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The Atlantic covers breaking news, analysis, opinion around the hard and soft sciences, innovation, and technology on the official site of the Atlantic Magazine.

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This Is No Way to Be Human

Recently I met the astronomer Pascal Oesch, an assistant professor at the University of Geneva. Professor Oesch and his colleagues share the distinction of having discovered the most distant known object, a small galaxy called GNz-11. That galaxy is so far away that its light had to travel for 13 billion years to get from there to here. I asked Professor...

How Did We Get So ‘Cringe’?

Take a tweet from the week after the Capitol riot in January 2021: “A Liberal insurrection would have looked very different. We would have escorted the original Broadway cast of Hamilton into the galleries. They would softly sing … as members of the GOP spewed their lies.” This was apparently intended as satire of a certain type of extremely online...

The Subversive Genius of Extremely Slow Email

Every day, the mail still comes. My postal carrier drives her proud van onto the street and then climbs each stoop by foot. The service remains essential, but not as a communications channel. I receive ads and bills, mostly, and the occasional newspaper clipping from my mom. For talking to people, I use email and text and social networking. The mail...

The World Is Half-Prepared for a Different Energy Future

Late January of last year, a group of economists, analysts, and financial journalists made an annual wager: How much would a barrel of crude oil cost when the market closed on December 31, 2021? Back then, the United States was only beginning to distribute vaccines, COVID-related hospitalizations were at an all-time high, and a futures contract for...

Is [REDACTED] a Christmas Movie?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a Christmas movie. A Christmas Story is also a Christmas movie. White Christmas is very definitely a Christmas movie. For generations, we didn’t even need to say these things. There was more or less unanimous agreement on the question “What is a Christmas movie?” And this was great, because we don’t need to debate everything.Well,...

K-pop Fans Have a New Nemesis

K-pop is made to be listened to. But it’s also made to be watched. When a group releases a song, it’s just one part of a package that typically includes a visually arresting music video and several live performances of complex dance choreography paired with inventive outfits and hairstyles. The best-looking members of groups are literally known as “visuals”...

Why the Rental-Car Crisis Feels Personal

What do you expect will happen when you walk into a rental-car office? Do you think you’ll turn over your credit card and your driver’s license, and walk out with the keys to at least generally the type of car you’ve reserved, having agreed to at least roughly the fee that you were quoted? Or do you picture something else?“I’m expecting chaos,” says...

‘No, Like, Everyone Has COVID Right Now’

“If you live in New York City and you don’t have COVID right now, um,” one TikTok user said before pausing and tucking her hair behind her ears. “You’re lying.” Serena Kerrigan, a New York–based influencer who refers to herself as “Samantha Jones IRL,” in reference to the Sex and the City character, filmed herself reclining in bed, muttering “gorgeous...

Corner Stores Are the New Darlings of the Global Tech Industry

Corner stores don’t look like much. Maybe the one nearest to you has dusty shelves lined with bags of chips and cookies, and the cashier sitting next to the cigarettes and mini–shampoo bottles only takes cash. In some places, these mom-and-pop shops are simple roadside stalls or kiosks. They have largely operated the same way for decades: Many still...

The Great (Fake) Child-Sex-Trafficking Epidemic

Illustrations by Vanessa SabaA poster in the window of Cahoots Corner Cafe—great potatoes, good coffee—advertised a family event at the Oakdale, California, rodeo grounds. There would be food trucks, carnival games, live music, a raffle, and the opportunity to support the cause of “freeing child sex slaves.”The event, called the Festival of Hope, was...

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