Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine December 2019

Smithsonian Magazine takes you on a journey through history, science, world culture and technology with breathtaking images from around the world.

United States
Smithsonian Institute
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11 Números

en este número

3 min.
from the editors

“I DO BELIEVE the spirit of Jack London was with Richard Grant,” Tawnya Ison in Medford, Oregon, wrote about our November cover story retracing the Call of the Wild author’s Yukon journey. “Fantastic writing and a true adventure to read!” Don M. Pike of Crawford, Texas, was struck by “Behind the Lines,” about a secret mission to capture Nazi mapping data: “We’re all certainly indebted to these courageous people and the risks and sacrifices they endured.” The story that provoked the biggest response (most of it, admittedly, negative) was “Che’s Kid Hits the Road,” about a motorcycle tour of Cuba given by a son of Che Guevara, one of the leaders of the country’s revolution. Though the travel article mentioned Che’s brutality, many readers said the piece glorified the rebel…

5 min.
block party

ON A BLUSTERY winter day in 1913, Arthur Wynne sat in his office at the New York World and wrestled with a problem. The Christmas edition of “Fun,” the jokes and puzzles supplement he managed, was being laid out and Wynne felt readers needed a new challenge. A Liverpool native, Wynne had emigrated to the United States at age 19, but before he did he might have seen some rudimentary word-form puzzles, which were popular in late 19th-century England. Perhaps inspired by those, as well as the “Sator” square, an ancient, five-word Latin palindrome, Wynne designed a numbered, diamond-shape grid with an empty center. He inserted “fun” at the top as the first “across” entry and called it “Word-Cross.” Some of the clues required readers to know esoteric facts (apparently “nard”…

1 min.

WE ASKED ONE of the nation’s top crossword constructors to build a puzzle around words found in articles in this issue. He picked seven. See the solution on Page 86. ACROSS 1 “Too cute!” 4 Heidi Schreck’s “What the Constitution Means to Me,” for one 8 British bathroom 9 Color related to khaki 10 Like stepping in a chief’s shadow, per ancient kapu tradition 12 Company with a “spokes duck” 13 Run out, as funding 16 Profanity-free 19 Formation of Rakhine insurgents in Myanmar 23 Having heard one’s alarm go off, say 24 Genre for 26-Across 25 ___ therapy, treatment offered at St. Jude 26 “___ Town Road,” #1 hit for Lil Nas X DOWN 1 A, in the NATO alphabet 2 Sound heard at the pound 3 ___ Central Kitchen, nonprofit founded by José Andrés 4 ___ Xing (road sign) 5 Tupperware top 6 At least 35, for a U.S.…

2 min.
before audubon

IN THE LATE 1770S, a British colonial official named Sir Elijah Impey and his wife, Lady Mary, commissioned the Indian artist Shaikh Zain ud-Din to catalog a private menagerie, including various bird species, the couple had assembled at their home in Calcutta. Using paper and watercolors from England, Zain ud-Din, a Muslim from the city of Patna, modeled his work after English botanical illustration, but he also brought to the job his training in the ornate Mughal artistic tradition—and his own distinctive style. Today critics praise the quality of the colors and the composition, in which a bright, simple background off sets the keenly wrought details of plants and animals. “Everything is incredibly precise and beautifully observant,” says Xavier Bray, director of London’s Wallace Collection, which this month mounts the…

10 min.
when two wheels are the rage

IT WAS A HOT SUMMER DAY in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the streets were buzzing with electric scooters. Two months earlier, the companies Lime and Ojo had unleashed 300 of the devices on the town. You could pay $1 or more to unlock a scooter with your mobile phone, then 10 to 29 cents per minute to ride it, leaving it parked on the sidewalk or docking station when you were done. By July, you couldn’t go a block without seeing riders zip by: young women in sundresses, a couple heading downtown to catch a train, two men in athletic wear, squash rackets slung over their shoulders. “You gotta hold on tight,” one rider, a young man coiffed scruffily and wearing sunglasses, advised me, “because these things take off when you…

1 min.
hulking airships rise again, slowly

IN THE 1930S, before commercial airplanes began crossing the Atlantic, zeppelins promised to change how we traveled. They could make the voyage in just 43 hours, while the fastest ocean liner took five days. But when the Hindenburg plummeted from the New Jersey sky in 1937, killing 36 people, the disaster also ended the dream that hydrogen-filled airships would be the future of transportation. Now scientists and others are starting to look at zeppelins as something more than hovering billboards like the Goodyear Blimp. The reason is a benefit that went unrecognized a century ago: Airships can be more fuel efficient than cargo ships and airplanes. Most modern airships use helium, a nonflammable but expensive and rare gas. But technological advances have lessened the explosive danger associated with hydrogen, which is endlessly…