From a poster for Charles Frohman’s dramatic production, The Hand of Destiny by Pierre Decourcelle, 1896

Why Did “Thieves’ Cant” Carry an Unshakeable Allure?

If thieves’ cant—a language known only to criminals—was the Devil’s cabinet, bourgeois society couldn’t help but peep inside.
The Miscegenation Troll

The “Miscegenation” Troll

The term “miscegenation” was coined in an 1864 pamphlet by an anonymous author.
An anime character with headphones

Chill Beats to Study/Relax to

Why is lo-fi hip-hop so conducive to concentration?
Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Willem van der Meer by Michiel van Mierevelt

Public Dissection Was a Gruesome Spectacle

Renaissance-era anatomists taught people to “knowe thyself” by reading the books of bodies.
Someone standing in the room of a hoarder

What’s Causing the Rise of Hoarding Disorder?

Now that the DSM lists severe hoarding as a disorder apart from OCD, psychologists are asking what explains its prevalence.
Tarantella dancers, 1828

When Dancing Plagues Struck Medieval Europe

The tarantella is named for a peasant woman from southern Italy whose tarantula bite started a contagious dancing fever!
A chocolate orange meant to symbolize Brexit.

The Many Metaphors of Brexit

How do metaphors shape political perceptions? And what do they mean for the future of Europe?
Composite image of Dmitri Mendeleev, a periodic table, and the Milky Way galaxy

How Far Does the Periodic Table Go?

Efforts to fill the periodic table raise questions of special relativity that “strike at the very heart of chemistry as a discipline.”
A Polynesian rat

Down the Research Rat Hole

While writing her forthcoming book about Polynesia, the author discovered the work of Teuira Henry, a scholar and folklorist who studied ancient Tahiti.
duck billed platypus

Our Best Stories of 2018

Victorian librarians, Mister Rogers, queer time, and Jane Austen's subversive linguistics, oh my!