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Women Who Shaped Science

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Covering COVID-19

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Tony Perrottet's Cuba

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Ten Summer Camps For Little Innovators

Smithsonian Magazine

Let's face it: for plenty of kids, the idea of riding horses and competing in color wars all summer is about as appealing as a root canal. And even kids who love traditional outdoorsy camp activities might enjoy something different. Luckily there are plenty of camps aimed at aspiring scientists, inventors, filmmakers, video game designers and rock stars. We've rounded up the ten best camps for young innovators. We're betting it'll make you jealous you're not 12 again - we are!

The Patents Behind Seven Classic Back-to-School Supplies

Smithsonian Magazine

It’s hard to think about back to school when it’s still steamy outside and the sun seems to beg, like our kids, to stay out late. But here we are: mid-August, school just a few short days or weeks away. As you’re gathering school supplies, consider their histories. Someone invented that crayon sharpener, that ball point pen, whether in a corporate lab or on a messy suburban kitchen table. Here are some of the patents behind our most beloved back-to-school necessities.

Seven Technologies That Could Help Fight Food Waste

Smithsonian Magazine

We buy those bags of oranges and cartons of kale with such high hopes and good intentions. Yet some portion of them always seems to wind up fuzzed with mold beneath the bananas or slimey and brown in the back of the fridge. Food waste is a huge problem, not just in our own kitchen, but globally. About a third of all food produced for human consumption gets wasted each year, resulting in some $990 billion in financial loss and an enormous toll on the environment. How do we improve these figures? Perhaps some of these technologies can help.

From a Steamship-Inspired Home to the World’s Most Beautiful Coal Mine, Here Are 20 Must-See Places on Germany’s Grand Tour of Modernism

Smithsonian Magazine

In 1919, architect Walter Gropius founded the now world-famous Bauhaus School of Design in Weimar, Germany. Committed to the principle that form follows function, it operated through 1933 and had a profound effect on the way that architects, designers and artists thought about the relationship between design and way of life. While the majority of Bauhaus activity was concentrated in Weimar, followed by Dessau, its headquarters from 1925-32, and Berlin from 1930-1932, the school's influence spread throughout Germany and the world over the course of the 20th century.

In celebration of the centenary of the founding of Bauhaus this year, the Bauhaus Association of Germany has created a Grand Tour of Modernism highlighting 100 significant Bauhaus and modernist buildings throughout the country. From the only remaining ironworks of the industrial age, which became Germany’s first modernist UNESCO World Heritage site, to a cathedral-like glass factory and a residential home reminiscent of a steamship, the destinations highlight modernism’s many forms.

The majority of sites are open to the public and can be visited by rail, car or bicycle. Discover 20 can’t-miss locations in the map above, and head to The Grand Tour of Modernism’s website to learn more.

Explore the Heart of the Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaign

Smithsonian Magazine

The newspaper that, weeks later, printed detailed accounts of that week’s events, was the South Carolina Gazette, and the harbor in question was the Charles Town Harbor, the heart of what’s now known as Charleston.

The Charleston Tea Party happened days before the more famous one in Boston, and it’s just one of many events in South Carolina history that makes it the perfect destination for Revolutionary War buffs. Here are just a few of the state’s best spots for exploring South Carolina’s Revolutionary-era spirit.

The newspaper that, weeks later, printed detailed accounts of that week’s events, was the South Carolina Gazette, and the harbor in question was the Charles Town Harbor, the heart of what’s now known as Charleston.

The Charleston Tea Party happened days before the more famous one in Boston, and it’s just one of many events in South Carolina history that makes it the perfect destination for Revolutionary War buffs. Here are just a few of the state’s best spots for exploring South Carolina’s Revolutionary-era spirit.

The Best History Books of 2018

Smithsonian Magazine

Can we mine the past for clues that explain the present? That’s the central theme of many history books in 2018, as writers and historians, academic and popular alike, attempt to uncover and recount the stories that say something about the state of the world today. From a biography of one of America’s most important architects to a sprawling analysis of Shakespearean drama to a 19th century sex scandal that shocked Washington, our favorite books this year are ones that bridge the gap between where we’ve come from and where we’re going.

