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How Societies Are Defined by the Segmentation of Time

By | October 6, 2017

Why does an hour last 60 minutes? Why does a minute last 60 seconds? What are “minutes” and “seconds,” really? A minute is just the duration you arrive at if you divide an hour into 60 equal segments. Seconds are merely what you get if you divide hours by 60 a second time.
We use these units because some of the first people to make …

Headline, What It Means to Be American »

Why Sheep Started So Many Wars in the American West

By | October 5, 2017

In early October, when the leaves turn golden and the shadows of the Sawtooth Mountains lengthen, the annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival moves through south central Idaho. The festival, complete with a sheep parade, sheepdog trials, and a wool fest, celebrates the long relationship between sheep and their human companions. 
Sun Valley, Idaho, is synonymous with New West wealth, but it sits in the Wood River …

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Longing for the Softer Side of Hurricanes

By | October 4, 2017

After school, whenever I walked into my family’s home in Davie, Florida, I was always reminded of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, which decimated nearly 64,000 homes some 60 miles away in the city of Homestead. Andrew—all Floridians are on a first name basis with their hurricanes—still lived on via the duct tape my uncle had applied to our jalousie windows. Even after the tape was removed, …

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To Black Athletes, Donald Trump Is Playing the Dozens

By | October 3, 2017

President Donald Trump did not say, “Yo’ mama!” in front of a partisan Huntsville, Alabama audience. But he might as well have because that is what athletes heard directed at them.
Perhaps without even realizing it, the president had engaged in an age-old tradition of playing the dozens, the term for an African American game involving the exchange of insults before an audience. Or did …

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Our Revelatory Culinary Road Trip Through the New South

It was New Year’s Day in Charlotte, North Carolina, and seemingly half of Mecklenburg County had come to the K&W Cafeteria for black-eyed peas, greens, and hog jowls—foods to bring good luck for the year ahead. The Formica tables were packed with local ladies in their fancy hats, college kids, tired families, and business folks in suits, all snaking slowly through a winding line to …

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Mexico’s ’85 Earthquake Didn’t Start a Revolution

By | September 29, 2017

Can the shaking of earthquakes upend political power?
This question often has been answered by referencing Mexico. Political scientists often link Mexico City’s devastating 8.0 magnitude earthquake on September 19, 1985, to the end of the PRI’s seven-decades-long rule of the country 15 years later. Their argument is not that the party was responsible for the loss of some 10,000 lives, but rather that the disaster …

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How the South Recast Defeat as Victory with an Army of Stone Soldiers

By | September 28, 2017

Monuments to Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders have long been controversial, but monuments to nameless Confederate soldiers, those lone stone figures in public places, are far more common and have long served as an iconic symbol of the South. Understanding the origins of these stone soldiers who still loom over present-day towns and cities may help us better understand current controversies over them.
The …

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How Trump’s Staff Could Save Him from Himself

By | September 27, 2017

The stupefying deeds of the Trump White House are passing in such a blur these days that it is hard to parse the incompetence. From policies foreign and domestic that churn without solidifying, to presidential tweets that seem the products of insult comedians, to an obsession with fixing blame before even knowing results, this seems more a Three Stooges comedy than a functional administration.
One piece …

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The 1918 Flu Pandemic That Revolutionized Public Health

By | September 26, 2017

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1918, the world experienced the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Death, possibly in the whole of human history. We call that tidal wave the Spanish flu, and many things changed in the wake of it. One of the most profound revolutions took place in the domain of public health.
The world was a very different place in the …

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How Bullwinkle Helped Us Laugh Off Nuclear Annihilation

By | September 25, 2017

“Mr. Chairman, I am against all foreign aid, especially to places like Hawaii and Alaska,” says Senator Fussmussen from the floor of a cartoon Senate in 1962. In the visitors’ gallery, Russian agents Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale are deciding whether to use their secret “Goof Gas” gun to turn the Congress stupid, as they did to all the rocket scientists and professors in the …

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