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Your Next Favorite European Wine Region Isn’t in France, Italy or Spain

Smithsonian Magazine

The Beau-Rivage Palace hotel in Lausanne, on the shores of Lake Geneva, maintains one of Europe’s great wine cellars. Earlier in the day I’d made my way through it, a maze of 80,000 bottles extending all the way under the tennis courts, with sommelier Thibaut Panas. The cool underground rooms held the usual suspects—grand cru Burgundies, first-growth Bordeaux, Barolos—as well as plenty of fine Swiss wines. It was one of the latter that I was drinking now, as I sat on the terrace at Anne-Sophie Pic, the acclaimed French chef’s namesake restaurant at the hotel: a glass of 2007 Les Frères Dubois Dézaley-Marsens Grand Cru de la Tour Vase no. 4. A Chasselas from the terraced vineyards of the Lavaux wine region, just outside the city, the white wine was rich, complex, and subtly spicy all at once. And it was exactly why I’d come to Switzerland, since there was little chance I would ever find it back home in the U.S.

The Beau-Rivage was built on the Swiss side of the lake in 1861, and it’s what a grand old European hotel should be, which is to say it keeps the feeling that you might at any moment drift into a black-and-white movie set between the wars. Its Belle Époque salons, ballrooms, and suites have played host to the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel, and countless others accustomed to grandeur and privilege. Case in point: the woman in red leather pants at the table next to mine, who was surreptitiously feeding morsels to her miniature dachshund. The dog would poke its snout out of her red leather handbag to receive bites of $85 duck, then disappear. It had manners. I drank my good Swiss wine, pondering the quirkiness of rich Europeans.

From left: The barrel room at Domaine Jean-René Germanier, in the heart of the Valais, where visitors can taste Swiss varietal wines like Humagne Rouge and Chasselas; langoustines and beets at Anne-Sophie Pic, the restaurant at the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel, in Lausanne. (Simon Bajada)

The reason you won’t find much Swiss wine in the U.S. is simply this: 98 percent of it stays in Switzerland, where it’s drunk quite contentedly by the Swiss, who are well aware that their wines are extremely good, even if the rest of the world is not. This situation isn’t entirely intentional. The wines are dauntingly expensive outside Swiss borders, and the fact that they’re made from unfamiliar native varieties doesn’t help, either. A $50 bottle of Swiss Chasselas would be a tough sell in your local American wine store.

That said, once you arrive within their borders, the Swiss are more than happy to share. Visiting wineries in Switzerland is actually easier than in many other European wine regions. Most have shops that double as tasting rooms and keep regular hours. Plus, Switzerland’s wine country, which includes the popular cantons of Vaud and Valais, is stare-around-you-in-awe beautiful.

All that is to say why, the day after my epic dinner, I was standing with Louis-Philippe Bovard on the Chemin des Grands Crus, a narrow road that winds among the ancient Lavaux vineyard terraces east of Lausanne, in the Vaud. Bovard is the 10th generation of his family to make wine here. “I have just a small piece of vineyard, which my father gave me, which the first Louis bought in 1684,” he said with the kind of casual modesty available to you when your family has been farming the same piece of land for almost 350 years. To our left, the green vines climbed in dramatic steps—some of the stone walls are 20 feet high—up to bare rock and, eventually, the Savoy Alps. Below us they dropped equally precipitously down to the ultramarine waters of Lake Geneva.

From left: The waterfront walking path in Lausanne offers ample opportunities for people-watching. The city is the capital of the Vaud canton and close to the Lavaux vineyards, a unesco World Heritage site; a view of Lake Geneva over the rooftops of Rivaz, as seen from the vineyards of Domaine Louis Bovard. (Simon Bajada)

The Chemin des Grands Crus sees a lot of foot traffic these days, a consequence of the region’s having been named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007. Bovard tolerates this with equanimity. “In September there will be a thousand people on the route,” he said. “They get very annoyed when they have to move aside for my car! But harvest is harvest. The work has to be done. And the winemakers are the ones who built the road, after all.” To give perspective, Bovard’s winery is located in the nearby town of Cully, whose population tops out at 1,800 or so. “And the other villages around here aren’t even this big, maybe three hundred inhabitants,” he added. “But of those, ten to twenty will be winegrowers.” The Dézaley Grand Cru area, which we were standing in the midst of and from which Bovard makes one of his best wines, is a tiny 135 acres, but more than 60 different families farm it.

The principal grape of Lavaux and of the Vaud as a whole is Chasselas. At one extreme it makes light, delicate, floral whites; at the other, rich, supple, full-bodied ones. “In its variety of expression, it’s like Burgundy,” Bovard told me later as we sampled wines in his tiny tasting room. “Chasselas from one cru to the next can be as different as Chablis is from Montrachet.” All of Bovard’s wines are impressive, but the standout was a 2007 Domaine Louis Bovard Médinette Dézaley Grand Cru, his top wine, its youthful fruit notes now shifting toward a layered toastiness. “As the wine ages you have less white flowers, more dried apricots, honey—much like a white Hermitage but just a bit lighter.”

I was exposed to Chasselas’s chameleonic range of styles again during lunch at Auberge de l’Onde, in the tiny town of St.-Saphorin on the old road from Geneva to the Valais. The green-shuttered, 17th-century building has been an inn for most of its existence, but these days it is known mostly for its restaurant. The feel in the downstairs brasserie is homey: wooden chairs, white-painted ceiling beams, white flowers in the window boxes. (The upstairs rotisserie is more formal, and open only for dinner.) As maître d’ and sommelier Jérôme Aké Béda seated us, a young guy carrying a motorcycle helmet poked his head through a window, and he and Aké chatted in French. “He’s a winemaker, a local guy,” Aké explained. “He makes a special cuvée for me, about three hundred bottles.”

Aké’s magnetic personality and extraordinary wine knowledge are this restaurant’s secret weapons. He’s also quick to note his unlikely path in life: “I’m from the Ivory Coast. I was raised on pineapple juice, not wine! But now I’m in wine because I love it. I swim in wine.”

If not for a chance meeting, Aké might still be living in Abidjan, the largest city in the Ivory Coast. In 1988, when he was the maître d’ at Wafou, one of the city’s top restaurants, he went to France on vacation and ran into one of his former professors from hospitality school. They chatted for a while, and eventually the man asked if Aké might like to be on the team for a project of his—in Switzerland. By 1989, Aké had a new life in a very different country. But it wasn’t until the mid 90s, working at acclaimed chef Denis Martin’s restaurant in Vevey, on Lake Geneva, that he fell in love with wine. He began training as a sommelier and, in a remarkable ascent, by 2003 had been named the best sommelier in French-speaking Switzerland by the Swiss Association of Professional Sommeliers.

Now he’s found his home at Auberge de l’Onde. “Chaplin, Stravinsky, Edith Piaf, Audrey Hepburn, they all came here,” he told me. But it was when he started to talk about Chasselas, not famous people, that he became truly passionate: “I have wines from everywhere in my cellar, but I’m going to talk to you about Swiss wine. And Chasselas—it’s one of the great grapes of the world. When you drink it, you feel refreshed. And it’s so subtle, so sensitive, you must read between its lines.”

Right as I was beginning to wonder if I’d wandered into a novel about the Chasselas whisperer, Aké set down plates of perch from the lake and expertly spit-roasted chicken in tarragon sauce. To go with them he poured us tastes from seven different bottles, all Chasselas. Some were bright, citrusy, and crisp; some were creamy, with flavors more reminiscent of pears. Of the two older vintages we tried, one had honeyed notes, the other a nutty flavor suggesting mushrooms and brown butter. “’s also very earthy,” Aké went on. “It needs salt and pepper to bring out its amplitude.”

The following day I headed west in the direction of Geneva to La Côte, another of the Vaud’s six wine regions, to meet Raymond Paccot of Paccot-Domaine La Colombe. Here the land was less abrupt, the vineyards flowing down toward the lake in gentle slopes. Paccot’s winery was in Féchy, a rural village. Above it, higher on the hillside, was Féchy’s aptly nicknamed sister town, Super-Féchy, “where Phil Collins lives,” Paccot explained. “The rich people.” Even in less celebrity-filled Féchy, the local castle was currently for sale for $36.8 million, Paccot told me. “With a very nice view of the lake, if you’re interested.”

Rather than buy the castle, I ended up at La Colombe’s little shop and tasting room. Paccot, one of the first vintners in Switzerland to farm biodynamically, makes a broad range of wines, both red and white—Chasselas is not the only grape grown here. He set out an abundance of charcuterie and cheeses, and surrounded by bottles, we chatted about the history of the region.

