The spirit of The Martian has struck a rousing chord with the American public: sending them to movie theaters in droves, gluing them to paperbacks, infusing new hunger for scientific pursuits, and even charging up NASA dreams of space exploration.

The film was pitched to execs as a “love letter to science,” and it is. It’s stirs within us dreams of how much we can achieve by learning and building upon our exciting expanse of scientific knowledge. But it also speaks to some other, more complicated emotions. What’s fueling Mark Whitney’s ingenuity is a driving, tenacious will to survive in the face of one of the most lonely circumstances a human could ever find themselves in.

“Don’t run. Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody dies. Now, come watch TV,” Morty tells his sister Summer, who’s having a bitter teenage meltdown over news that her birth was a mistake. Summer’s going through a world-shattering event, but thanks to Grandpa Rick’s universe-bending, Morty has seen some things that put everything into perspective. What he’s saying is stark, but comforting.

I just discovered Richard Wright’s Black Boy pretty recently. It’s not quite a direct memoir (many of the personal facts and anecdotes are fuzzy and were inserted for narrative effect) as it a vivid impression of what it was like to be a young black man in 1920-30ss America. It makes that time period from that perspective alive and present. Reading an evocative account of another person’s experience closes the distance between you. We can never fully know what’s it… Read more »

Sadness is such a difficult part of ourselves. Life, it often seems, would be better without it. But that’s not exactly true. I kind of like my sadness, as long as it’s balanced. When things go wrong, I’d rather just be quiet with it than to feel nothing at all. It can feel good to hurt, or to at least bring the hurt up to the surface enough to get it out through tears, words or hugs. Life itself is incredibly tough, and that’s why we need sadness to get us through. If we ignore it too much, the world takes on a dishonest veneer, and we feel a bit dishonest ourselves. We need to just talk, listen and rest sometimes. Sometimes we just need to say, simple as it is, “Yeah, it’s sad.” Pete Docter’s Pixar animated film Inside Out examines this importance of sadness in a way that’s never been done before on screen, maybe never been done before at all.

“She’s not autistic,” Caleb says to billionaire mad scientist Nathan, who’s asking him to evaluate the artificial humanity of his robot Ava. That’s an interesting comment for him to make, and runs through the heart of all the questions this film asks. While we’re trying to figure out if we can create electronic, artificial conscious and emotional beings, some of the humans these simulations are supposed to emulate don’t pass all the tests. As programmable and predictable as we humans are, we are still a bit beyond our own understanding, and maybe we really can’t replicate ourselves until we better understand ourselves.

Bruce Jenner umaas shaken up our world and brought the question of gender to the forefront of popular consciousness. His two-hour interview with Diane Sawyer was a very well-planned introduction to the “real” Bruce Jenner, an introduction to a public figure we thought we somewhat knew, but actually haven’t met before.

The Internet and media didn’t break Monica Lewinsky, but it almost did. It’s been almost two decades since the former White House intern, in her words, became “patient zero” for internet shame and scandal. But now, after 17 years of being a punchline, she’s stepped out of the shadows to remind us all that she is, after all, a person. She asking that we consider the humanity of people with our stray comments, a practice that is just as important offline as online.