evidence of illicit nuclear activity. Is it enough to keep us safe from a nuclear catastrophe?

head louse holding hair strands
Inventions & Discoveries

The Parasites in Our Past

Lice can tell us a lot about who we are and where we came from.

Inventions & Discoveries

Gone to the Dogs

A long-running genetics project in Siberia helps us understand how we made man’s best friend.

Inventions & Discoveries

Constructing Life

A historian of science goes searching for meaning in synthetic life.

Inventions & Discoveries

Sweating Blood

A misunderstanding of hippo physiology gave rise to one of the most widespread and pointless practices in medical history.

Wedgwood’s cream-on-blue jasperware medallion of chemist Joseph Priestley, date unknown.
Inventions & Discoveries

Old Friends

Through fame, controversy, and peril Josiah Wedgwood and Joseph Priestley’s bond endured.

Inventions & Discoveries

The Scent of a Molecule

Can artificial intelligence help us decipher smell?

An 1822 star map by Alexander Jamieson shows the constellation Telescopium Herschelii, depicted here, ironically, as a refracting telescope.
Inventions & Discoveries

A Giant of Astronomy

William Herschel had a conflicted relationship with his biggest creation.

Inventions & Discoveries

Data from Disaster

Many tragic accidents have provided unexpectedly valuable information for scientists.

Inventions & Discoveries

Ingredients for Success

Is the mayonnaise substitute Just Mayo the future of food or just another product from the hype machine?

Hand holding a jar of golden rice. Green grass in the background.
Inventions & Discoveries

Feast or Famine

GMOs are one of the great success stories of the postwar era. So why do many find this technology so distasteful?

Arnold O. Beckman and Ken Peters
Inventions & Discoveries

A Covert Success Story

In the 1950s, a devious oil company created a television show to flatter industrialists and win their business.

Inventions & Discoveries

Women’s Work

The jogging craze of the 1970s required a change of equipment.

Inventions & Discoveries

Hacking Humans

Dissatisfied with the limitations of the human body, some people are modifying themselves with electronic compasses and magnetic implants.