As with essentially every European appellation, it was the Romans who cultivated vines here first. Later, in the 10th or 11th century, Cistercian monks established their own vineyards. Lavaux’s spectacular terrace walls were erected in the 1400s by northern Italian masons. By then the Vaud was part of the French-speaking Duchy of Savoy; that was also, Paccot told me, around the time when his family received its coat of arms, which features a dove (la colombe), a symbol of peace, and of course the winery. “It was given to us by Amédée, one of the Savoy counts, because in 1355, my ancestor helped secure peace. Plus, it was easier to give him a coat of arms than to pay him.” Through Europe’s many wars, vignerons grew grapes and made wine here. In French-speaking Switzerland you find local whites like Chasselas, Petite Arvine, Amigne, and Humagne, together with French transplants such as Marsanne (here known as Ermitage) and Pinot Gris (here known as Malvoisie). In the eastern, German-speaking regions, reds are more popular, particularly Pinot Noir (often referred to as Blauburgunder); in Italian-speaking Ticino, Merlot dominates.

Paccot’s 2014 Amédée, primarily made from the Savagnin grape, was a standout among the wines we tasted—melony and earthy, full-bodied but brightened by fresh acidity. “With Chasselas, it’s the delicacy, the lift, the fruit,” he said after taking a sip. “But with Savagnin it’s more like a mushroom. It smells the way it does when you’re walking in the forest.”

That comment came back to me the next day when I was, in fact, walking in a forest. But I was in the Valais, a very different place. If the Vaud is defined by the openness of Lake Geneva, Valais is defined by mountains. It’s essentially a vast gorge carved by the Rhône glacier, which before it began its retreat some 10,000 years ago stretched for nearly 185 miles and was, according to Gilles Besse, the winemaker I was walking with, “more than a mile deep. But what it left behind was this extraordinary mosaic of rocks. The soil in the Valais changes every fifteen yards—it’s not like Bordeaux.”

A vineyard in the village of Le Perrey, in the Valais, where the winemakers at Domaine Gérald Besse source their grapes. (Simon Bajada)

Nor, except for that mosaic-like soil structure, is it much like the Vaud. Here, the Alps towered up on either side of me, jagged and stunning. The previous day I’d had a conversation with Louis-Philippe Bovard and a Swiss wine-collector acquaintance of mine, Toby Barbey, about the difference between the Vaud and the Valais. Bovard had said, “The Valais, well, the soils are very different, the climate is very different, it’s very dry.” At this point Barbey interjected, “And the people are very different! They’re lunatics over there.”

I told Besse this and he laughed. He is trim, in his forties, with the requisite interesting eyewear and expensive watch that all Swiss men are apparently issued at birth. An accomplished skier, he’d recently completed the Patrouille des Glaciers, a frigid, all-night, cross-country-ski race covering some 70 miles from Zermatt to Verbier. Proof enough of a lunatic streak for me.

His family’s winery, Domaine Jean-René Germanier, opened for business in Vetroz in 1886. But at the moment we were deep in the precipitous Val d’Hérens. The forest we’d walked through gave way to one of his prized vineyards, Clos de la Couta. It is absurdly steep—your average mountain goat would be daunted. But somehow Besse harvests grapes from it, and very good ones at that. His peppery, nectarine-scented 2015 Clos de la Couta Heida (the local name for Savagnin), which we tried later on, was sublime. He also informed me that Val d’Hérens’s true fame comes less from its grapes than its fighting cows.

“Fighting cows?”

“Of course! Really angry animals. A top cow might sell for eighty-five thousand dollars, you know.”

“Not like a bullfight, right?”

“No, the cows fight each other. It’s to determine the queen—which lady rules the herd. There are many fights, but the finale is in Aproz in June. It’s a very big event. People come from all over Switzerland.”

Visual confirmation would have helped me wrap my brain around the concept. But for dinner we did indulge in an equally Valaisian tradition, raclette, at the ultimate destination for it, the Château de Villa, in Sierre.

It’s easy to look at raclette and think, “Well, that’s melted cheese on a plate.” And yes, raclette is basically melted cheese on a plate. But sit outside at Château de Villa on a spring night, looking at the turreted tower and white walls of this 16th-century building, and order the dinner tasting of five different cheeses from five different alpages (high mountain pastures) throughout the Valais. You will realize it’s much more than that.

At Château de Villa, the raclette master slices great wheels of Raclette de Valais AOC cheese in half, mounts them on metal racks, and positions them just close enough to a fire that the edge of the cheese crisps and the center melts without burning. He then scrapes the molten cheese onto a plate with a single stroke. Some cheeses are more earthy, some more oily, some more floral. All are distinct. After you try all five, you can have more of whichever you prefer, along with “light” accompaniments: boiled potatoes, bread, and pickles. And ask for the pepper mill. The correct amount of pepper? That, Besse told me, is a matter of debate.

The next day I took the train to Zurich, because of a new rule I’ve decided to apply to my life: if someone offers to show you vineyards from a speedboat, always say yes.

The someone in this case was Hermann Schwarzenbach, the debonair owner of Schwarzenbach Weinbau, a few miles south of the official city limits in the town of Meilen. Zurich’s not really known as a wine region—the city itself is too dominant, with its focus on international business and the arts—and as the villages on the northern shore of Lake Zurich have been absorbed into its sprawl, the historic line between what’s urban and rural has blurred. But the vineyards are still there, semi-hidden. Schwarzenbach pointed them out from the water—dozens of one-acre parcels up and down the lake, tucked in between stands of old plane trees, riverside parks, and the gabled summer homes of rich Zurichers. “Most of them are on land that’s protected against development,” he noted. “Otherwise they wouldn’t be there anymore.”

After zooming up and down the lake several times, we parked the boat in Schwarzenbach’s boathouse and repaired to lunch in the garden at a local restaurant, Wirtschaft zur Burg, to taste his wines. Though the building dates back to the mid 1600s, chef Turi Thoma is known for his lightly modernized takes on traditional Swiss dishes—pike from the lake simply roasted but served with a poppy, lime, and chile butter, for instance. Thoma, a compact, bald fellow with an impish smile, also buys all the wine for the restaurant. He joined us to taste Schwarzenbach’s 2008 Meilener Pinot Noir Selection. Pinot Noir is a more significant and increasingly popular red grape in German-speaking Switzerland than in the French areas, and the wine was a revelation—full of black tea and spice, intense dried-cherry fruit, juicy acidity. “You can really see the similarities to a great Côte de Nuits,” Thoma said. “You like the food?”

“Great!” I said. “Brilliant.” He was giving me that intent look that chefs give you when they feel like you might be politely hiding your actual opinion, so I ate another bite of the venison course we were on for emphasis. “And fantastic with the wine, too.”

“Great!” I said. “Brilliant.” He was giving me that intent look that chefs give you when they feel like you might be politely hiding your actual opinion, so I ate another bite of the venison course we were on for emphasis. “And fantastic with the wine, too.”

“Good,” he said, leaning back.

I said I was surprised to find Pinot Noir—and very good Pinot Noir at that—by the shores of Lake Zurich. “Yes,” Schwarzenbach said thoughtfully. “But think about it. The tradition of Pinot Noir here is over four hundred years old. Perhaps even longer. It was always our main variety of red wine. Classic cool-climate reds, that’s what we do. Yes, it was brought here by the...oh, the duke of whatever. But it’s our variety. Right?”

Exploring Swiss Wine Country

The cantons of Vaud, Valais, and Zurich offer all the pleasures of the world’s best-known wine destinations without the crowds. Give yourself a week to experience all three, along with the urban pleasures of Geneva.

Getting There and Around

Swiss International Air Lines offers 73 flights per week from Canada and the U.S. to Geneva and Zurich. To get between cities by train, invest in a Swiss Travel Pass. Though you can visit most wineries and tasting rooms unannounced, a good option is to work with a tour company like CountryBred, which plans dinners with winemakers, luxury transportation, tastings, and more.

The Vaud

To explore the wine regions of the Vaud, stay in the city of Lausanne. The recently renovated Beau-Rivage Palace (doubles from $565), originally built in 1861, has spectacular views over Lake Geneva, both from its exquisitely appointed rooms and from chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s namesake Michelin two-starred restaurant. A walk along the Lavaux terraces’ Chemin des Grands Crus, just 15 minutes from Lausanne, is not to be missed. Then visit Domaine Bovard, in Cully, one of the region’s benchmark Chasselas producers. Domaine du Daley, founded in 1392, is in Lutry. Its terrace has the best view of all the Lavaux wineries. Closer to Geneva in La Côte, Raymond Paccot’s Paccot-Domaine La Colombe is another highlight. Make sure to try the three Chasselas bottlings — Bayel, Brez, and Petit Clos — all from different terroirs. I loved dining at Auberge de l’Onde (entrées $13–$41), in St.-Saphorin, where sommelier Jérôme Aké Béda preaches the gospel of Swiss wine and the rotisserie-grilled meats are incomparable.

