Researchers with a variety of academic and theological interests are proposing controversial theories about the Koran and Islamic history, and are striving to reinterpret Islam for the modern world. This is, as one scholar puts it, a "sensitive business"
Landslides and other “ground failures” cost more lives and more money each year than all other natural disasters combined, and their incidence appears to be rising. Nevertheless, the government devotes few resources to their study—and the foolhardy continue to build and live in places likely to be consumed one day by avalanches of mud.
Our culture, in particular the institution of the university, has contrived over the past few decades to transform sin into a positive: transgression, a term that, as used by postmodern critics, refers to an implied form of greatness.
In another time, in a more exuberant century, sadness was dignified; it was referred to as melancholy; it was described as autumnal in tone and tinged with woodsmoke. It was a real affliction, like color blindness or flat feet
A Princeton geologist has endured decades of ridicule for arguing that the fifth extinction was caused not by an asteroid but by a series of colossal volcanic eruptions. But she’s reopened that debate.
Gerta Keller was waiting for me at the Mumbai airport so we could catch a flight to Hyderabad and go hunt rocks. “You won’t die,” she told me cheerfully as soon as I’d said hello. “I’ll bring you back.”
Death was not something I’d considered as a possible consequence of traveling with Keller, a 73-year-old paleontology and geology professor at Princeton University. She looked harmless enough: thin, with a blunt bob, wearing gray nylon pants and hiking boots, and carrying an insulated ShopRite supermarket bag by way of a purse.
I quickly learned that Keller felt such reassurances were necessary because, appropriately for someone who studies mass extinctions, she has a tendency to attract disaster.
Science suggests we’re hardwired to delude ourselves. Can we do anything about it?
I am staring at a photograph of myself that shows me 20 years older than I am now. I have not stepped into the twilight zone. Rather, I am trying to rid myself of some measure of my present bias, which is the tendency people have, when considering a trade-off between two future moments, to more heavily weight the one closer to the present. A great many academic studies have shown this bias—also known as hyperbolic discounting—to be robust and persistent.
Most of them have focused on money. When asked whether they would prefer to have, say, $150 today or $180 in one month, people tend to choose the $150. Giving up a 20 percent return on investment is a bad move—which is easy to recognize when the question is thrust away from the present.
Trump’s embrace of one of Richard Nixon’s most notorious moves poses a question: Will voters still hold a president accountable for abusing his power?
Reacting to The New York Times’story that White House Counsel Don McGahn has been speaking with Robert Mueller’s team, President Donald Trump tweeted out that McGahn is not a “John Dean type ‘RAT,’” and that the story was “fake news.”
It’s odd that Trump should bring up John Dean this weekend, for it was only this week that we also learned Trump has an Enemies List, just like Richard Nixon did. Unlike Nixon, though, the president is hiding nothing—using security clearances and his Twitter account as the chief weapons to go after his opponents.
This is a dangerous move.
Nixon’s Enemies List, officially called his “Opponents List,” was a document that was initially compiled by presidential advisor George T. Bell for Charles Colson, the infamous “hatchet man.” Colson turned over the list to White House Counsel John Dean on September 9, 1971. The list, which at first included 20 names, was a compilation of figures from all walks of life, ranging from the actor Paul Newman (“Radic-Lib causes ... Heavy McCarthy involvement ’68”) to journalists such as Mary McGrory and Daniel Schorr (a “real media enemy”) to politicians like the African American legislators Ron Dellums and John Conyers (“a leading black anti-Nixon spokesman”), to the labor leader Leonard Woodstock, president of the United Auto Workers. The New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath even made the document.
From dating to job prospects, a name has remarkable power over the path of its owner's life.
I was at a party for Bastille Day in Paris a few years back, and we were leaning over the balcony to watch the fireworks. A cute French girl sat next to me, but after a few flirty glances the moment was entirely ruined with the most basic of interactions: “What’s your name?” she asked in French. “Cody,” I said.
That was it. We were done. “Co-zee?” she said, sounding out the entirely foreign name, looking more disgruntled with each try. “Col-bee?” “Cot-ee?”
I tried a quick correction, but I probably should’ve just lied, said my name was Thomas or Pierre like I did whenever I ordered take-away or made restaurant reservations. Not being able to pronounce a name spells a death sentence for relationships. That’s because the ability to pronounce someone’s name is directly related to how close you feel to that person. Our brains tend to believe that if something is difficult to understand, it must also be high-risk.
Modern hair-coloring technology has allowed people to dye their hair virtually any shade. So why is one hue in particular so popular?