'Re:Frame' the Picture

Smithsonian Magazine

Women Who Shaped History

Smithsonian Magazine

Future of Art

Smithsonian Magazine

These High-Tech Scarecrows Will Keep Pesky Creatures Away

Smithsonian Magazine

Modern scarecrows are a drastic departure from the straw buddy from The Wizard of Oz. An upscale array of intimidating devices deters more than just, well, crows. Cats, raccoons and other tricky creatures may also be targeted.

Some 21st-century scarecrows do their work by growling like thunder. Others prowl the skies, rumble, spew water or just look and act mean. Here are seven of the most remarkable techno-scarecrows.

More stories from Modern Farmer:


Smithsonian Magazine

Bermuda: Photos From Our Readers

Image by Otto Trott, Photo Contest Archives. A great blue heron catches a snake fish at Flatt's Inlet in Bermuda (original image)

Image by Amy Hoffman, Photo Contest Archives. Descending into Bermuda (original image)

Image by Otto Trott, Photo Contest Archives. A male belted kingfisher chases a female belted kingfisher days after Hurricane Gonzalo struck the island in 2014. (original image)

Image by Larry Lamb, Photo Contest Archives. A lizard clings to stucco. (original image)

Image by Lorella Schoales, Photo Contest Archives. Bermuda is known for its pink sandy beaches. (original image)

Image by Jennifer McGowan, Photo Contest Archives. Front Street is the heart of Hamilton, Bermuda's capital city. (original image)

Image by Elizabeth Wantz, Photo Contest Archives. Row boat in a cavern, Bermuda (original image)

Image by Sean Murphy, Photo Contest Archives. Weathered for more than a century, the unfinished church is a beautiful spot to see in the town of St. George's, Bermuda. (original image)

Why Art and Music Lovers Are Flocking to South Carolina's Lowcountry

Smithsonian Magazine

Upon arrival, visitors are immediately struck by the quiet, natural beauty and distinct style of Palmetto Bluff, a residential resort community in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Architecturally, the homes at Palmetto Bluff celebrate both Southern culture and contemporary living, all in harmony with the land. Located on 20,000 acres of natural splendor, gas lanterns echo the warm glow of painted sunsets, open porches invite in cool, coastal breezes and trees bow with genteel hospitality over oyster shell walkways.

But there is much more going on here: Palmetto Bluff is rapidly gaining attention for its diverse and sophisticated arts scene. In addition to the unique sculptures housed in varied natural settings throughout the community, Palmetto Bluff hosts frequent events featuring renowned regional artists, makers, musicians and performers.

Public art shows throughout the year feature artists from across the region, and workshops, lectures and classes offer residents and guests the opportunity to engage and interact with artists and gain an experiential understanding of their work.

Palmetto Bluff also launched an Artist in Residence program, in collaboration with Garden & Gun magazine, to celebrate the arts, foster creativity and offer hands-on education for guests and residents. Each month, a notable artisan, including winners of Garden & Gun’s annual Made in the South Awards, is invited to stay on-site at the Artist Cottage in the newly constructed Moreland Village. Artists in Residence have ranged from painters and sculptors to jewelry designers, bakers, glass artists, chocolatiers and craftsmen, offering the community unique learning opportunities and insight into an array of specialties.

In April 2018, Brackish co-founders Ben Ross and Jeff Plotner are moving in. The two artisans have been handcrafting one-of-a-kind, sustainably-sourced feather bow ties and accessories in Charleston since 2007. Taking up to five hours to make, each piece is a wearable work of art, and because every single feather is individually selected, no two Brackish ties are exactly alike.

In addition to regular gallery hours, Ross and Plotner will be hosting a “Fancy Feather” workshop, teaching participants how to construct one of their remarkable feather pins, and an “Earrings with Outdoor Appeal” demo class, showing guests how to make show-stopping ear-wear from pheasant, quail, peacock and guinea fowl feathers.

For music lovers, Palmetto Bluff offers a dazzling array of performances throughout the year. The Lowcountry is home to a diverse range of musical styles – from blues, jazz and bluegrass to Southern rock and Lowcountry stomp – and musical events are at the centerpiece of the social calendar. There is no better way to enjoy a beautiful summer evening than at the outdoor Summer Concert Series, and each November, Palmetto Bluff hosts the annual Music to Your Mouth Festival, a multiday food and wine celebration featuring award-winning Southern chefs, winemakers, brewers and artisans, layered with local, regional and Grammy-award winning musical talent. Portions of the proceeds go to Second Helpings, a local organization that distributes food to over 60 agencies serving those in need in the Lowcountry.


