There’s a certain amount of comfort to be taken from living in an American city during the Trump era—that is, if you're not thrilled with where the nation at large has lately been headed. I suspect a lot of people were very encouraged when their cities refused to use local resources for ICE enforcement, or more than 300 mayors said they would remain committed to the Paris Agreement. Mike Bloomberg helped rally those mayors and others, and even agreed to pay $15 million toward UN operating costs when the U.S. withdrew. You sometimes get this sense that just maybe, with the help of some kindly billionaires, cities can rally together and take a crack at a more progressive America.Read More
Bring leading computer scientists together with leading astrophysicists, and exciting stuff happens—complex computer simulations of galaxy formation, algorithms churning through terabytes of data collected by telescope arrays. Same thing goes for biologists, as they work with programmers to bring order to the chaos of neurons firing by the millions.
But get everyone working together under the same roof with extensive time and funding, and unexpected work might take shape. New ideas could form as computer scientists and researchers from a variety of fields hold meetings, chat over lunch, or just run into each other in the hallways.
That’s the kind of research environment the Simons Foundation is trying to cultivate with its latest endeavor, and its most ambitious yet, the Flatiron Institute. What’s more, Jim and Marilyn Simons also decided they wanted that same roof to be their own. More specifically, the foundation made a significant expansion into the building right across the street from its Manhattan offices to accommodate a new research institute fully supported by the foundation.
Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.
The eye is about the size of a quarter, resting gently in Kurt Jahrling’s hand as he adds faint washes of yellow and blue to the white surface. The ocularist has already laid tiny, reddish-pink threads of silk over the surface to mimic the curves of blood vessels, tiny rivers winding from either corner toward the iris. A hazel centerpiece surrounds a black dot meant to mimic the pupil; as the finishing touch, he adds the arcus, a grey ring that hugs the outer edge of some aging irises.
The result is an astoundingly close approximation of the missing right eye of a 63-year-old Bostonian named Kevin. Kevin had his eye surgically removed eight months prior. Today, he’ll wear this tiny piece of acrylic home: an illusion, a practical placeholder, and a little piece of art.
Read the full article at The Atlantic.
Image: Victor Ruiz Garcia / Reuters
Originally published in American Forests Magazine Winter/Spring 2016 issue.
Botanical gardens are building the first online catalog of every known plant species in the world. It could be a game-changing tool for conservation.
For more than 400 years, humans have been collecting bits of leaf and twig, pressing them flat and dry for safe-keeping and writing about them in journals and books, all to better understand the world’s plants and, more recently, to protect them.
Our knowledge has become exponentially more sophisticated over those years, but the information we’ve accumulated remains scattered all over the world and is often difficult to access. As biologists race to protect biodiversity, there’s an effort underway to change that, a global partnership to build World Flora Online — the first online catalog of the estimated 400,000 vascular plant species of the world.Read More
Beneath the water lie memories of vibrant villages.| Originally published in The Magazine, September 11, 2014.
Sally Norcross stands outside what was once her childhood home, in the heart of Dana, Massachusetts. She and her family left town 76 years ago, but she has clear memories of throwing crabapples into the yard of her grouchy neighbor Mr. Vaughn. Across Main Street is where she used to sit in school and watch out the window as the men dug up all the graves in the cemetery.
The bodies and headstones were relocated and the town of Dana abandoned. Her family’s house is an empty stone cellar overgrown with brush, like the remains of all the other buildings that made up the town. Dana is one of four towns that once lay in the Swift River Valley. All four of them are gone. Dana is unique in that its town common is the only one of the four that’s still above water and accessible.Read More
In an otherwise unremarkable room at MIT, the published history of science fiction overflows. | Originally published in The Magazine, June 19, 2014.
By Tate Williams
Decades before Guy Consolmagno had an asteroid named after him in honor of his contributions to planetary science, he was a directionless history major at Boston College. Then he saw what MIT was keeping in a room of the student center. He knew he had to transfer.
It wasn’t MIT’s research on meteoroids and asteroids, or its contributions to NASA lunar missions, or even the early stages of what would become the Internet, though all of this was happening on the Cambridge campus around 1970. Rather, it was a bunch of novels. Thousands and thousands of science fiction novels.Read More
First published in American Forests magazine spring/summer 2014. |
In the 1820s, America's cities had a problem: People kept dying, and church burial grounds were filling up. Fortunately, a group of horticulturists in Massachusetts had a solution and, in 1831, Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge became the first modern cemetery. Other cities began to follow suit, dedicating rolling, scenic tracts of land on the outskirts of town to honor the deceased. This “rural cemetery,” or “garden cemetery,” movement not only temporarily solved the problem of where to put the dead, but it also gave us the nation’s very first parks.
Over the decades, cemeteries fell out of vogue as cultural centers, but their fall from favor was not to be permanent. Today, the practice of using cemeteries for outdoor recreation is bubbling up once more, as urban dwellers seek out nature in the city.Read More
| Essay originally published on Futures Exchange, via Medium, on October 22, 2013.
Bill McKibben was firing up a rally of climate activists in Cambridge, Mass., this past summer in preparation for a protest and mass arrest at one of the state’s coal-fired power plants:
“The message we need to keep sending all the time is, there is nothing radical about what we’re asking,” he said. “All we’re asking for is a world that works the way the one we were born into worked. That’s not radical. That’s actually kind of conservative.”
This is a shrewd point, and just one part of a pretty powerful overall talk, but as an environmentalist, I found the sentiment troubling. If the green movement’s rallying cry is to keep the world the way it was when we were born, isn’t it fairly doomed? Sounds like a stodgy, if not pointless cause. I would argue that, for environmentalism to stay vital in decades to come, it’s going to have to stop being so resistant to change, and dive into a far more imaginative conversation of what our future might hold.Read More
Originally published in Souciant Magazine on December 12, 2012. The back cover and spine of Punk: An Aesthetic are almost entirely white, with a clean, black typeface. Seen from a distance on a bookshelf, it could be any modern art book. But the front cover — punk cartoonist Gary Panter’s illustration of the singer for The Screamers — is another matter, a large, low-quality print of a black-and-white face fixed in what looks like a scream of rage, befitting the book’s innards.
Look inside and you’ll see a riot of images: hand-scrawled political rants, shredded clothing, swastikas, pornography, violent photomontage and hundreds of others from the 1970s punk movement. That screaming face on the front cover gives you the feeling the content inside doesn’t want to be contained.Read More