When historians only focus on written sources, they risk missing vital aspects of the historical record. The material traces of the past, the things people have chosen, made or used, can offer important evidence allowing us to understand the historical value of the material world. We can understand the relationship between material culture and history […]
In a recent essay, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman asked “Can City Life Survive Coronavirus?” It seems an apt question in this extraordinary time of mandated retreat from public life. City streets and spaces normally teeming with people are nearly deserted now, evoking scenes from a Terry Gilliam film. In an effort to slow the […]
Late on 13 April 1970, the night shift had started in Houston’s Manned Spaceflight Center. Engineers tried to sift through reams of odd data coming about the Apollo 13 spacecraft, from instrument readings to the confused reports from three astronauts. It looked like they were rapidly losing their oxygen supply. “First of all, we thought […]
Public health officials all over the United States—indeed globally—are trying to decide how to deal with the world’s coronavirus pandemic. They know the coronavirus originated in China, and they know they can identify it with certainty. But they do not know what might kill it, and they have no cure for anyone who contracts […]
We have been telling stories about machines with minds for almost three thousand years. In the Iliad, written around 800 BCE, Homer describes the oldest known AI: “golden handmaidens” created by Hephaestus, the disabled god of metalworking. They “seemed like living maidens” with “intelligence… voice and vigour”, and “bustled about supporting their master.” In the Odyssey, Homer […]
The United Nations’ International Day of Peace is celebrated on 21 September each year, marking efforts to bring the world closer to a state of harmony and further away from violence. Here are some surprising facts about peace and the quest to achieve it:
In 1904, twenty-six-year-old A.B.C. Merriman-Labor stamped the red dust of Freetown’s streets from his shoes and headed for London. There he intended to prove his literary skill to the world. The Sierra Leone Weekly News had assured him that his color would no obstacle there, and he could “go anywhere, wherever his merits, either intellectual or social, will take him.”
The confirmation of Einstein’s new general theory of relativity on the 29th of May 1919 made headlines around the world. Arthur Stanley Eddington’s measurement of the gravitational deflection of starlight by the Sun was a triumph of experimental and theoretical physics.
Most gardens are in predictable places and are organised in predictable ways. On entering an English suburban garden, for example, one expects to see a lawn bordered by hedges and flowerbeds, a hard surface with a table for eating al fresco on England’s two days of summer, and a water feature quietly burbling in a corner.
Did modern democracy start its long career in the North Atlantic? Was it invented by the Americans, the French and the British? The French Revolution certainly helped to inject modern meaning into a term previously chiefly associated with the ancient world, with ancient Greece and republican Rome.
Though history favours the warriors, monarchs, and rebels, female pacifists and mediators behind the scenes were just as vital in the fight for equality.
The past is a mess. To pick a path through the mire, historians have appealed to providence, progress, environmental determinism, class struggle, biology and fate. No explanation has worked – so far. But try shifting perspective: look for the broadest possible context, the most suggestive comparisons. Climb the cosmic crow’s nest. Imagine what history might […]
It’s a time-honored game, and any number can play. The rules are simple: just take whatever problem is bothering you today, add the word “Rome,” and voilà. You have just discovered why the mightiest empire in Western history came to an end.
How did life begin? We will never know with certainty what the Earth was like four billion years ago, or the kinds of reactions that led to the emergence of life at that time, but there is another way to pose the question. If we ask “how can life begin?” instead of “how did life begin,” that simple change of verbs offers hope.
One hundred years ago, the treaty of Versailles, the centerpiece of a set of treaties and agreements collectively known as the Paris Peace Settlements, was signed in the glittering hall of mirrors in the former home of France’s Sun King.
The most important date is 1949, when the populous nations of China, India and Indonesia enfranchised women; that was 40 per cent of the world’s female population. What was driving these enfranchisements? The great movements of women’s suffrage, where tens of nations enfranchised in a few years, are associated with national solidarity and re-organisation.