A relic from the age when the magic of the fundamental properties of the universe was embedded in the everyday.
Harry Houdini liked a good science experiment. He was a magician, yes, and an escape artist, too, but both of those pursuits also made him an amateur scientist. Science found, Houdini applied, audiences raved.
So, it is with special interest that we recommend you check out Houdini's copy of Scientific Amusements, a book by Henry Firth that is filled with things you might call simple magic tricks, if they did not demonstrate principles of science. The book was gifted to the Library of Congress and now available as part of a special collection online.
What's most interesting about this book is that it reflects a time, 1890, when science was not so far from the realm of human experience. For all the excitement about citizen science, there is no way to comprehend the Large Hadron Collider's investigations into supersymmetry with a stack of coins placed on your elbow, but you could learn about inertia that way.
This book was written at a time when the laws of the universe, though still mysterious, could be glimpsed in the day-to-day motions of one's life. "It is surprising," its author wrote, "how near we are to the most fundamental principles of science when we perform some of the simplest operations." An apple falling, as perceived by human eyes, could still mean something. Even the most basic cooking possible held a lesson about the world. "The toasting of bread is an example of evaporation of water change of structure, owing to heat, and the appearance of a black substance out of a white one by a change in chemical combination," Firth announced.
Nowadays, most science requires a complexity of infrastructure, computation, and organization that extends far beyond the tinkerer or Bill Nye fan. The instruments of science peer to the early moments of the universe and down to levels beyond the size of our cells. Seeing with your own two eyes is not the best way to learn something about the fundamental nature of the world any longer, and sadly, that means, the realm of the scientific amusement has shifted decidedly from the former to the latter.
Three Atlantic staffers discuss “The Winds of Winter,” the tenth and final episode of the sixth season.
Every week for the sixth season of Game of Thrones, Christopher Orr, Spencer Kornhaber, and Lenika Cruz discussed new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners were made available to critics in advance this year, we'll be posting our thoughts in installments.
It happened gradually—and until the U.S. figures out how to treat the problem, it will only get worse.
It’s 2020, four years from now. The campaign is under way to succeed the president, who is retiring after a single wretched term. Voters are angrier than ever—at politicians, at compromisers, at the establishment. Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align. With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve.
On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else. The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months. The Senate, meanwhile, is tied in knots by wannabe presidents and aspiring talk-show hosts, who use the chamber as a social-media platform to build their brands by obstructing—well, everything. The Defense Department is among hundreds of agencies that have not been reauthorized, the government has shut down three times, and, yes, it finally happened: The United States briefly defaulted on the national debt, precipitating a market collapse and an economic downturn. No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it.
Millions of men in the prime of their lives are missing from the labor force. Could a big U.S. housing construction project bring them back?
Something is rotten in the U.S. economy. Poor men without a college degree are disappearing from the labor force. The share of prime-age men (ages 25-54) who are neither working nor looking for work has doubled since the 1970s.
The U.S.’s labor participation rate for this group of men is lower than every country in the OECD except for Israel (an outlier, because of the high number of non-working Orthodox Jewish men) and Italy (an economic omnishambles). Today, one in six prime-age men in America are either unemployed or out of the workforce altogether—about 10 million men.
So, this is the 10-million-man question: Where did all these guys go?
According to a report from White House economists released last week, non-working prime-age men skew young, are less likely to be parents, are disproportionately black and less educated, and are concentrated in the South.
The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down two Texas abortion-clinic restrictions in a 5-3 decision.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a series of restrictions on Texas abortion clinics Monday, turning back one of the most significant challenges to abortion rights in a generation.
“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for a five-justice majority in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstadt. “Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who became the Court’s swing vote on abortion cases after the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2005, joined with the Court’s liberal wing.
Critics claim British voters were unqualified to decide such a complicated issue. But democracy itself isn’t the problem.