The Valais

Hotel-Restaurant Didier de Courten (doubles from $240), in Sierre, is a pleasant, relaxed base for your excursions. Thirty minutes away in Ardon, Domaine Jean-René Germanier is known as one of the Valais’s best producers, both of whites such as Fendant (as Chasselas is known in the region) and reds such as Syrah. Twenty minutes southwest brings you to Gérald Besse’s brand-new winery outside Martigny. Taste his impressive wines, such as the Ermitage Vielle Vigne Les Serpentines, from a vineyard planted on a dramatic 55-degree slope. Cheese-and-wine fanatics should try Château de Villa (entrées $11–$55), in Sierre, not only for the raclette tasting but also for the attached shop, which stocks some 650 different wines.

Zurich and Its Environs

Staying in Zurich gives you access to all the attractions of the big city, but just outside lie wineries that produce lovely whites and surprisingly good Pinot Noirs. In Zurich, the Baur au Lac (doubles from $926) is one of the great historic hotels of Europe, built in 1844 — the same year its founder, Johannes Baur, started his wine business, which the hotel still runs. At Schwarzenbach Weinbau, a wine producer 15 minutes away in the town of Meilen, you can sip subtle Pinot Noirs and citrus-apricoty white Rauschlings, available nowhere else on earth. Dinner at Wirtschaft zur Burg (entrées $15–$30), also in Meilen, is excellent. Chef Turi Thoma relies on ingredients such as pike and hare for his brilliantly executed spins on traditional recipes.

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Why We Need To Start Listening To Insects

Smithsonian Magazine

It’s a warm summer afternoon in the Tanzanian village of Lupiro, and Mikkel Brydegaard is crouching in a brick hut, trying to fix a broken laser. Next to him, on a tall tripod, three telescopes point through a window at a tree in the distance. A laptop rests on an upturned box, waiting to receive a signal.

With a working laser, this system is known as lidar – like radar, Brydegaard tells me, but using a laser instead of radio waves. The setup is supposed to gather precise data about the movement of malaria mosquitoes. But as the sun starts to set outside, Brydegaard is getting nervous. He and his colleagues have spent a week in Tanzania, and their device still hasn’t started collecting data. They’re almost out of time.

Tomorrow, a solar eclipse will blot out the sun over Tanzania – an event that occurs only once every few decades here, and that Brydegaard and his team from Lund University in Sweden have travelled thousands of miles to see. Their immediate aim is to see if the eclipse affects the behaviour of disease-carrying insects. Their larger mission, however, is to demonstrate that lasers can revolutionise how insects are studied.

Lidar involves shooting a laser beam between two points – in this case, between the hut and the tree. When insects fly through the beam, they’ll scatter and reflect light back to the telescopes, generating data from which the scientists hope to identify different species. At a time when pests destroy enough food to sustain entire countries – and when insect-borne diseases kill hundreds of thousands of people every year – this arrangement of beams and lenses could, just maybe, improve millions of lives.

But without a working laser, the trip to Tanzania will count for nothing.

Already, the team have come close to giving up. A few days ago, their two high-powered lasers failed to work. “My first thought was, OK – pack everything, we head back,” Brydegaard tells me. “There’s nowhere in Tanzania we can find a spare part.” He thought bitterly about the tens of thousands of dollars they had spent on equipment and travel. But then he walked into town with Samuel Jansson, his graduate student, and over bottles of beer they scrolled through the contacts on their phones. Perhaps, they started to think, it was possible to salvage the trip after all.


Lasers may be a cutting-edge tool for identifying insects, but at the heart of the lidar method is an elegant and centuries-old principle of entomology. Almost every species of flying insect, from moth to midge to mosquito, has a unique wingbeat frequency. A female Culex stigmatosoma mosquito, for instance, might beat its wings at a frequency of 350 hertz, while a male Culex tarsalis might at 550 hertz. Because of these differences, an insect’s wingbeat is like a fingerprint. And in recent years, the study of wingbeat has undergone a renaissance, especially in the field of human health.

Long before lasers or computers, wingbeat was thought of in auditory – even musical – terms. A careful listener could match the buzz of a fly to a key on the piano. That is exactly what Robert Hooke, a natural philosopher, did in the 17th century: “He is able to tell how many strokes a fly makes with her wings (those flies that hum in their flying) by the note that it answers to in musique during their flying,” wrote Samuel Pepys, a British civil servant and friend of Hooke’s.

But the fact that Hooke relied on his ears must have made his findings difficult to communicate. Knowledge was traditionally shared through scientific papers, letters and specimen drawings, and so entomologists tended to rely on vision rather than hearing. “The field has had a very, very narrow focus for a long time,” says Laura Harrington, an entomologist and epidemiologist based at Cornell University, New York State.

In the 20th century, however, researchers began to break the mould. The main wingbeat detection method was visual: the chronophotographic method, which involved taking photographs in rapid succession. This had its limitations, and a few keen-eared researchers felt there was an advantage to Robert Hooke’s auditory approach – especially Olavi Sotavalta, an entomologist from Finland who had the rare gift of absolute pitch. Just as a composer with absolute pitch might transcribe a musical passage by ear, Sotavalta could identify the precise tone of a mosquito’s wings without the aid of a piano.

(© Matthew the Horse)

“The acoustic method makes it possible to observe insects in free flight,” Sotavalta wrote in a 1952 paper in Nature. In other words, because he had absolute pitch, Sotavalta was able to make wingbeat observations not only with cameras in the laboratory, but also in nature, with his ears. Scientists are informed and constrained by the senses they choose to use.

Sotavalta’s peculiar approach to research suggests that certain scientific insights emerge when separate disciplines collide: he used his canny ear not only to identify species during his research, but also for music. “He had a beautiful singing voice,” says Petter Portin, an emeritus professor of genetics who was once a student of Sotavalta’s. Portin remembers him as a tall, slender man who always wore a blue laboratory coat.

Sotavalta’s papers in the National Library of Finland are a curious combination of letters, monographs on insect behaviour, and stacks of sheet music. Some of his compositions are named after birds and insects.

One of the strangest of Sotavalta’s papers, published in the Annals of the Finnish Zoological Society, documents in astonishing detail the songs of two particular nightingales. Sotavalta heard them during successive summers while staying at his summer house in Lempäälä. The paper itself seems dry, until it becomes clear that he’s trying to apply music theory to birdsong.

“The song of the two Sprosser nightingales (Luscinia luscinia L.) occurring in two successive years was recorded acoustically and presented with conventional stave notation,” he wrote.

Following on from this are nearly 30 pages of notes, graphs and analysis of the rhythm and tonality of the birds. After highlighting the similarity between the two songs, he declares: “Because of the short distance between the places where they were singing, it was concluded that they were perhaps father and son.” It is as though his work is a search for some kind of pattern, some musical idea, shared by members of the same species.

However, his paper in Nature was rather more consequential. There, Sotavalta describes the uses of his “acoustic method” of identifying insects using his absolute pitch, and theorises about the subtleties of insect wingbeat: how much energy it consumes, and how it varies according to air pressure and body size. Even so, only decades later did scientists such as Brydegaard reaffirm the relevance of wingbeat in the study of insects – for example, malaria-carrying mosquitoes.


In Tanzania, Brydegaard, Jansson and engineer Flemming Rasmussen do not have absolute pitch – and, even if they did, it wouldn’t help much. There are millions of insects in and around the village, and they drone on in a symphony that never ends.

What these scientists have, in place of a keen ear, is a high-tech gadget and two broken lasers. And their phones.

When the lasers failed, it took a few false starts to find a solution. A researcher in Côte d’Ivoire had a working laser, but he was away in the USA. Brydegaard considered sending for a replacement by mail, but knew that – thanks to customs and the day-long drive from the airport in Dar es Salaam – it probably wouldn’t arrive in time for the eclipse.

Finally, they sent a text message to Frederik Taarnhøj, CEO of FaunaPhotonics, their commercial partner, and asked if he would consider sending a scientist from Sweden with some spare lasers. Taarnhøj said yes.

So the trio made a few frantic calls and ultimately convinced another graduate student, Elin Malmqvist, to board a plane the very next day. When she did, she was carrying three small metal boxes in her suitcase.

The saga was not over yet, however. Even after the huge expense of the last-minute flight, the first replacement failed: Brydegaard, in his hurry, confused the anode with the cathode, which short-circuited the laser diode. The second laser yielded a beam, but, inexplicably, it was so faint as to be unusable.

It’s the last laser that Brydegaard now unpacks, hoping that at least this one will work as expected. By the time he screws it onto the tripod, it is almost sunset, and his agitation is palpable. Within the hour, it will be too dark to calibrate even a working laser. Everything rides on this piece of equipment.


Laura Harrington’s laboratory at Cornell looks a little like a restaurant kitchen. What resembles the door to a walk-in freezer actually leads to an incubation room. It’s humid and lit by fluorescent lights. The shelves are covered in carefully labelled boxes. Harrington shows me mosquito eggs inside the kinds of disposable containers you’d carry soup in. Over the top of the containers, to prevent mosquitoes from escaping, there’s some kind of net – bridal veil, she tells me. The method is not quite foolproof. A few mosquitoes have escaped, and they buzz around our ears and ankles while we chat.

