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why US states have straight borders

Why Are U.S. Borders Straight Lines?

The ever-shifting curve of shoreline and river is no match for the infinite, idealized straight line.

Cabinet of Curiosities

creepy old house at night

There’s Someone Buried under the Floor!

The story of a building that will not stand until a living human being is imprisoned in its foundations is so common as to form it own genre.

Roundup

Jack O Lantern

Halloween Stories

Why are Victorians the default haunted house, what do ghosts have to do with the imagination, and why do we like to be scared?

The Digital Voyage

The U.S. Capitol Building at night

Has the Internet Weakened Our Political Institutions?

According to our columnist, the internet has destabilized many of the informal institutions that underpin our democracy.

Suggested Readings

A cute female jaguar cub walking in the hay and looking at the camera

Angry Women, Captive Jaguars, and Brainy Catholics

Well-researched stories from the New Yorker, Pacific Standard Magazine, and other great publications that bridge the gap between news and scholarship.

Most Recent

"The Macaroni. A real Character at the late Masquerade", mezzotint by Philip Dawe, 1773

The Gender-Bending Style of Yankee Doodle’s Macaroni

The outlandish "macaroni" style of 18th-century England blurred the boundaries of gender, as well as class and nationality.
"I Voted" stickers

How to Get People to Vote

In the United States midterm elections, it is common for as few as 40% of eligible adults to vote. Why it matters, and some possible solutions.
HMS Endeavour

The Curious Voyage of HMS Endeavour

Captain James Cook had secret orders to to search for a predicted Southern Continent. He ended up claiming New Zealand and part of Australia for the U.K.
union soldiers disability

The Invisible Struggles of the Civil War’s Veterans

Many Civil War veterans like Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain came out of combat with injuries and lasting disabilities that no one could see.

More Stories

Long Reads

Portrait young couple at voter polling place

The Case for Lowering the Voting Age

If the standard we hold for who can vote is the consent of the governed, why shouldn’t children be included?
Otto Weininger

The Man behind the “New Man”

Otto Weininger's only book, Sex & Character, is a misogynist, anti-Semitic screed masquerading as philosophy. Yet it was enormously influential in fin-de-siècle Vienna.
used styrofoam food containers

Is the 30-Year-Long Styrofoam War Nearing Its End?

Neither banning nor recycling will rid us of Styrofoam. Can we live without it?
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Percy Bysshe Shelley

Mary Shelley’s Obsession with the Cemetery

The author of Frankenstein always saw love and death as connected. She visited the cemetery to commune with her dead mother. And with her lover.

Romantics like Nathaniel Hawthorne heard the “long shriek” of a distant train whistle as an affront to the natural sounds of birds and leaves.

A History of Noise

Fishing boat in high seas

Governing Fisheries in the High Seas

Overfishing is a huge problem in international waters. Some suggest a fishing ban. Others stress a shared shift toward cooperation and long-term thinking.

Can Universal Basic Income Achieve Economic Security?

A wealthy country like the United States needs a solution for improving the supply and fairness of work overall. Is universal basic income the way to go?
solar city

Ecological Economics: An Oxymoron?

Mainstream economics has largely neglected to integrate ecological systems into its models. But the two disciplines don't have to be diametrically opposed.