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Escape Artist Harry Houdini Was an Ingenious Inventor, He Just Didn’t Want Anybody to Know

It was January 27, 1908, at the Columbia Theater in St. Louis and Harry Houdini was about to debut his first theatrical performance. The great master …

Forces of Nature

It was 3 a.m. on a moonless night in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I was unable to sleep. Perhaps it was the altitude. I was camped on the …

Africa

How an 18th-Century Philosopher Helped Solve My Midlife Crisis

David Hume, the Buddha, and a search for the Eastern roots of the Western Enlightenment<p>In 2006, i was 50—and I was falling apart.<p>Until then, I had always known exactly who I was: an exceptionally fortunate and happy woman, full of irrational exuberance and everyday joy.<p>I knew who I was …

Northern California

How Pantone Became The Definitive Language Of Color

Pantone is more than a color language for designers—it’s grown into a global design force. But is that good?<p>A few minutes into the <i>Wizard of Oz</i>, Dorothy opens her eyes and surveys the Technicolor world around her. Dorothy follows the Yellow Brick Road, she arrives at the Emerald City, and she clicks …

Graphic Design

Why Aren't There More Women Futurists?

Most of the big names in futurism are men. What does that mean for the direction we’re all headed?<p>In the future, everyone’s going to have a robot assistant. That’s the story, at least. And as part of that long-running narrative, Facebook just launched its virtual assistant. They’re calling it …

Singularity

Auto Correct

Has the self-driving car at last arrived?<p>Human beings make terrible drivers. They talk on the phone and run red lights, signal to the left and turn to the right. They drink too much beer and plow into trees or veer into traffic as they swat at their kids. They have blind spots, leg cramps, …

Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse”

As romance gets swiped from the screen, some twentysomethings aren’t liking what they see.<p>It’s a balmy night in Manhattan’s financial district, and at a sports bar called Stout, everyone is Tindering. The tables are filled with young women and men who’ve been chasing money and deals on Wall Street …

Relationships

Up in the Air: Meet the Man Who Flies Around the World for Free

Last year, a young man walked into the Seattle airport and took the next flight to anywhere — and he hasn't come down since<p>The boarding procedure has …

If Guns Make Us Safer, Why Not Let Them Into the U.S. Capitol?

It’s a curious feature of American life that when four innocents are killed by a gunman in Chattanooga, or when a young white supremacist opens fire inside a historic AME Church in Charleston, we talk about loosening gun safety laws.<p>In the aftermath of this week’s murders, Donald Trump managed the …

Guns

We Know How You Feel

Computers are learning to read emotion, and the business world can’t wait.<p>Three years ago, archivists at A.T. & T. stumbled upon a rare fragment of computer history: a short film that Jim Henson produced for Ma Bell, in 1963. Henson had been hired to make the film for a conference that the company …

Computer Science

Northern Lights

Do the Scandinavians really have it all figured out?<p>Some say that the American Dream is not what it once was: wages are low, retirement is not a parachute glide but a plunge, and those chosen to fix such problems labor at undoing one another’s laws. For these doubters, there are the Swedes. On any …

Hung Up

The Really Big One

An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.<p>When the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku, Japan, Chris Goldfinger was two hundred miles away, in the city of Kashiwa, at an international meeting on seismology. As the shaking started, everyone in …

Geology

The Endless Fall of Suge Knight

He sold America on a West Coast gangster fantasy — and embodied it. Then the bills came due<p>On March 20th, inside the high-security wing of Los …

Overkill

An avalanche of unnecessary medical care is harming patients physically and financially. What can we do about it?<p>It was lunchtime before my afternoon surgery clinic, which meant that I was at my desk, eating a ham-and-cheese sandwich and clicking through medical articles. Among those which caught …

Military

Off Diamond Head

To be thirteen, with a surfboard, in Hawaii.<p>The budget for moving our family to Honolulu was tight, judging from the tiny cottage we rented and the rusted-out Ford Fairlane we bought to get around. My brother Kevin and I took turns sleeping on the couch. I was thirteen; he was nine. But the cottage …

Aquatic Sports

How Google Finally Got Design

Google’s transformation into a company that creates beautiful software is the story of how tech itself has evolved in the mobile era.<p>It would have been crazy to say just a few years ago. But today, Google produces better-designed software than any other tech behemoth. If you don’t believe that, …

Design

The hipster is dead, and you might not like who comes next

What do we call me? I’m a 26-year-old writer who lives in a gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. I’m a straight white man with a single-speed bike …

Letterpress

The Excrement Experiment

Treating disease with fecal transplants.<p>One morning last fall, Jon Ritter, an architectural historian living in Greenwich Village, woke to find an e-mail from a neighbor, who had an unusual request. “Hi Jon, This is Tom Gravel, from Apt. 4N,” the e-mail began. “I wanted to check in and see if you …

The Man Who Broke the Music Business

The dawn of online piracy.<p>One Saturday in 1994, Bennie Lydell Glover, a temporary employee at the PolyGram compact-disk manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, went to a party at the house of a co-worker. He was angling for a permanent position, and the party was a chance to network …

Top tax rates: Why it’s absolutely crazy that we don’t ask millionaires to pay more.

This is just a stray, late-on-April 15 thought, but isn’t it kind of insane that we don’t ask millionaires to pay more in taxes? I mean, much, much …

Income Inequality

The Huge, Unseen Operation Behind the Accuracy of Google Maps

The maps we use to navigate have come a long way in a short time. Since the '90s we've gone from glove boxes stuffed with paper maps to floorboards …

The Most Diverse Cities Are Often The Most Segregated

When I was a freshman at the University of Chicago in 1996, I heard the same thing again and again: Do not leave the boundaries of Hyde Park. Do not …

The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust

Hidden in an unknown corner of Inner Mongolia is a toxic, nightmarish lake created by our thirst for smartphones, consumer gadgets and green tech, discovers Tim Maughan.<p>From where I'm standing, the city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and …

Rare Earth

Life Lines

For an artist with amnesia, the world takes place through her pencil.<p>Using a pencil and a ruler, Lonni Sue Johnson lovingly traced a blue line across a sheet of graph paper. Skipping down four rows, she drew another line; she repeated this process until she got to the bottom. Then she flipped the …

The Brain

The True Cost of Gun Violence in America

By Mark Follman, Julia Lurie, Jaeah Lee, and James West | Wed Apr. 15, 2015 06:00 AM ETchapters• what does gun violence cost?<br>• by the numbers<br>• the …

Guns

The Golden Ratio: Design’s Biggest Myth

The golden ratio is total nonsense in design. Here’s why.<p>In the world of art, architecture, and design, the golden ratio has earned a tremendous reputation. Greats like Le Corbusier and Salvador Dalí have used the number in their work. The Parthenon, the Pyramids at Giza, the paintings of …

Mathematics

Pets Allowed

Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn’t be?<p>What a wonderful time it is for the scammer, the conniver, and the cheat: the underage drinkers who flash fake I.D.s, the able-bodied adults who drive cars with handicapped license plates, the parents who use a phony address so that …