When we talk about Sotavalta’s approach, Harrington says that he was “definitely ahead of his time”. Even in recent years, researchers who thought to listen to mosquitoes didn’t realise how many insects are capable of listening, too. “For a long time, scientists thought that female mosquitoes were deaf – that they didn’t pay attention to sound at all,” Harrington says.

But in 2009, Harrington put that long-standing assumption to the test. In an unusual and intricate experiment, she and her colleagues tethered a female Aedes aegypti mosquito to a hair, installed a microphone nearby, and placed both inside an upside-down fish tank. Then they released male mosquitoes inside the tank and recorded the results.

The team’s findings astonished Harrington, and led to a breakthrough in the study of sound and entomology. Aedes aegypti conducted a sort of mid-air mating dance that had everything to do with sound. Not only did female mosquitoes respond to the sounds of males, they also seemed to communicate with sounds of their own. “We discovered that males and females actually sing to each other,” Harrington says. “They harmonise just prior to mating.”

This ‘mating song’ isn’t produced by vocal cords. It is produced by flapping wings. During normal flight, male and female mosquitoes have slightly different wingbeats. But Harrington found that during the mating process, males aligned their wingbeat frequency with that of females.

“We think the female is testing the male,” Harrington explains. “How quickly he can converge harmonically.” If so, mosquito songs may function like auditory peacock features. They seem to help females identify the fittest mates.

(© Matthew the Horse)

With these results in mind, and with a recent grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Harrington’s lab has begun development of a novel mosquito trap for field research. Similar projects have been undertaken by teams at James Cook University in Australia and Columbia University in New York City, among others.

For a researcher, there are drawbacks to the mosquito traps that currently exist. Chemical traps have to be refilled, while electric traps tend to kill mosquitoes; Harrington wants her new trap to harness the power of sound to capture living specimens for monitoring and study. It would combine established methods for attracting mosquitoes, like chemicals and blood, with recorded mosquito sounds to mimic the mating song. Importantly, it could be used to capture mosquitoes of either sex.

Historically, scientists have focused on catching female mosquitoes, which twice each day go hunting for mammals to bite – and which may carry the malaria parasite (males do not). But scientists have recently started to consider male mosquitoes an important part of malaria control too. For instance, one current proposal for curbing the disease involves releasing genetically modified males that produce infertile offspring, to reduce the population of disease-carrying mosquitoes in a given area.

Harrington’s hope is that an acoustic trap – using the mating song that attracts males – would help make new strategies such as this possible. “What we’re trying to do is really think outside the box, and identify new and novel ways to control these mosquitoes,” she says.


With the last laser finally in place, Brydegaard flips a switch. Suddenly, on the laptop screen next to the tripod, a small white dot appears. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief: the laser works.

The team – made up of Brydegaard, Jansson, Malmqvist and Rasmussen – spend the last 15 minutes of daylight bringing the beam into focus. Other than a few local children, who shout “mzungu” – Swahili for light-skinned foreigner – no one seems especially bothered by the Europeans tinkering with telescopes.

Sunset throws a beautiful, soft light across the marshy landscape around Lupiro, but it also marks the start of malaria transmission. As darkness starts to fall on the hut where the lidar system is set up, villagers walk in from the fields; pillars of smoke rise from cooking fires. Locals here rely on rice for their livelihood: the staple is served with two meals a day, and along the dusty main road, rice chaff piles up like leaves in autumn. But rice fields require standing water, and standing water fosters malaria mosquitoes. Insects have already begun to buzz around our legs.

Now that evening has settled around us, the lidar system has finally begun to record a torrent of data. The team sit around the hut in the dark; a gasoline generator hums outside, powering the laser and computer. On the laptop screen, a jagged red line shows peaks and valleys. Each one, Brydegaard tells me, represents an echo from the beam. Around dusk, dozens or hundreds of insects may cross the beam each minute. We are watching the period that entomologists refer to as “rush hour” – the wave of activity that begins when female mosquitoes swarm into the village and start their search for food.

Nicodemus Govella, a medical entomologist at Tanzania’s prestigious Ifakara Health Institute – a local partner of FaunaPhotonics – has seen the evening mosquito rush hundreds, even thousands of times. He knows how it feels to shiver and vomit as the malaria parasite takes hold; he has experienced the symptoms time and again. “During my childhood, I can’t count how many times,” he tells me.

If Tanzanian epidemiologists are waging a war on malaria, the Ifakara Health Institute works like a ministry of intelligence – it tracks the density, distribution and timing of bites by malaria mosquitoes. Traditionally, Govella says, the “gold standard” of mosquito surveillance was a method called human-landing catch. It’s low-tech but reliable: a volunteer is given medication to prevent malaria transmission and then sits outside with legs bare, letting mosquitoes land and bite.

The problem is that protection against malaria is no longer enough. Too many other diseases, from dengue fever to Zika, are also spread by mosquitoes. As a result, human-landing catch is now widely considered unethical. “It gives you information, but it is very risky,” Govella says. “Other countries have already banned it.” As health officials retire old strategies for malaria surveillance and control, the work on experimental techniques takes on new urgency – which is where the lasers will come in.

In parts of Tanzania, thanks in part to bednets and pesticides, malaria has “gone down tremendously,” Govella tells me. But eradication of the disease has proved elusive. Some mosquitoes have developed resistance to pesticides. Likewise, bednets helped bring night-time transmission under control – but mosquitoes have adapted their behaviour, starting to bite at dusk and dawn, when people aren’t protected.

In 2008, Govella’s daughter contracted malaria. Thinking back, Govella’s manner changes; his precise medical language gives way to a quiet passion. “I don’t even want to remember,” he says. “When I get to that memory, it really brings a lot of pain to me.”

In its early stages, malaria may look like a common cold – which is why it’s so important that scientists have the tools to track the spread of the parasite and the mosquitoes that carry it: to avoid misdiagnosis. In his daughter’s case, the lack of information proved tragic. “Because it was not detected soon, it proceeded up to the level of convulsions,” Govella says. His daughter ultimately died from complications of malaria. Almost every day since then, he has thought about eradication.

“I hate this disease,” Govella says.


The persistence of malaria has frustrated generations of scientists. More than a century after the discovery of the parasite, it still afflicts hundreds of millions of people each year, of whom half a million die. Harrington has her own memories of the havoc wreaked by the disease: in 1998, she travelled to Thailand for a series of experiments and contracted malaria herself. “I was the only foreigner for miles and miles around,” she says. As the fever set in, Harrington started to understand the real burden of the disease she studied.

“I could imagine myself as a Thai villager with those illnesses,” she tells me. She was far from the nearest hospital and felt alone. “I felt like, if I died, maybe people wouldn’t find out.” Eventually, someone found her and put her in the back of a pickup truck. She remembers sinking into delirium, staring up at a fan that spun endlessly on the ceiling. “I saw a nurse with a syringe full of purple liquid,” she recalls. It reminded her of when she worked, years before, in a veterinary clinic that used purple injections to euthanise sick animals. “I thought that was the end.”

Finally, the fever broke, and Harrington knew that she was going to survive. “I felt incredibly grateful for my life,” she says. The experience made her even more committed to her research. “I felt that I had the ability to try and dedicate my career to something that could eventually help other people.”

Malaria provides a vivid example of how insects threaten human health – but there are many other ways that they can cause harm. Insects also spread other microbial diseases. Then there’s the effect they have on agriculture. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, insect pests destroy one-fifth of global crop yields. In other words, if the world’s farmers had better ways to control species like locusts and beetles, they could feed millions more people.

Pesticides reduce the damage that insects cause, but when used indiscriminately, they can also harm people or kill the insects that we rely on. We remain deeply dependent on pollinators like bees, moths and butterflies, but a 2016 report showed that 40 per cent of invertebrate pollinator species are under threat of extinction. It’s because of this love–hate relationship with insects that we urgently need better ways of tracking different species – better ways to differentiate between the bugs that help us and the bugs that hurt us.

(© Matthew the Horse)


On the day of the eclipse, at just before noon, in the blue skies above Lupiro the black disc of the moon passes in front of the sun. A group of children have gathered round; they hold in their hands small plates of welding glass that the Scandinavian scientists brought with them. By peering through the green-tinted glass, the children can see the narrowing crescent of the sun.

The village around us has gone dim; our shadows have grown less distinct. Judging by the light, it feels as if a sudden storm has set in, or someone has turned a dimmer that has made the sun go faint. The scientists from Sweden, along with their partners at the Ifakara Health Institute and FaunaPhotonics, want to know if in the dim light of an eclipse insects become more active, just as they do at dusk.

On the screen, we watch the red peaks, which have picked up again – not as many as we saw at sunset and sunrise, but more than usual. There’s a simple reason this data matters: if the mosquitoes are more active during an eclipse, that suggests that they use light as a cue, knowing when to swarm each morning and evening by the dimness of the rising and setting sun.

