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National Geographic MagazineNational Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Magazine December 2017

The latest news in science, exploration, and culture will open your eyes to the world’s many wonders. Get a National Geographic digital magazine subscription today and experience the same high-quality articles and breathtaking photography contained in the print edit.

United States
National Geographic Society
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12 Issues


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the search for signs of jesus

This month’s cover story, “The Search for the Real Jesus,” does what people have been doing for nearly 2,000 years: It seeks new truths about the epochal figure known as Jesus of Nazareth.He has been called, among other things, a religious reformer, a social revolutionary, and an apocalyptic prophet. The same variety of views can be seen in depictions of his likeness—artworks that often say more about the time and place in which they were created than the individual they sought to capture.We wanted just the right person to tell this complex story, and we found her in our own newsroom—Kristin Romey, a self-described archaeologist turned journalist who’s made some 20 trips to the Middle East. Romey, who writes about paleontology and archaeology for and this magazine, is committed…

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investing in solutions

Gary Knell stands before the bronze plaque of the world that was installed in 1932 in the lobby of the National Geographic Society’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.Alexander Graham Bell, the second president of the National Geographic Society, defined geography as “the world and all that is in it.” In fact, National Geographic’s original mission was to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge.For many, the word “geography” elicits school-age memories of studying the names of rivers, oceans, or capitals. So it’s fair to ask: Is geography relevant today?In the roughly two years since the National Geographic Society refined our focus as a nonprofit organization, we’ve had an opportunity to rethink our relevance in the 21st century. The world now faces far different challenges than it did at our founding in 1888.Today we inhabit…

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this tradition is for the birds

National Geographic will celebrate 2018 as the Year of the Bird. Watch for special coverage in the magazine and online.How did the Christmas Bird Count get started?In the 1800s there was something called a Christmas side hunt where people would choose sides and go out during the holiday and hunt. Whoever brought in the biggest pile of birds and other animals won. By the late 1800s the Audubon movement was increasing awareness for conservation. So ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed in 1900 that rather than a holiday hunt, we do a Christmas bird census.What birds are you most eager to see?One of the questions I get a lot is, What’s your favorite bird? And my answer is, Whatever bird I’m looking at. It doesn’t have to be rare. The bird I…

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A. J. Lee Ogden, UtahLee was photographing the U.S. Air Force Academy’s spring graduation ceremony at its stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “I’ve always wanted to shoot the hat toss at the end of the ceremony,” says the Air Force photographer. He learned in advance where a group of jets would fly over. ■…

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tales as old as time

How does the same story come to be known as “Beauty and the Beast” in the U.S. and “The Fairy Serpent” in China?As Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm collected Germanic folktales in the 19th century, they realized that many were similar to stories told in distant parts of the world. The brothers Grimm wondered whether plot similarities indicated a shared ancestry thousands of years old.Folktales are passed down orally, obscuring their age and origin. “There’s no fossil record [of them] before the invention of writing,” says Jamie Tehrani, an anthropologist at Durham University.To test the Grimms’ theory, Tehrani and literary scholar Sara Graça da Silva traced 76 basic plots back to their oldest linguistic ancestor using an international folktale database. If a similar tale was told in German and Hindi, the…

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ornamental history

In 1929 a fire broke out on Christmas Eve in the White House during a party for children. As flames licked the walls of West Wing offices, 130 firefighters arrived and extinguished the blaze. The next year, President Herbert Hoover sent toy fire trucks to some of his young guests.Anecdotes like these often inspire the design of the White House Christmas Ornament—a festive annual tribute to past presidents and events, conceived during the Reagan administration and managed by the White House Historical Association. Since 1982 the holiday decorations have honored each president sequentially, with brief pauses to recognize significant occasions such as the White House bicentennial anniversary in 2000.More than a million ornaments are sold each year, with proceeds going toward publishing educational books and restoring presidential artifacts. “It’s not…