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A Question Only Elon Musk Can Answer

Updated at 11:51 a.m. ET on September 22, 2021.On the day that SpaceX’s first space tourists launched, Elon Musk was there at Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, to see them off, cheering as the private astronauts walked to the Teslas that would take them to suit up. And after they landed safely, having orbited Earth about 45 times, Musk was there again...

Arctic Horror Is Having a Comeback

This article contains spoilers for The Terror and The North Water. Of all the horrors of a 19th-century European voyage to the Arctic—noses and cheeks turned necrotic by frostbite, snow blindness, sea madness, broken bones badly knit—perhaps most ghastly was scurvy. The disease often starts with stiff limbs and ulcerating skin. Gums bleed and blacken,...

Democrats May Be on the Verge of Climate Disaster

This is an excerpt from The Atlantic’s climate newsletter, The Weekly Planet. Subscribe today.I’m starting to become concerned about President Joe Biden’s ability to pass a climate bill. They’re speaking sotto voce, but still: In the past few days, Democrats on the party’s left and right flanks have started to hint that, well, in some circumstances,...

‘Post-Vax COVID’ Is a New Disease

Boghuma Kabisen Titanji was just 8 years old when the hyper-contagious virus swept through her classroom. Days later, she started to feel feverish, and developed a sparse, rosy rash. Three years after being fully dosed with the measles vaccine, one of the most durably effective immunizations in our roster, Titanji fell ill with the very pathogen her...

Elon Musk Must Be Pretty Relieved

The space tourists are back.On Saturday night, the private astronauts braced themselves as their spacecraft streaked through Earth’s atmosphere, deployed parachutes, and then drifted down off the coast of Florida. When the capsule touched the waves, they might have heard a voice from mission control radio in: “Thanks for flying SpaceX.” As if the passengers...

Sorry, a Coronavirus Infection Might Not Be Enough to Protect You

Immune cells can learn the vagaries of a particular infectious disease in two main ways. The first is bona fide infection, and it’s a lot like being schooled in a war zone, where any lesson in protection might come at a terrible cost. Vaccines, by contrast, safely introduce immune cells to only the harmless mimic of a microbe, the immunological equivalent...

SpaceX’s Private Passengers Are Flying Higher Than the Space Station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—Before liftoff, the moon was the brightest object in the sky, followed by the tiny, shining pinpricks of Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. Then the rocket rose with a roar, a white-hot needle casting the dark evening in a soft gold. A crew of four sat atop it, strapped inside a small capsule. And none of them—not one—were professional...

Why I’m Thinking About Alcohol Taxes

This is an excerpt from The Atlantic’s climate newsletter, The Weekly Planet. Subscribe today.The climate scientist Ken Caldeira recently tweeted a joke meant to charm carbon-tax advocates. “If we don't want people to drink so much alcohol, rather than taxing alcohol, we can subsidize everything that is not alcohol,” he wrote. His point, if I may ruin...

Finally, a Private Spaceflight With a Billionaire You’ve Never Heard Of

The glass window on SpaceX’s Dragon capsule is a new feature. It juts out from the small spacecraft like a half-formed soap bubble, still attached to a plastic wand, offering an unimpeded view of the Earth below and the stars beyond.On previous flights, the same spot was reserved for docking hardware so that the capsule could join up with the International...

We’re Asking the Impossible of Vaccines

In 1846, the Danish physician Peter Ludvig Panum traveled to the Faroe Islands in search of measles. The rocky archipelago, which sits some 200 miles north of Scotland, had been slammed with an outbreak, and Panum was dispatched by his government to investigate. The trip predated the formal discovery of viruses and antibodies by several decades, but...

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