As the data pours in, the scientists talk me through what we’re looking at. Lidar was originally developed to study much larger-scale phenomena, like changes in atmospheric chemistry. This system has been simplified to a bare minimum.

Each of the three telescopes on the tripod has a separate function. The first directs the outgoing laser at a tree about half a kilometre away. Nailed to the tree trunk is a black board, where the beam terminates. (To clear a path for the laser, Jansson, the PhD student, had to cut a path through the underbrush with a machete.)

When insects fly through the laser beam, reflections bounce back at the device from their beating wings, and they’re picked up by the second telescope. The third telescope allows the team to aim and calibrate the system; the whole apparatus is connected to a laptop computer that aggregates the data. The red peaks dancing across the screen represent insects crossing the laser beam.

To record the reflections, which Brydegaard calls the “atmospheric echo”, the lidar system captures 4,000 snapshots per second. Later, the team will use an algorithm to comb through the snapshots for wingbeat frequency – the fingerprint of each species.

This device, in other words, achieves with optics what Olavi Sotavalta achieved with his ears, and what Harrington has achieved with the help of a microphone.

But there are some details in the lidar data that the human ear could never discern. For example, an insect’s wingbeat frequency is accompanied by higher-pitched harmonics. (Harmonics are what lend richness to the sound of a violin; they’re responsible for the resonant ring produced by a muted guitar string.) The lidar system can capture harmonic frequencies that are too high for the human ear to hear. In addition, laser beams are polarised, and when they reflect off different surfaces, their polarisation changes. The amount of change can tell Brydegaard and his colleagues whether an insect’s wing is glossy or matte, which is also useful when trying to distinguish different species.

As the dark disc of the sun starts to brighten again, the scientists snap pictures and try, without much success, to explain how the lasers work to local children. Now that the data is flowing, the tension that accompanied the set-up of the lidar system has simply melted away.

It finally seems clear that the high price tag of the experiment won’t be in vain. The team spent about $12,000 on the lidar system, not including the equally hefty costs of transport and labour. “That sounds like a lot, standing in an African village,” Brydegaard admits. On the other hand, older forms of lidar, used to study the atmosphere, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The burden of malaria, meanwhile, would be calculated in the billions of dollars – if it could be calculated at all.

Within a couple of hours, the bright round circle of the sun is again burning brightly. A couple of hours after that, it has started to set.

We re-apply bug spray to ward off the mosquitoes that, once again, will come flying in from the marshy fields around Lupiro. Then we walk into town for dinner, which, as usual, includes rice.


Three months after the experiment, I called FaunaPhotonics to learn how their analysis was progressing. After so many lasers had failed, I wanted to know whether the final one had given them the results they needed.

The data was messy, they said. “Around cooking time, there’s lots of smoke and dust in the air,” said Jord Prangsma, an engineer responsible for analysing the data that the team brought back. He added that the data did seem to show distinct wingbeats. But it’s one thing to spot those beats on a graph. “To tell a computer, ‘Please find me the correct frequency,’ is another thing,” he said. Unlike Sotavalta, who had studied individuals, the team in Tanzania had gathered data from many thousands of insects. They were trying to analyse all of those beating wings at once.

But the obstacles were not insurmountable. “We see a higher activity just around noon,” said Samuel Jansson, speaking about the data from the eclipse. This suggests that mosquitoes were, indeed, using light as a cue to begin searching for food during rush hour. Prangsma added that an algorithm he had developed was starting to separate out the crucial data. “From a scientific point of view, this is a very rich dataset,” he said.

Over the months that followed, FaunaPhotonics continued to make progress. “Despite initial laser problems,” Brydegaard wrote in a recent email, “the systems performed to the satisfaction of all our expectations.”

Each day that the system was in operation, he said, they had recorded a staggering 100,000 insect observations. “Indications are that we can discriminate several species and gender classes of insects,” Brydegaard went on.

Along with his Lund University colleagues, Brydegaard will publish the results; FaunaPhotonics, as his commercial partner, will offer their lidar device, along with their analytic expertise, to companies and research organisations looking to track insects in the field. “If we have a customer that’s interested in a certain species, then we’ll tailor the algorithm a bit to target the species,” Prangsma explained. “Each dataset is unique, and has to be tackled in its own way.” Recently, FaunaPhotonics began a three-year collaboration with Bayer to continue developing its technology.

The study of wingbeat has come an incredibly long way since Olavi Sotavalta used his absolute pitch to identify insects – and yet in some ways, the Scandinavian scientists’ work differs very little from the Finnish entomologist’s. Just like Sotavalta, they are bringing separate disciplines together – in this case physics and biology, lidar and entomology – to uncover patterns in nature. But they have plenty of work left to do. FaunaPhotonics and its partners will start, in a forthcoming paper, by trying to connect the dots between light, lasers and mosquitoes. Then they’ll try to demonstrate that the study of wingbeat frequency could help humans control diseases other than malaria, as well as insects that destroy crops.

“This is a journey that is not a few months,” said Rasmussen, the engineer. “This is a journey that will go for years ahead.”

This article was first published by Wellcome on Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

When Albert Einstein Visited Japan

Smithsonian Magazine

On his first and only visit to Japan, in the late fall of 1922, Albert Einstein, like almost every Westerner who ever set foot there, was wowed by the beauty of the country and the refinement of the culture. “The inner palace courtyard is among the most exquisite architecture I have ever seen,” he wrote in his diary about Kyoto. The Japanese are “pure souls as nowhere else among people.” The populace was equally impressed by their visitor, greeting him on his arrival in Kobe with “great hubbub. Masses of journalists on board the ship. Half-hour interview in the saloon. Disembarkation with huge crowds.” Einstein was, after all, not just the era’s best-known scientist, but arguably the most famous person in the world.

On October 8, 1922, Einstein and his wife, Elsa, had sailed from Marseille aboard the Japanese ocean liner SS Kitano Maru to begin a nearly six-month trip that would take them to Egypt, Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka), Singapore, Hong Kong and China before arriving in Japan on November 17. Their return, aboard the SS Haruna Maru and SS Ormuz, would include extended visits to Palestine and Spain before arriving back in Berlin on March 21, 1923. Throughout his journey, Einstein kept a diary. It will be published in English in its entirety for the first time this May as The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein: The Far East, Palestine and Spain, 1922-1923, with annotations by the Einstein scholar Ze’ev Rosenkranz.

The handwritten diary shows Einstein in an unfamiliar light, as a tourist—in the real, earthbound sense, not (as in his famous thought experiment) riding a light beam through space-time. Never intended for publication, it records his thoughts and impressions as they occurred, unmediated and unfiltered by considerations of how they would affect his image. So we can be sure he was speaking from the heart when he wrote, after being transported by sweating rickshaw runners in Ceylon: “I was very much ashamed of myself for being complicit in such despicable treatment of human beings but couldn’t change anything.” He finds a dinner with “diplomats and other big shots” at the German Embassy in Tokyo “boring and stuffy.” And like any overbooked traveler the great man gets worn out. “I was dead,” he noted after a day of banquets and receptions, “and my corpse rode back to Moji where it was dragged to a children’s Christmas and had to play violin for the children.” We also see some qualities that stamped him as a creature of his time, such as the ingrained assumption of the intellectual superiority of Europeans: “It seems that the Japanese never thought about why it is hotter on their southern islands than on their northern islands. Nor do they seem to have become aware that the height of the sun is dependent on the north-south position. Intellectual needs of this nation seem to be weaker than their artistic ones—natural disposition?”

Einstein’s visit to Japan was the heart of his trip. The island was still an exotic destination for Westerners nearly 70 years after Commodore Matthew Perry sailed his U.S. fleet into Edo Bay, and Einstein was deeply impressed by Japanese culture, even when he didn’t understand it. “Japanese singing remained so entirely incomprehensible to me,” he wrote. “Yesterday I heard another one singing away again to the point of making me dizzy.” He may not have thought much of Japanese science, but he had complimentary things to say about the architecture and art, and he applauded the people for their “earnest respect without a trace of cynicism or even skepticism”—the latter an odd quality to have won praise from Einstein, who was a thoroughgoing skeptic about all forms of received wisdom, from biblical to Newtonian. He also liked Japanese women—actually, he liked the women pretty much everywhere he went—although he was uncharacteristically tight-lipped about what he saw in them: “On the exquisiteness of the Japanese woman, this flower-like creature—I have also remained reticent; for here the common mortal must cede the word to the poet.”

Like any hapless Westerner he tried, with varying success, to adapt to the customs. “Sitting on the floor difficult,” he wrote after a meal at a Japanese inn. He sampled the cuisine, which didn’t always sit well with his digestion or his ethics—“poor creatures,” he said of the roasted lobsters he was served at the “charming establishment.” And, echoing a familiar trope of his era, one in which national and ethnic generalizations were treated as matter-of-fact observations, not politically fraught stereotypes, he found the Japanese, yes, inscrutable. “Among us we see many Japanese, living a lonely existence, studying diligently, smiling in a friendly manner,” he wrote. “No one can fathom the feelings concealed behind this guarded smile.”


