How Old is Time?

Short Stories from Science, History and Philosophy

"I travel a lot around the world, I regularly follow the world's most notable news sources, and I often socialize with prominent intellectuals in various parts of the world, but the best short stories about science I encounter are those I find at home in my native Slovenia. The essays on science by my colleague Sašo Dolenc are not only fresh, exciting and entertaining but also very diverse, as they cover various topics from the social sciences and philosophy as well as technology, mathematics and the natural sciences. His books come closest to what we could call the royal road to knowledge." 

-- Renata Salecl, philosopher and author of The Tyranny of Choice

The aim of the writings collected in this series is to present some key scientific events, ideas and personalities in the form of short stories that are easy and fun to read. Scientific and philosophical concepts are explained in a way that anyone may understand. Each story may be read separately, but at the same time, they all band together to form a wide-ranging introduction to the history of science and areas of contemporary scientific research, as well as some of the recurring problems science has encountered in history and the philosophical dilemmas it raises today.



How old is time? 11

Conquering absolute zero 16

In search of the perfect machine 21

Baby pictures of the universe 26

How the universe was made 30

The beginnings of quantum physics 35

The Tao of science 39

A particle that wasn't there 44


The biology of ethics 51

How pleasure works 56

Thinking about alternatives 60

Why does digital music only make sense to a human ear? 64

Humans are co-operative creatures 69

What really causes addiction? 74

The power of ignorance and uncertainty 78

The biology of watching 83

The winner brain 88

How to build an artificial brain 92

Signing with numbers 97


Do genes have memory? 103

The Gaia hypothesis 109

When nature falls silent 114

How would the world look like without fossil fuels? 119

CRISPR – biotechnology of the future 123

The placebo effect: how does it work? 128

Medicine: does the end justify the means? 133

What helps doctors make decisions? 137

Unusual theories about our senses 142

Food is more than a war between good and bad 146


A third sex? 153

The psychology of terrorism and radicalization 158

The dilemma of a travelling salesman 163

Strangers in their own land 168

Social physics 173

The second machine age 178

What makes a good teacher? 183

The secret formula for making a hit 188

The new generation of cyber warriors 192

The Supreme Court’s sentencing algorithm 197

Why do we need privacy? 202

The battle for the Internet 206

Stories about money 211

How scientific journals became a lucrative business 216

Driverless cars - how do they work? 221


How logic was born from the crisis of Athenian democracy 229

The dangerous blend of love and logic 234

Hollywood star and military inventor 240

The world's most important scientist meets world’s most famous philosopher 245

The American physicist who taught the Japanese about quality 250

How a philosopher helped a scientist get a Nobel Prize 255

Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and the clash of the rich 258

The real Albert Einstein 262

Countess Ada of Lovelace – pioneer of computer science 267

A dangerous mathematical theory 272

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