Diffusion models generate incredible images by learning to reverse the process that, among other things, causes ink to spread through water.

Interview with Theaster Gates. Too bad I’ll miss his show at New York’s New Museum.

Hans Belting. An obituary (in German).

Der Kampf gegen die globale Katastrophe hält uns gefangen. War es das schon? Wer jetzt noch nach Hoffnung sucht, muss in die Vergangenheit reisen. Slavoj Žižek in Die Zeit.

Matisse: The Red Studio. This must have been a wonderful exhibition.

Unlucky numbers. Statistician Richard Gill is fighting the shoddy statistics that put nurses in prison for serial murder.

A wave of research improves reinforcement learning algorithms by pre-training them as if they were human. “They taught a robotic arm to manipulate tools it had never seen before, and pre-trained it using descriptive language taken from successful language models.”

The proportion of publications that send a field in a new direction has plummeted over the past half-century. “Data from millions of manuscripts show that, compared with mid-twentieth-century research, that done in the 2000s was much more likely to push science forward incrementally than to veer off in a new direction and render previous work obsolete. Analysis of patents from 1976 to 2010 showed the same trend.”

Unearned authorship pervades science. “Almost 70% of researchers based in Europe say that they have been involved in projects in the past three years that listed authors who did not contribute sufficiently to the work, according to a major survey.”

How games can make behavioural science better. Wordle, Minecraft and Scrabble are played online by millions. Gamifying experiments can make behavioural research more inclusive, rigorous and reproducible, if it’s done right.

A recent comparative study of medieval Christian and Islamic culture suggests that marvels offer common ground: wonder is a shared delight, a shared motive.

The universe's first stars?

Fireworks display from rare dying star is unlike anything astronomers have seen.

The Milky Way in spellbinding detail and more. January’s best science images.