Long before he set foot in Japan, Einstein had a strong affinity for the country. “The invitation to Tokyo pleased me a great deal, as I have been interested in the people and culture of East Asia for a long time,” he wrote. For Japan, Einstein’s visit lent a powerful impetus to its effort to be recognized as a modern world power. A year earlier, the same publishing house that arranged Einstein’s visit had brought over the philosopher Bertrand Russell, and asked him to name the three greatest living citizens of the world. “First Einstein, then Lenin,” Russell is said to have replied. “There is nobody else.” That was an interesting pairing, since right around the time Einstein was arriving in Japan to plaudits, the Soviet Union decided that his theory of relativity was, as a headline in the New York Times put it, “‘Bourgeois’ and Dangerous.”

In Japan, thousands packed auditoriums to hear him expound on his theory of relativity for three or four hours at a stretch, in remarks laboriously translated from German. It had been three years since Sir Arthur Eddington confirmed the bending of starlight as it passed by the Sun, a key prediction of Einstein’s 1915 theory of general relativity, which explained gravity as a distortion of space-time. It followed his revolutionary 1905 paper on special relativity, which laid the groundwork for his equation for mass-energy equivalence: E=mc2.

Instantly recognizable with his full head of curly hair, pipe and mustache, he yearned for the occasional snatches of solitude. A journal entry on December 24, about a week before his departure from the country, notes: “Photographed for the 10,000th time...dinner that almost lasts forever...the hostess of the inn is deeply thrilled and, on her knees, bows her head to the ground around 100 times.” It was, presumably, from his own experience as a living legend that he wrote: “Emperor [has] status of a god; for him very uncomfortable.”

Einstein’s German birth and upbringing rendered him suspect in the eyes of some European countries just a few years after the end of the world war—a lecture in Paris scheduled for April was canceled when French academics threatened a boycott over ongoing political disputes—but the Japanese had no dispute with Germany and were welcoming of his ideas.

And for Einstein, Japan was refreshingly free of anti-Semitism. Einstein did not practice his religion, but he made no apologies for it, and had become increasingly involved in Zionism since the war. But in Germany in 1922, being a famous Jewish scientist came with risks. Earlier in the year another prominent German Jew, the foreign minister Walther Rathenau, had been assassinated by right-wing thugs (earning the praise of a Nazi Party member named Adolf Hitler). “I am supposedly among the group of persons being targeted by nationalist assassins,” Einstein wrote to the physicist Max Planck.

Einstein was both charmed and bemused by His Adventures in Japan. (Map by LaTigre)

Einstein had been advised to postpone his trip by physicist Max von Laue who wrote just a few weeks before his departure, “According to reliable news I received yesterday, events could be taking place in November that would make your presence in Europe in December desirable.” Einstein knew what he was referring to. Svante Arrhenius, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, had also hinted to Einstein that he would be awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics, but Einstein had declined to change his plans. He received official news of the award by telegram in Shanghai on November 13. His diary entry the next day makes no mention of the honor. Instead, he describes the scenery—“Travel upriver along flat, picturesque, yellowish-green illuminated shores”—and the “comical reciprocal staring” between the curious travelers and the surprised residents they encountered.

As it happened, Einstein didn’t even win his Nobel for the work that earned him the most fame—relativity—but for a 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect. And though he worked diligently on new ideas during his trip, writing to Arrhenius: “How conducive to thinking and working the long sea voyage is—a paradisiacal state without correspondence, visits, meetings, and other inventions of the devil!”, his best work was behind him. Now he set himself the task of reconciling the mathematics of the two great macro-scale forces that rule the universe, gravity and electromagnetism—a challenge that, nearly a century later, remains one of the great unsolved problems of science. At various times during his voyage he believed he had succeeded, only to conclude, as he did in January, during a stopover in Malacca, “Discovered large fly in my electricity ointment in the afternoon. A pity.”


Image by Courtesy of NYK Maritime Museum. “A sea voyage is a splendid existence for a ponderer,” wrote Einstein, pictured here with his wife, Elsa, aboard the SS Kitano Maru en route to Japan. (original image)

Image by Sandra Dionisi. (original image)

Einstein spent most of January at sea, arriving at Port Said, Egypt, on February 1, and the next day he was in Jerusalem, which represented a test of his distinctly secular brand of Zionism. Einstein was unmoved by the Wailing Wall, where, he wrote, unkindly, “obtuse ethnic brethren pray loudly, with their faces turned to the wall, bend their bodies to and fro in a swaying motion. Pitiful sight of people with a past but without a present.” But he was impressed by Tel Aviv, a “[m]odern Hebrew city stamped out of the ground with lively economic and intellectual life...The accomplishments by the Jews in but a few years in this city excite the highest admiration....What an incredibly lively people our Jews are!” Jericho represented “a day of unforgettable magnificence. Extraordinary enchantment of this severe, monumental landscape with its dark, elegant Arabian sons in their rags.”

Although Palestine, and later the State of Israel, would remain a passion of Einstein’s for the rest of his life, the impression left by his travel diaries and letters is that Japan interested him more. In an essay published in 1923, he contrasted Western culture with that of Japan, the former characterized by “individualism in the extreme, cut-throat competition exerting one’s utmost energy, feverish laboring to acquire as much luxury and indulgences as possible,” the latter by harmony and equanimity, strong family bonds and public civility enforced by social norms. He ended on a note of warning: “The Japanese rightfully admires the intellectual achievements of the West and immerses himself successfully and with great idealism in the sciences. But let him not thereby forget to keep pure the great attributes in which he is superior to the West—the artful shaping of life, modesty and unpretentiousness in his personal needs, and the purity and calm of the Japanese soul.”

It was less than a decade later that the purity and calm of the Japanese soul was crushed by the spirit of militarism that led to the invasion of Manchuria. Einstein, forced out of Germany by the Nazis, became honorary chairman of the U.S. War Resisters League. His suggestion for ending the fighting was for the leading Western powers to threaten Japan with an economic boycott, which he was certain would work. Instead, the war that drew in his adopted country and sunk the Japanese ships he had sailed on ended only with the deployment of a bomb whose awful power derived from the very law Einstein had set down years ago as a clerk in the Swiss patent office: E=mc2.

What Happened to Kalinka Bamberski?

Smithsonian Magazine

The story begins in October 2009, with the kidnapping of Dieter Krombach, who was suspected of murdering his French stepdaughter, Kalinka Bamberski, 27 years earlier, in Germany. Krombach, a German doctor, had been convicted in absentia in a French court in 1995 on the basis of tissue samples that indicated Kalinka had been raped and then given a fatal injection. But the German government claimed the evidence was inconclusive and refused to extradite him. – Joshua Hammer

This piece is an excerpt from "The Kalinka Affair" by Joshua Hammer. The full ebook single is available for sale from The Atavist, through Kindle Singles, iBooks, The Atavist app, and other outlets via The Atavist website.

The abduction of Dr. Dieter Krombach began in the village of Scheidegg, in southern Germany. His three kidnappers punched him in the face, tied him up, gagged him and threw him in the back of their car. They drove 150 miles, crossing the border into the Alsace region of France, with Krombach stretched out on the floor between the seats. The car stopped in the town of Mulhouse. An accomplice called the local police and stayed on the line just long enough to deliver a bizarre instruction: “Go to the rue de Tilleul, across from the customs office,” the anonymous caller said. “You’ll find a man tied up.” A few minutes later, two police cars arrived at the scene, their red and blue patrol lights illuminating the street. Behind an iron gate, in a dingy courtyard between two four-story buildings, Krombach lay on the ground. His hands and feet were bound and his mouth was gagged. He was roughed up but very much alive. When the police removed the covering from his mouth, the first thing he said was “Bamberski is behind it.”

The French septuagenarian André Bamberski to whom Krombach referred was, on the face of it, an unlikely kidnapper. Until 1982, he had been a mild-mannered accountant and the adoring father of a lively young girl, Kalinka. That year, Kalinka attended a French-language high school in the small German city of Freiburg as a boarder and spent most weekends and summers in nearby Lindau, with Bamberski’s ex-wife and her new husband, Dieter Krombach. On the cusp of 15, she was extroverted and pretty, with full lips and blond hair falling in bangs over her blue eyes. But she was also homesick; she barely spoke German, though she lived in Bavaria. She was looking forward to August, when she would move back in with her father in Pechbusque, a suburb of Toulouse.

On Friday, July 9, 1982, Kalinka Bamberski windsurfed on Lake Constance, the sweep of clear blue water edged by the Alps and shared by Germany, Austria and Switzerland. At around 5 o’clock, she returned home, tired and, according to her stepfather and mother, complaining that she felt unwell. The family sat down to dinner at 7:30. Kalinka went to bed early, rose to drink a glass of water at 10 p.m., and, according to her stepfather, read in her downstairs bedroom until midnight, when he asked her to turn off the light.

