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To help you fill your days while you’re social distancing, we’ve compiled a list of stories from recent years that are worth spending time with: a biblical mystery unwound; a con man brought to justice; an ancient species coming back to life.


Marc Burckhardt

Was Jesus married?

In September 2012, a scholar announced a discovery that threatened to upend centuries of Christian tradition: a 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus that seemed to describe Jesus arguing that his wife was worthy of discipleship.

Ariel Sabar set out to find the origin of the document—and uncovered a warren of secrets and lies that stretched from the halls of Harvard to the headquarters of the East German Stasi. Read his 2016 account of the investigation.

Matt Chinworth

If we colonize Mars, we’ll have to rethink how we investigate crimes.

Low gravity would change blood-spatter patterns. Bodies would decay at a different rate. Spacesuits could be sabotaged to suffocate their wearers. Off-world jurisdictions would have to be worked out. Guns couldn’t be fired indoors.

In 2018, Geoff Manaugh consulted experts on how a future Mars P.D. could account for all these extraterrestrial variables and, maybe, some problems carried over from Earth.

Isabel Seliger / Sepia

Even happy marriages can produce infidelity.

Modern marriage is expected to provide comfort and adventure, familiarity and novelty, security and freedom all in one, the therapist Esther Perel writes. And with that expectation comes the belief that, when the ideal partnership is achieved, adultery should no longer be a threat.

So why is it still? In 2017, Perel sought to explain:

A theme … has come up repeatedly in my work: affairs as a form of self-discovery, a quest for a new (or lost) identity. For these seekers, infidelity is less likely to be a symptom of a problem, and more likely an expansive experience that involves growth, exploration, and transformation.

Read more of her thoughts.

Kevin Tong

Russian scientists are trying to save the planet by resurrecting wooly mammoths.

Tens of thousands of years ago, grasslands coated huge swaths of the world, withstanding even the deepest chills of the Ice Age. Now the director of a Siberian nature reserve called Pleistocene Park is working to revive that bygone ecosystem to slow the thawing of the Arctic permafrost.

Also part of the plan? Using frozen cells to grow mammoths in a lab.

Ross Andersen dug deep into the efforts to bring the Pleistocene back to life in 2017.

WG600; Ariel Zambelich; KARE-TV Minneapolis; Fort Worth Police Department; Ramsey County Sheriff's Office; Sacramento County Sheriff's Office

He charmed them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then they brought him down.

Missi Brandt’s middle-aged boyfriend seemed too good to be true, and he was. Months into their relationship, she discovered another woman’s credit card in his wallet, an ID with his photo but a different name, and, after a Google search, a long string of expensive cons he’d pulled on past girlfriends.

In 2018, Rachel Monroe wrote about how Missi worked with the other women her boyfriend was scamming to put him behind bars at last.

Arizne Stanley

College tuition is rising almost everywhere, but not at Purdue.

Mitch Daniels became famous for his penny-pinching while serving as the governor of Indiana and the director of George W. Bush’s budget office. In seven years as Purdue’s president, he’s made good on that reputation: Tuition has remained less than $10,000 for that whole period, and nearly 60 percent of undergraduates leave the school without any debt at all.

In our April issue, Andrew Ferguson explores how Daniels does it.


This email was written by Annika Neklason and edited by Caroline Mimbs Nyce. Questions, suggestions, typos? Reply directly to this newsletter or write to aneklason@theatlantic.com anytime.

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