The Atlantic Daily: Should 1950 Mark a New Geological Epoch?

The committee that will vote on the Anthropocene era. Plus: Getting to meat-tasting meat without killing animals, affirmative action in medical schools, and more

Siegfried Modola / Reuters

What We’re Following

Yesterday’s edition of the Daily newsletter incorrectly stated the year of Tiger Woods’s last major golf title. It was 2008, not 2018.

(Ivan Alvarado / Reuters)

When did the era of human-fueled climate change officially start? Later this month, a group of scientists will hash out whether we sprang into this new geological epoch, called the Anthropocene, in 1950. Climate researchers united by the gravity of Earth’s warming are divided on the question for more than eggheaded pedantic reasons—the date signifies when human influence over the environment reached a tipping point, and some aren’t sure whether it’s possible to pinpoint an exact date. (Regardless of whether the Anthropocene becomes an official geological term, it’s already been widely adapted culturally, including for an album coming later this year.)

The Trump administration is forcing Texas Tech to scrap affirmative action at its medical school. The policies were intended to boost the number of minority students at the school—just 4 percent are black—and now that number could shrink even further. This lack of diversity isn’t just bad news for efforts to diversify the ranks of American physicians, it’s potentially bad news for their patients as well: When black patients have black doctors, they’re more likely to seek treatment and be satisfied with the care they receive.

The 2019 Pulitzer Prizes recognized some of the most memorable journalism of the past year, including reporting on the Parkland school shooting and an investigation into the Trump family finances. This year’s Pulitzer for fiction went to the author Richard Powers for his timely twelfth book, The Overstory. The novel follows nine characters whose close relationship with trees turns into a quest to save endangered forests: “The Overstory takes this theme of connection with the natural world a step further, challenging people to recognize trees as creatures like themselves,” writes Rosa Inocencio Smith.


The least popular bird in America

(The Atlantic)

Scientists created a ranking of the least and most popular birds out of 621 different species found in the U.S. On the popular end of the spectrum are the usual suspects: snowy owls, bald eagles, common ravens. On the least popular end of the spectrum: birds with narrower habitats, shy birds, birds with dull coats. All have their own merits, researchers emphasize. Where do your favorites rank?

→ Read the rest

Notre-Dame cathedral interior on April 16; the altar surrounded by charred debrief from the collapsed ceiling

(Ludovic Marin / AFP / Getty)

The architectural historian Andrew Tallon, who died in November 2018, had been digitally scanning the structure of the Notre-Dame cathedral and mapping panoramic photos, leaving behind a painstaking record for the teams that will be helping reconstruct the cathedral.

→ Read the rest

Evening Read

The Coming Obsolescence of Animal Meat

(The Atlantic)

The race to develop lab-grown meat is in full force. Olga Khazan writes:

The thought I had when the $100 chicken nugget hit my expectant tongue was the one cartoon villains have when they entrap a foreign critter and roast him over a spit: It tastes like chicken.

That’s because it was chicken—albeit chicken that had never laid an egg, sprouted a feather, or been swept through an electrified-water bath for slaughter. This chicken began life as a primordial mush in a bioreactor whose dimensions and brand I’m not allowed to describe to you, for intellectual-property reasons. Before that, it was a collection of cells swirling calmly in a red-hued, nutrient-rich “media,” with a glass flask for an eggshell. The chicken is definitely real, and technically animal flesh, but it left the world as it entered it—a mass of meat, ready for human consumption, with no brain or wings or feet.

→ Read the rest

Urban Developments

New ankle monitors can call and record kids without their consent, raising concerns among civil liberties watchers.

(Kira Lerner)

Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing urban dwellers around the world. Claire Tran shares today’s top stories:

New York State “gerrymandered” a map to qualify the luxury Hudson Yards mega-development for $1.6 billion in financing meant for low-income areas—by threading it with public housing in Harlem.

Flames consumed the roof and spire of the 13th-century Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris yesterday. The good news: Gothic architecture is built to handle this kind of inferno. We talk to a leading expert of medieval architecture about restoration.

Why did George Washington’s Mount Vernon house leave President Trump so unimpressed? Maybe because the practical-minded mansion was made to convey humility.

Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Subscribe to the CityLab Daily newsletter.

Looking for our daily mini crossword? Try your hand at it here.

Concerns, comments, questions, typos? Email newsletters editor Shan Wang at

Did you get this newsletter from a friend? Sign yourself up. We have many free email newsletters on a variety of other topics. Find the full list here.