The following morning, at around 9:30, the 47-year-old Krombach, wearing equestrian clothes for his morning ride through the nearby mountains, came downstairs and attempted to wake his stepdaughter. He found her lying in bed, on her right side, dead—her body already becoming stiff with rigor mortis. Krombach would later tell medical examiners that he attempted to revive her with an injection, directly into her heart, of Coramin, a central-nervous-system stimulant, and doses of two other stimulants, Novodigal and Isoptin, in her legs. But he was hours too late. An autopsy would put the time of death at between 3 and 4 a.m.

At around 10:30 on Saturday morning, the telephone rang at André Bamberski’s home, three miles south of Toulouse, and his ex-wife delivered the news of his daughter’s death. The 45-year-old Bamberski sank into a chair, stunned. Kalinka had been a healthy, athletic teenager, with almost no history of medical trouble. “How could it have happened?,” he demanded. His ex-wife, her voice jagged with sorrow, explained that Krombach had proposed two theories: Kalinka might have suffered from heatstroke, caused by overexposure to the sun the previous day. Or she might have died from the long-delayed effects of a 1974 car accident in Morocco, in which she had suffered a concussion.

For Bamberski, the shock and horror of Kalinka’s death were compounded by the mystery surrounding it. Soon, his suspicions turned toward the last person to see Kalinka alive: Dieter Krombach.

On April 8, 1993, the prosecutor general charged Krombach with “voluntary homicide,” punishable by up to 30 years in prison. If Krombach was upset by the French verdict, he showed little evidence of it. Indeed, he had no reason to be. Judicial authorities in Bavaria and Berlin signaled that they considered the case against him closed and the French trial in absentia illegal. Still residing by Lake Constance and working as a doctor of internal medicine with a thriving practice, Krombach was a member of an equestrian club, and he kept a sailboat in Lindau’s yacht club.

Meanwhile, Bamberski would pursue Krombach across Europe in a relentless attempt to establish responsibility for his daughter’s death. The campaign would leave Bamberski isolated and in legal jeopardy, with his judgment and even his sanity questioned. He would lose touch with friends, family, and colleagues. He would be accused of crossing moral and legal lines, of losing all perspective, of wading deep into groundless conspiracy theories. His one surviving child would find himself torn between his parents. By the end, even Bamberski’s own attorney, one of France’s most respected jurists, would declare himself unable to support his client in his campaign. Bamberski would leave his job, burn through much of his life savings, and devote thousands of hours to pursuing his quarry across Europe.

Volunteers Counted All the Squirrels in Central Park

Smithsonian Magazine

Finally, after months of analysis, an event at the Explorer’s Club in New York City recently announced the results of a highly anticipated citizen-science investigation: Central Park is home to about 2,373 eastern gray squirrels.

The Central Park Squirrel Census had enlisted 300 volunteers to track down the bushy-tailed citizens of the 840-acre park over an 11-day count period last October, as Kaitlyn Schwalje at National Geographic reports. According to Eleanor Cummins, a science journalist for Popular Science who participated in the project, the park was divided into hectares, which total roughly the size of a squirrel's home territory. Volunteers then cased the zones, on the lookout for squirrels. Each hectare was surveyed once during the morning and once in the evening, when the squirrels are most active. The would-be squirrelologists also noted behaviors, such as how they reacted to humans (whether they rushed up, chattering for a peanut), how old they appeared, any vocalizations they made and the coloration of their coats.

The organization is selling a $75 report on its overall findings, which includes 37 pages of squirrel data, an audio report on a vinyl 45, five-foot maps of the park and a comparably sized map of all surveyed squirrel locations, and some squirrelly baseball cards. It’s like the hipster version of a scientific journal, with much better fonts.

So who's responsible for this art/science/urban studies mash up? Cummins of Pop Sci reports that the project was first dreamed up by Atlanta-based writer Jamie Allen. In 2011, Allen became curious about how many squirrels were chattering in the trees around him, but could find no good answer to his question. So he and a ragtag group of volunteers conducted the first Squirrel Census in Atlanta’s Inman Park and followed that up with a series of beautifully designed visualizations of the squirrels. A second Inman census was conducted in 2015. Afterward, the group set its sights on tallying Central Park’s squirrels.

You might be asking yourself, why is the group going through all this trouble? “We do it for you. We do it for the city. We do it for the squirrels,” Allen tells Schwalje of Nat Geo, “because it makes us happy.”

It’s also a little bit for science. While gray squirrels are one of the most common mammals in North America, they get surprisingly little research attention. For instance, Schwalje writes, between 1962 and 2012, no one published anything about squirrel alarm calls. Thaddeus McRae, a biologist at Lee University, finally broke that dry spell when he wrote his dissertation on the topic. “Some people are bird people, some people are cat people. Some people love bugs. That can influence choices of what gets studied as much as anything else,” he says. “Squirrels are cute, but so commonplace to many of us that they become background.”

New York City’s squirrels have been through a lot. According to Sadie Stein at New York magazine, deforestation around the city in the early 1800s pretty much wiped out the squirrel population. When a pet squirrel did escape in 1856, it was such a novelty that it attracted a crowd of hundreds that had to be dispersed by the cops.

In 1877 and 1878, between 60 to 70 squirrels were released in Central Park. By 1883, the population rebounded a little too well; an estimated 1,500 squirrels reportedly destroyed trees and other vegetation, leading the city to authorize a squirrel hunt. Over the next hundred years or so, the squirrel and the park came more into balance, and now, as the new project shows, the urban forest comfortably supports more than 2,000 of the critters.

While the census isn’t a peer-reviewed scientific publication, it may have value for researchers. The 2015 Inman Park Census, for example, was used by Emory University researchers to understand how diseases like West Nile Virus can travel through urban landscapes. It’s possible the Central Park data could be used in a similar manner. But it’s also possible that the end result is just a really nice map tallying where all the squirrels in the park were in October of 2018.

Visit Kennedy Space Center, the Closest Thing to Space on Earth

Smithsonian Magazine

The story of American space travel is ever-expanding, and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex℠  in Cape Canaveral, Florida, is at the center of it all. On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard launched into sub-orbital flight from Cape Canaveral and paved the way for a dramatic space race with the Soviet Union. In the coming years, astronauts will venture into deep space from the very same location. With roots dating back to the beginning of the American space program, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the closest you can get to experiencing space here on Earth. From visiting historic launch pads to meeting astronauts and interacting with space artifacts, here are eight can't-miss space experiences at the heart of Florida's Space Coast:

Visit the Restricted Areas of America's Spaceport

From the comfort of an air-conditioned motor coach, visitors to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex can access restricted areas of the working spaceflight facility. On the tour, you'll look both back and forward in time. See where the Apollo program launched its missions to the moon and marvel at the multi-story Vehicle Assembly Building where rockets take their shape. You'll also see where NASA plans to launch astronauts into deep space and learn where its Commercial Crew and Cargo partners, including SpaceX, Boeing and United Launch Alliance, operate.

Experience Space in Virtual Reality Through the Lens of a Custom-Designed Space Visor

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's brand new Space Visor mobile virtual reality headsets immerse guests in a one-of-a-kind space experience that brings artifacts to life. With purchase of a Visor, visitors can download three unique programs—KSC 360 Expedition, Space Dreams and Edge of Home—on their mobile phones free of charge to use with the headset. The KSC 360 Expedition incorporates all parts of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, featuring facts about each rocket in the Rocket Garden, video of the space shuttle Atlantis as she floats in orbit and the opportunity to look through the eyes of Wally Schirra, Gene Cernan and Alan Shepard from the commander seats of the Mercury-Atlas 8, Gemini 9 and Apollo 14 spacecrafts. In Space Dreams, enter the room of a space-inspired child and soak up facts and figures about their galactic-themed décor, including each planet, a Mars rover and a Mercury spacesuit. In Edge of Home, travel to the International Space Station and experience the thrill of an extravehicular activity walk while learning about each module. The best part? You can take the experiences home with you.

Launch Into Orbit

Veteran astronauts say the Shuttle Launch Experience® is the next best thing to space travel. In this simulation, travel from four hours before launch to the final seconds in a matter of minutes. Following a prelaunch briefing by veteran Space Shuttle Commander Charlie Bolden, your seat shifts back into a vertical position to prepare for takeoff. The final countdown commences, engines rev up and suddenly you’re flying at simulated speeds of 17,500 miles per hour. You'll forget that you're not barreling toward the outer edges of the earth. Eight-and-a-half minutes later, a feeling of weightlessness settles over you. The payload bay doors open to reveal Earth—a shifting mass of vivid greens and blues, set against a starry sky only astronauts can recount. “Shuttle Launch Experience is an amazingly realistic simulation of the space shuttle’s eight and a half-minute ascent into orbit," says Jon McBride, former NASA astronaut. "From the custom-designed crew cabins with unprecedented vertical range, high-definition audiovisual effects and advanced seating effects—the sense of realism is maximized. You can literally feel the power that the space shuttle used to propel astronauts into space.”