See a full list of upcoming events at Palmetto Bluff

Explore 20,000 Acres of South Carolina's Wildly Beautiful Lowcountry

Smithsonian Magazine

Nestled into the South Carolina Lowcountry, between Charleston and Savannah, lies one of the largest waterfront properties on the east coast. Situated on 20,000 acres, Palmetto Bluff, a residential resort community in Bluffton, looks out over centuries-old live oak trees, primeval estuaries and 32 miles of river coastline at the confluence of the May, Cooper and New Rivers. This wildly beautiful landscape has been pristinely maintained as both a true Southern escape for travelers and residents and an active conservancy for hundreds of plant, bird and marine species.

In 2003, the non-profit Conservancy at Palmetto Bluff was founded with a mission of “protecting the lush maritime forests and winding tidal creeks that defined the spectacular geography of the land.” Led by Director Jay Walea, who spent his youth exploring, hunting and drawing inspiration from the verdant forests of the Bluff, the Conservancy team works tirelessly to ensure that development and natural environments can coexist in harmony.

With a dedication to protecting and increasing their understanding of the Lowcountry environment, the Conservancy cares for the large number of resident and migratory animals in the area by ensuring their habitat remains healthy and intact. Ecological work by the Conservancy team involves a number of research initiatives, including surveying alligator, turtle and white-tailed deer populations, studying the nesting screech owls and monitoring the majestic but delicate patterns of bald eagles.

Residents and guests are invited to participate through tours, workshops and field trips designed to make the learning and monitoring process fun and easy. Environmental education classes teach participants about the area's delicate ecosystems, and citizen-scientists are invited to help researchers track and collect data on the local animal inhabitants, including the brilliantly adorned eastern bluebird.

Under the guidance of on-site archaeologist Dr. Mary Socci, fascinating artifacts have also been discovered, revealing details about the area's previous occupants. The oldest objects date back to 10,000 B.C. Following these early visitors, generations of Native Americans came to The Bluff to harvest mollusks and fish in the rivers and gather in the forests. Archeologists have found oysters shells, bones, stone tools and fragments of clay pots, many of which are on display at the Palmetto Bluff History Center. The on-site museum helps put these finds in context with timelines, maps and miniature exhibits. There is also a rotating history display in the Conservancy Reading Room in Moreland Village. Both facilities are free and open to the public.

Through the efforts of the Conservancy, visitors to Palmetto Bluff can experience the same beauty and scenery that previous travelers have enjoyed on this land over the centuries.


Learn more about the Conservancy at Palmetto Bluff

Discussion of our April Issue

Smithsonian Magazine

Out of all the predictions in our Hacking the Future issue, none ignited more commentary than “Be(A)ware,” Stephan Talty’s scenarios about artificial intelligence. A “benevolent AI could lead to a Golden Age,” Ben Bronson said on Facebook. “A malicious one could kill us all.” Mark Wrede worried that a “danger greater than AI would be our incapacity to distinguish it from a bag of rocks.” Penny Reid had a more mundane concern. “I don’t want AI preparing my food—I want to cook food with my own hands, in order to have a connection to the earth that grew it.” But some readers seemed ready to embrace a more synthetic future. “Our silicon-based children will become the evolution of our carbon-based species,” Lorraine Alden posted on Facebook. “AI beings, with bodies that will withstand interstellar travel, will be our path to the stars and carry our spirit to other worlds.”

Everything’s Greener in Texas

We can use solar power systems to help the power supply in other areas, like Puerto Rico. Mayor Ross (“The Future’s So Bright”) is doing the right things for his city and residents.

Robert Clancy | Facebook

One Small Step for Beer

Compared with beer (“Buzzed Lightyear”), hard liquor is more stable under a variety of conditions, thus less prone to spoilage. Additionally, it is more alcohol-dense than beer, so it would take less room to store. I wonder which crop could be grown and harvested to make Johnny Spacewalker? Bring on the science!