Turn on the TV or scroll through Instagram, and it’s not difficult to find a sea of blond politicians, news commentators, celebrities, and social-media influencers. Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian West, and Justin Bieber have all, at some point, traded their dark locks for golden hues. Hillary Clinton, the first woman to get a presidential nomination from a major political party, colored her hair blond. And in the administration of Donald Trump alone, there’s the president himself, Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Kirstjen Nielsen, Betsy DeVos, Linda McMahon—even Hope Hicks highlighted her brunette hair when she served as communications director.
Why, exactly, is blond hair so popular in America? The poet Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), and the photographer and filmmaker John Lucas were first inspired to explore the prevalence of blond hair—dyed blond hair, in particular—in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. A black professor had asked Rankine, who teaches poetry at Yale, what she should say to her black students who were bleaching their hair. But Rankine wasn’t quite sure how to answer at first.
A No. 1 bestseller by a respected physician argues that gluten and carbohydrates are at the root of Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, depression, and ADHD. What to make of the controversial theory?
“If you could make just three simple changes in your life to prevent, or even reverse, memory loss and other brain disorders, wouldn’t you?”
So asks Dr. David Perlmutter, in promotion of his PBS special Brain Change, coming soon to your regional affiliate. Three changes. Simple ones. Wouldn’t you?
The 90-minute special is a companion to Perlmutter’s blockbuster book on how gluten and carbs are destroying our brains. In November it became a New York Times number one bestseller. Since its September release, as Perlmutter told me, “It’s never not been on the bestseller list, frankly.”
“Is it still number one?” I asked. A pause over the phone as he checked. In modern interview style, we were both also on our computers.
The Tesla CEO’s tearful New York Times interview reveals a lot about the double standards men and women face.
On Thursday night, The New York Timespublished an interview with Elon Musk that offers a view into the billionaire entrepreneur’s life in the last year. Musk choked up “multiple times,” the Times reported in the story, and “alternated between laughter and tears.” He explained that he was overworked at Tesla, his electric-car company—which has spent the past several months scrambling to meet ambitious production goals—and that the situation has taken a toll on his physical health, family time, and social life.
“I thought the worst of it was over—I thought it was,” Musk said. “The worst is over from a Tesla operational standpoint. But from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come.”
A bottom-up approach is better than a single line imposed by party leadership.
On an early morning in June, I joined several dozen Democratic donors in a plush residence on the 64th floor of Trump World Tower to support the reelection of a Democratic congressman. The irony that we were raising money in the president’s building escaped no one, and the congressman took some questions from the audience about Trump’s tweets and Robert Mueller’s investigation.
But most in the crowd wanted to know one thing: What’s the Democratic message?
There, in a building staffed with uniformed doormen, standing on floors so fine that we’d been asked to remove our shoes, the donors demanded to know why their party had no unifying theme. Or, more precisely, why wasn’t the message the specific message that they wanted messaged?
How technology has changed the way we look at whales—and ourselves
Had you been alive in the early 19th century and in want of a sea monster, you might have summoned one via the apparatus of a dead whale. Take a colossal rib, a narwhal’s spiral tusk, a gray whale’s eyeballs, bristles of baleen stripped from a humpback’s jaw or armfuls of its spooling tongue—how disquieting these discards from the whaling industry must have appeared to those who had never seen a whale whole, in the flesh. Scraps retrieved from the decks of harpoon ships, or sold by savvy beachcombers, could be credible props to mobilize a mythical beast. The rest relied on a story. Swindlers in dim backstreets and taverns learned to articulate whale leftovers as parts of stranger animals yet: Here were bits of mermaid, ocean centipede, sea swine, saltwater salamander, and serpent; remnants of turtles as large as houses and of aquatic owls once believed to have ambushed boats in the Northern Hemisphere. Before a spellbound audience, a sperm whale’s penis (as pale and hefty as daikon, but dexterous) readily transformed into a segment of a kraken’s mortifying tentacle.
I hadn’t given much thought to throwing away my contacts in the toilet. I don’t do it often, just when the bathroom trash can is full. It doesn’t seem especially dangerous—contact lenses feel so impermanent, so flimsy and transparent that they’ll simply dissolve as they swirl down the train.
When I confessed this habit to my editor, I was met with incredulity: Surely, this must be a quirk? But I have scientific vindication that I’m not the only one. According to a new study presented at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting and Exposition, 21 percent of contact-wearers flush their contacts down the toilet or sink, instead of throwing them in the trash.
I would be celebrating, except for this: The study concludes that all this flushing potentially spells a lot of trouble for the environment.