It’s easy, in retrospect, to characterize David Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership as a colossal blunder, at least from the prime minister’s perspective. The idea was reportedly conceived at a pizza restaurant at Chicago O’Hare airport, an inauspicious place to hatch plans of international consequence. Cameron, by many accounts, promised to stage the vote not because he believed in it, or took it especially seriously, or felt the public was demanding it, but because he wanted to appease right-wing “euroskeptics” in his party ahead of the 2015 election. It worked. Cameron won that election, and soon found himself campaigning for Britain to remain in the European Union. Then a majority of Britons voted to do just the opposite. A disgraced David Cameron now finds himself without a job and his country temporarily without its bearings, in a jolted world. Blunders don’t get much bigger.
On swallowing “sorry”s and replacing them with simple “thank you”s.
There are many things I envy about Tami Taylor, the famously empathetic yet take-no-shit matriarch of Friday Night Lights: her perfect hair, her prodigious wine intake, her ability to always say the right thing. But while watching the show, one thing that really grabbed me was her capacity for casual gratitude.
Casual gratitude is a term I just made up, to distinguish it from the more serious, mindful, let-me-sit-down-and-count-my-blessings practice of gratitude, or the formal gratitude of, say, a thank you note, or a life debt. As the Taylors flurried around their Texas kitchen and the local high school, Tami was always quick to recognize others for the small favors they did for her with a “thank you” or “I appreciate it.” And it’s how she says it. She doesn’t make a big deal out of it, just thanks people casually, but with grace and sincerity, and then she moves on. A simple thank you for a simple kindness.
It’s not because they’re inherently harsher leaders than men, but because they often respond to sexism by trying to distance themselves from other women.
There are two dominant cultural ideas about the role women play in helping other women advance at work, and they are seemingly at odds: the Righteous Woman and the Queen Bee.
The Righteous Woman is an ideal, a belief that women have a distinct moral obligation to have one another’s backs. This kind of sentiment is best typified by Madeleine Albright’s now famous quote, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” The basic idea is that since all women experience sexism, they should be more attuned to the gendered barriers that other women face. In turn, this heightened awareness should lead women to foster alliances and actively support one another. If women don’t help each other, this is an even worse form of betrayal than those committed by men. And hence, the special place in hell reserved for those women.
The spacecraft Juno was designed to make it all the way to Jupiter, then orbit the planet without getting destroyed in the process
Jupiter is not to be trifled with.
The gargantuan planet is a gas giant, a term that makes it sound far gentler than it actually is. In fact, Jupiter is severe and volatile.
Its famous Great Red Spot is a violent anticyclone three times the size of Earth that has been raging for at least 400 years. The radiation around Jupiter is a menace, 1 million times more intense than radiation belts that surround Earth. The Jovian magnetosphere, which powers its radiation belts and produces brilliant permanent auroras around the planet’s poles, is the largest structure in our solar system. “Northern Lights on steroids,” as Randy Gladstone, a planetary scientist who focuses on airglow, once put it to NASA. “They're hundreds of times more energetic than auroras on Earth.”
Girls who start to develop at young ages—as more and more of them are—are at risk for a host of physical and psychological problems.
“I wanted to call the book The New Normal, but everyone around me said no, you can’t!” said Louise Greenspan, a pediatric endocrinologist and co-author of a book that ended up being called The New Puberty: How to Navigate Early Development in Today’s Girls, on Sunday at Spotlight Health, a conference co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. “It may be average, but it’s not okay.”
Greenspan is also a co-author of a longitudinal study that looked at around 1,200 girls ages six to eight, and followed them for seven years, from 2004 to 2011, to see when puberty began for them. While puberty in girls is often measured using the onset of their first menstrual period, the first sign is actually breast development—it’s just that first period is easier to measure, because people typically remember it. For breast development, a doctor really has to do an in-person exam. (Puberty onset in boys hasn’t been well-studied, but it doesn’t seem to be following these same patterns.)