The complex economy of the forest (Quanta)
by Gabriel Popkin
Trees, microbes, and fungi that help make up forest ecosystems don’t just share resources; they exchange them in remarkably complex ways, with different players sometimes maximizing their gains and punishing poor trading partners.
Weird pregnancy theories of the 19th century (Nursing Clio)
by Karen Weingarten
One pregnancy manual written by a nineteenth-century doctor warned American women that being frightened by a man with a missing hand might cause their child to be born handless. This kind of linkage between women’s experiences and the outcomes of their pregnancies was common for decades in the U.S.
Why squirrels eavesdrop (Scientific American)
by Christopher Intagliata
If we want to understand a possible threat in our neighborhood, we may find ourselves eavesdropping on our neighbors to get a sense of what they think. It turns out squirrels do the same thing, listening to what the birds are chattering about.
What Toni Morrison did (WBUR)
by David Folkenflik, Dana Williams, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Russell Banks
Scholars and writers weigh in on the way the late Toni Morrison transformed the American literary cannon, and the country.
How a West African queen fought colonial powers (Longreads)
by Anne Thériault
In seventeenth-century West Africa, Queen Njinga fought off Portuguese colonizers and other enemies with physical skill in battle, strategic religious conversion, and the murder of some of her relatives.
There’s something modern about “menopause” (The New York Times)
by Susan Mattern
Ancient Greek, Latin, and Chinese medical texts contain no mention of menopause as the cause of unpleasant symptoms. That suggests that its current incarnation may be less fixed than we tend to imagine.
Who can thrive on 5 hours of sleep? (Wired)
by Sara Harrison
Why can some people sleep far less than eight hours a night without ending up forgetful and irritable the next day? New research points to a particular gene mutation.
The evidence for trigger warnings is lacking (The Atlantic)
by Olga Khazan
Trigger warnings are often blamed for excusing students from engaging with difficult topics. The bigger problem with them is that there’s little evidence they have the helpful effects proponents hope for.
Sexual orientation is really very complicated (PBS)
by Nsikan Akpan
A massive study found that genetics account for only 8 to 25 percent of a person’s likelihood of engaging in same-sex relationships. Genes play a role in sexuality, along with many other factors, but it’s impossible to predict an individual’s sexual orientation based on any “gay gene.”
The politics of coal-country nonvoters (Slate)
by Ruth Graham
Working-class people from coal country aren’t all Trump voters. Many of them, regardless of race or gender, don’t vote at all. A sociologist studied the complicated, despairing politics of people who feel ill-served by politicians of all stripes.
The long history of fighting about women’s soccer (Public Books)
by Carlin Wing
A century ago, women’s soccer was thriving in England. Then the English Football Association banned female players. The global history of “soccerwomen” is a history of fights about gender, race, and class.
Phones are messing with our skulls, or are they? (The Cut)
by Hannah Gold and Amanda Arnold
Last week The Washington Post reported on a new study that found some young people’s skeletons are changing, sprouting bony spikes that may be caused by the unnatural way we hold our heads to look at our phones. Turns out to be a little more complicated than that.
Dancing toward understanding (Aeon)
by Kimerer LaMothe
Every human culture has a dance tradition. But why? Imitating and creating movements together may be a key to human survival and continuing adaptation.
Walls in our minds (The New Yorker)
by Jessica Wapner
Living near a border wall is associated with higher rates of mental illness. Around the world, walls are both causes and symptoms of fear and division.
Why that soundtrack is so scary (Quartz)
by Adam Epstein
In the soundtracks for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Game of Thrones, you’ve probably noticed that a sustained sound makes listeners tense up in expectation of something very bad. A musicologist explains the many uses of the “drone of dread.”
How Inuit families parent without anger (NPR)
by Michaeleen Doucleff
Inuit parents have one of the gentlest parenting styles on earth, rarely raising their voices to their children. Instead they use stories and help kids see the consequences of their behavior.