Rick Spartan | Twitter

Immunotherapy Progress

Personalized genome therapies and vaccines (“A Cancer Vaccine?”) for cancer are just a few years away. It has been a long fight against “the emperor of all maladies.” Hopefully it will soon be over.

Doug Rutkowski | Facebook

Lives Lost to Lynching

I hope that all the memorial slabs (“Necessary Truths”) are retrieved and placed in their respective counties. It will allow people that don’t have the ability to travel as far to absorb the truth of these horrible lynchings and to give recognition to the souls that were victims of this horror.

Karen Kelso |

I’m very happy that lynching victims are finally being memorialized. It’s ingenious to offer markers to other counties to see which regions are willing to allow the slabs to be erected. We’ll never move beyond our ugly past as a nation until we face it and formally apologize on the record.

Amber Adams | Facebook

It is about time that we publicly acknowledge the individual victims of this horror by name, not just as a group. Each of them needs to be remembered.

Sandi Jordet | Facebook

Explore Florida’s Stunning Gilchrist Blue Spring in 360 Degrees

Smithsonian Magazine

Across Florida, vast underground aquifers push natural springs to the surface, creating pools that dazzle like gems under lush green forest canopies. With water as clear as glass and the temperature a constant 72 degrees, a case could be made that these springs are the real fountains of youth.

Gilchrist Blue Springs, which became the 175th state park in Summer 2017, offers visitors an opportunity to experience these unique natural features in a location that is at once within reach and delightfully remote. Gilchrist is roughly 90 minutes from Jacksonville by car, and two hours from Tampa and Orlando, making this easy weekend trip unmissable.

Composed of five primary springs, the namesake gin-clear Blue Spring is the largest in the park, discharging 740 gallons or 100 cubic feet of water per second—or 44-million gallons per day.

These ever-changing waters flow gently downhill about a quarter-mile to the Santa Fe River, creating a spring run and floodplain that supports a diversity of fish, turtle and invertebrate species. Snorkelers can spot redbreast and spotted sunfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish in waters with unparalleled visibility.

From a jumping platform constructed above the spring’s main boil, visitors can plunge into refreshing 72-degree water before swimming back to shore to sun themselves on the 50-yard wide white-sand beach.

Four other nearby springs within the park are smaller in scale but no less striking. Johnson Spring and Naked Spring both provide secluded swimming holes, while the decidedly swampier Little Blue Spring holds court to an array of cypress trees and wildlife at its periphery, including wild turkey, whitetail deer and wading shore birds. Finally, Kiefer Spring is visible only when the water level reaches a certain threshold, which is more likely in Florida’s summer from May to October.

Together, the rivers and freshwater pools that comprise Gilchrist Blue Springs afford ample opportunities for visitors to slow down and reconnect with nature. These winding riverways offer a tranquil track for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddling, while the trails and boardwalks that weave along the natural shoreline of the springs give hikers and bikers a full 26 miles on the Santa Fe River Canoe Trail. Fishing opportunities also abound here, and those who are inclined to linger will find plenty of places to set up camp; 17 RV-ready sites and another eight tent sites can be found on the property, and the park plays host to a variety of special events each month, including game nights and guided paddles.

Preview a paddle for yourself through this 360 video

Nearby the town of Trenton brims with Southern folk art charm. Known for its remarkably detailed quilting tradition, Trenton’s streets are dotted with shops showcasing local works. Get inspired at the Florida Quilt Museum, admire the quilt murals painted by Florida folk artist Janet Moses and, if you time your trip right, find yourself lost among quilting enthusiasts at Florida’s largest outdoor quilt festival in March.

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The Eruption on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Is Simmering Down

Smithsonian Magazine

Since it began erupting dramatically in early May, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has spewed out lava bombs, spurted huge plumes of ash and volcanic smog, and oozed so much lava into the ocean that the landscape of Big Island, where the volcano is located, has been changed. But Kilauea’s wrath may be cooling; as Nathan Rott reports for NPR, the volcano’s eruption seems to be slowing down.

