National Geographic (Apr. 2019)

But what will it be like, I asked Reid, to have thousands of these zipping around the skyline? You’re inventing a new technology that has just as much revolutionary potential as automobiles. What kind of world will it make?

“We’ll figure it out,” Reid said.

Maybe we will. But it might be wise to do some of the figuring first. We didn’t have to go completely nuts about cars, allowing them to become the tail that wagged the urban dog. We didn’t have to rip up all the streetcar lines. We didn’t have to forget that cities are for people–and we don’t need to do it again.

“Rethinking Cities”

National Geographic (Apr. 2019)

Along the 45-mile stretch of El Camino between San Francisco and San Jose, within half a mile of the road, there are 3,750 commercial parcels occupied by a motley collection of mostly one- or two- story buildings. … If El Camino were lined with three- to five-story apartment buildings, Calthorpe explained, with stores and offices on the ground floor, it could hold 250,000 new homes. You could solve the Silicon Valley housing shortage and beautify the place at the same time, while reducing carbon emissions and water consumption and wasted human hours.

“Rethinking Cities”

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National Geographic (Aug. 2018)

While it sometimes seems as if we have more nightmares than pleasant dreams, this probably isn’t true. Frightening dreams are simply more likely to trigger our override system and wake us.

“Want to Fall Asleep? Read This Story.”

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National Geographic (Aug. 2018)

Every time we experience REM sleep, we literally go mad. By definition, psychosis is a condition characterized by hallucinations and delusions. Dreaming, some sleep scientists say, is a psychotic state–we fully believe that we see what is not there, and we accept that time, location, and people themselves can morph and disappear without warning.

“Want to Fall Asleep? Read This Story.”

National Geographic (May 2018)

I’ve always found it difficult to think of climbing as heroic, though I understand how some might view it this way. Stand at the foot of a Himalayan peak, and you quickly understand that getting to the top is going to require exceptional strength, stamina, concentration, and courage. But I’ve always thought that an act of heroism requires some sort of higher purpose than just risking your life to see if you can make it to the top.

“Down the Mountain,” Cory Richards

National Geographic (May 2018)

We haven’t changed–and won’t change–three principles that underlie all that we do. We are on the side of science, on the side of facts, and on the side of the planet.

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National Geographic (Apr. 2018)

…Similarly, the mutation that’s most responsible for giving Europeans lighter skin is a single tweak in a gene known as SLC24A5, which consists of roughly 20,000 base pairs. In one position, where most sub-Saharan Africans have a G, Europeans have an A. …

Studying DNA extracted from ancient bones, paleogeneticists have found that the G-to-A substitution was introduced into western Europe relatively recently–about 8,000 years ago–by people migrating from the Middle East, who also brought a newfangled technology: farming. That means the people already in Europe–hunter-gatherers who created the spectacular cave paintings at Lascaux, for example–probably were not white but brown. The ancient DNA suggests that many of those dark-skinned Europeans also had blue eyes, a combination rarely seen today.

“Skin Deep,” Elizabeth Kolbert

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National Geographic (Apr. 2018)

Genetics frequently works like this: A tiny tweak can have many disparate effects. Only one may be useful–and it may outlive the conditions that made it so, the way families hand down old photos long past the point when anyone remembers who’s in them.

“Skin Deep,” Elizabeth Kolbert

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National Geographic (Mar. 2018)

In early spring much of the land remains bare, with soil left exposed after the harvest of quinoa that feeds an insatiable appetite for the high-protein grain in Europe and the U.S.

The timing is unfortunate. Before the year’s crops are planted, the winds off the Atacama Desert in Chile scour the empty fields, carrying twice as many tons of sediment into the lake as they did before native grasses and shrubs were cleared for quinoa production.

“Drying Lakes,” Kenneth Weiss

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National Geographic (Mar. 2018)

The United Nations warned a decade ago that indigenous people would be among the first to be ravaged by climate change because so many rely on nature’s bounty as subsistence hunters and fishermen. An estimated 23.5 million people fled their homes in 2016 because of storms, floods, wildfires, extreme temperatures, and other weather-related disasters, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. That exceeded the 6.9 million newly displaced by conflict and violence that year.

In sheer numbers those fleeing “natural” calamities have outnumbered those fleeing war and conflict for decades. Still, these figures do not include people forced to abandon their homelands because of drought or gradual environmental degradation; almost two and a half billion people live in areas where human demand for water exceeds the supply. Globally the likelihood of being uprooted from one’s home has increased 60 percent compared with 40 years ago because of the combination of rapid climate change and growing populations moving into more vulnerable areas.

“Drying Lakes,” Kenneth Weiss