Much of the activity on Kilauea in recent months had been coming from its largest vent, fissure 8, which continued to pour out lava even as other fissures settled. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory announced yesterday, however, that output from fissure 8 is now low. Flight crews observed just a small lava lake in the fissure and a “weak gas plume.”

The observatory cautions, however, that violent eruptions could begin again. “It is common for eruptions to wax and wane or pause completely,” the statement explains. “A return to high levels of lava discharge or new outbreaks in the area of active fissures could occur at any time.”

In fact, a report issued by the United States Geological Survey in July posited that it could take several months to a year for the eruption to fully settle, according to CNN’s Ursula Perano. The recent update “paints a picture of a pause,” the USGS said in a tweet, “but we’re not yet ready to say if it’s a full stop.”

Though it may be temporary, the pause in Kilauea’s activity offers some much-needed respite to residents of Big Island. The eruption has forced the evacuation of thousands of people, and 700 homes have been destroyed by lava flow. Clouds of toxic “laze,” which is formed when blazing lava hits the ocean water, posed an acute health threat. Much of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has been hit by 18,000 earthquakes in the past month alone, has shut down.

Unfortunately, Big Islanders may soon have to contend with another natural adversary. As Hurricane Hector makes its way towards Hawaii, a tropical storm warning has been issued for the area.

Take a Last Look at Washington, D.C.'s Cherry Blossoms (Photos)

Smithsonian Magazine

Each spring, over one million people journey to Washington D.C. to catch a glimpse of the ephemeral cherry blossoms lining the Tidal Basin.

This year, the flowers reached peak bloom on April 5, and they're approaching their final days. According to the National Park Service, blossoms usually last for four to seven days after peak bloom, but the cooler weather delayed their natural leaf progression, allowing the blooms to linger a bit longer. With the weather turning warm and windy, this weekend will likely be the last chance to see the flowers and the perfect time to see the "snowing pedals" effect.

Seeing the cherry blossoms is a time-honored D.C. tradition that dates back to 1912, when the Tokyo gifted 3,020 cherry trees to the U.S. in an act of friendship. The first Cherry Blossom Festival launched in 1935 to commemorate the springtime occasion. While many of the original trees have been replaced, the Tidal Basin’s beauty has persisted for more than a century.

Smithsonian Channel Has Released 68 Free ‘Aerial America’ Episodes for Your Quarantine Viewing

Smithsonian Magazine

Yes, non-emergency travel in the United States is strongly discouraged at the moment, but fortunately, you can sate your cooped-in wanderlust from the safety of your couch. Smithsonian Channel has made available for streaming all 68 episodes of “Aerial America,” a series that, as its title suggests, offers a birds-eye view of all 50 states. In each 45-50-minute episode, “Aerial America” surveys natural wonders, gives overviews of cultural landmarks and tourist attractions and details sites’ histories. All episodes are now streaming for no cost and with no login required on Smithsonian Channel Plus.

Smithsonian Channel has also begun to roll out entire episodes on YouTube, and weekly online “watch parties” are planned to make the “Aerial America” viewing experience interactive despite social distancing. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 to 5 p.m. EST, Smithsonian Channel’s Facebook page will host state-specific trivia while showing an episode. Each episode will simultaneously drop on YouTube.

Smithsonian readers interested in exploring more programs from Smithsonian Channel Plus can get two free months, after signing up for a 7-day free trial with code: BRIGHTERTOGETHER.

The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits, a History of Hell and Other New Books to Read

Smithsonian Magazine

Few topics manage to unite the masses quite like the macabre, the mysterious and the magnanimous. Luckily, the five titles highlighted below—featuring stories of heaven and hell, an “imposteress rabbit breeder,” the Confederacy, the census, and the Irish potato famine—offer up all of these qualities in plenty.

Last week, Smithsonian magazine introduced a new series designed to support those in search of distraction from the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. Each Friday, we’re spotlighting five recently published nonfiction titles at risk of being overlooked as COVID-19 continues to dominate the news cycle.

Representing the fields of history, science, arts and culture, innovation, and travel, selections represent texts that piqued our curiosity with their new approaches to oft-discussed topics, elevation of overlooked stories and artful prose. We’ve linked to Amazon for your convenience, but be sure to check with your local bookstore to see if it supports social distancing-appropriate delivery or pickup measures, too.

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