Hold the History of Space in the Palm of Your Hand

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's handheld digital SmartGuide brings the past, present and future of space to your fingertips. Historic and current space photographs, video and detailed maps customized to each attraction enrich and personalize guest experiences. Watch historic footage of rocket launches, like Mercury-Redstone, and examine photographs of space artifacts, or locate the closest restrooms and dining facilities. It's like having your own personal tour guide.

See Footage Shot by Astronauts in 3D IMAX®

The world’s only twin IMAX® screens, each a jaw-dropping five stories tall, bring footage shot by astronauts to life in two motion pictures. Journey to Space, narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart, explores groundbreaking plans to land astronauts on Mars and introduces the team selected for the task. Interviews with commander of the final shuttle mission Chris Ferguson and Serena Aunon, an astronaut selected for future flight, emphasize how these future plans would not be possible without the contributions made by the Space Shuttle Program. A Beautiful Planet, narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, casts Earth in a new light from the perspective of the International Space Station. Using Canon 4K cameras, International Space Station astronauts captured all manner of breathtaking natural phenomena, from lightning storms to volcanoes, coral reefs and even the Northern Lights. At night, they documented city lights, a gripping visualization of how humans have shaped the planet.  

Relive the Daring Feats of Early Space Pioneers

Just three years after NASA began work on Project Mercury in Cape Canaveral, Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Now, thanks to state-of-the-art technology, Shepard’s heroism and the daring feats of other early space pioneers come to life as never before in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s new Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®. A 360-degree discovery bay, 4D multisensory theater and interactive exhibits present the stories of pioneering astronauts while exploring how Americans define heroism. Interact with the nearly 100 astronaut heroes inducted to date in the new U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® and watch a hologram reenact Gene Cernan’s hair-raising spacewalk, during which his goggles fogged up and he struggled to reenter the Gemini 9 capsule.

Witness the Launch of Historic Apollo 8

Symbolizing the height of the space race with the Soviet Union, the Apollo moon-landing era was a defining period in American history. Inside the Apollo/Saturn V Center's Firing Room Theater, relive the launch of the first crewed NASA mission to orbit the moon in 1968 aboard the massive Saturn V rocket. Seated behind the consoles used during the Apollo launches, experience the thrill of the Apollo 8 countdown, then see and feel the Saturn V blast into space.

Meet an Astronaut

No one tells the story of space travel quite like the people who have been there themselves. Each day in the Astronaut Encounter Theater, a featured astronaut shares his or her experiences training for and living in space, followed by a tell-all Q&A session. “If you’re bold enough to ask, I’m bold enough to answer,” says astronaut Bob Springer, who served as a mission specialist on the STS-29 Discovery and STS-38 Atlantis shuttle flights. He enjoys the Q&A sessions for the chance to inspire a new generation and share what NASA releases leave out – “the emotional part” and “stories behind stories." After the Q&A, visitors can meet and take photos with featured astronauts, who range from commanders to pilots, mission specialists and payload specialists.

Vesuvius' Scorching Eruption Turned a Man's Brain Into Glass

Smithsonian Magazine

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., hundreds of people in the nearby town of Herculaneum fled to waterfront chambers in hopes of seeking shelter from the catastrophic explosion—a desperate plan that failed to save them from meeting gruesome ends. Among the few who stayed in the town was a roughly 25-year-old man whose ash-covered remains were discovered in a wooden bed during the 1960s.

Now, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests a shiny black fragment found within the victim’s skull represents remnants of the man’s brain, which was subjected to such searing heat that it turned into glass.

Located some 11 miles north of Pompeii, Herculaneum was a prosperous seaside town home to between 4,000 and 5,000 people before it was destroyed by Vesuvius’ blast. Though many residents attempted to escape, the researchers’ subject decided to stay behind in the College of the Augustales, “an imperial order devoted to the Roman emperor Augustus,” according to Teo Armus of the Washington Post.

The victim, likely a guard at the college, was killed by Vesuvius’ first pyroclastic surge—clouds of ash, rock and volcanic gas that “move at hurricane velocities and have temperatures of several hundred degrees Celsius,” per the United States Geological Survey.

Pierpaolo Petrone, a forensic anthropologist from the University of Naples Federico II, was examining the man’s remains in October 2018 when he noticed “something was shimmery in the shattered skull,” as he tells Alexandria Sage and Franck Iovene of Agence France-Presse. Petrone immediately suspected the material was brain tissue that had undergone vitrification, a process that occurs when tissue is burned at a high heat and transformed into a glass or glaze.

Human brains are rarely found among archaeological remains. When the organs do surface, they tend to be preserved in the form of a smooth, soap-like substance. As Nicoletta Lanese explains for Live Science, fatty brain tissue reacts with charged particles in the surrounding environment, transforming the organ into soap over time.

Petrone and his colleagues think the extreme conditions caused by Vesuvius’ eruption led something different to happen.

“[E]xtreme radiant heat was able to ignite body fat and vaporize soft tissues; a rapid drop in temperature followed,” the researchers write.

This burst of broiling heat, followed by a cooling of the body, transformed the man’s brain tissue into glass.

Several compelling signs suggested Petrone’s initial hunch was correct. For one, the glassy material only appeared inside the man’s skull; it failed to surface anywhere else on the skeleton, in the surrounding volcanic ash or at other locations within the archaeological site. Charred wood discovered within the college indicated that temperatures reached nearly 970 degrees Fahrenheit—a clear indication that “extreme radiant heat” was indeed a factor in the man’s death.

Testing of the glass samples also revealed fatty acids consistent with those found in human hair, though as the Post points out, animals and vegetables also contain such substances, so the results aren’t conclusive. More compelling was the discovery of several proteins “highly expressed in human brain tissues” within the samples, according to the researchers.

The new report offers further (and rather horrifying) insight into how Vesuvius’ victims died—a subject that continues to confound experts. Yet another new study published in the journal Antiquity suggests the unfortunate ancients suffocated from the volcano’s toxic fumes, their bodies “baking” after they died. This research, in fact, contradicts a 2018 study headed by Patrone, which found that a pyroclastic surge made victims’ blood boil and their skulls explode.

In light of his new findings, Patrone hopes the glassy brain fragments can shed further insight into the identity of the unknown victim. Ancient DNA has previously been used to establish family ties between people who died in Vesuvius’ eruption.

“If we manage to reheat the material, liquefy it,” Patrone tells AFP, “we could maybe find this individual’s DNA.”

Underground Railroad Safe House Discovered in Philadelphia

Smithsonian Magazine

In the years leading up to the Civil War, the black abolitionist William Still offered shelter to hundreds of freedom seekers as they journeyed northward. His narrow house in Philadelphia served as an important stop on the Underground Railroad—and as Meagan Flynn reports for the Washington Post, a team of preservationists believe they have finally identified the home where Still and his wife Letitia once lived.

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Historical Commission voted to include a row house on South Delhi Street (formerly Ronaldson Street) in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, which ensures that the property cannot be demolished or significantly altered. The house was remodeled in 1920, but experts say that the front marble steps appear to be the same ones that Still and many people escaping slavery would have stood on more than 150 years ago.

In their search for this important historic landmark, preservationists paged through many 19th-century maps and city records. Some of them identified the name of Still’s street, but did not specify the house number. Then one of the historians, Jim Duffin, came across an 1851 newspaper advertisement for a dressmaking business “done in the best manner by Letitia Still”—which included her address.

“From my perspective, it’s a huge discovery,” Duffin tells Flynn. “The hardest problem of trying to retrieve the story of the Underground Railroad is finding documentation that the sites existed. This is one of the incredibly rare opportunities where we absolutely know that this site had a connection to the Underground Railroad because of its connection to Still.”

According to a document nominating the house for inclusion in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, Still has been described as “second only to Harriet Tubman in Underground Railroad operations.” The child of formerly enslaved parents, his father had purchased freedom, while his mother escaped enslavement. Still moved from New Jersey to Philadelphia in the 1840s and began working for Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. He became a key player in the Society’s Vigilance Committee, which helped those escaping slavery travel along a network of safe houses stretching from the Southern United States to Canada. Still was active in the Committee during a dangerous time for abolitionists; the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act had instituted harsh punishments for anyone discovered assisting freedom seekers.

In spite of the dangers, William and Letitia sheltered many fugitives in their home. Among those to seek refuge were Jane Johnson and her two sons, whose dramatic story of escape was broadcast across the nation. The Johnsons were taken to Philadelphia by slaveholder John Hill Wheeler, who was traveling to New York. As they were preparing to leave Philadelphia on a ferry, Still and another abolitionist, Passermore Williamson, rushed over to Johnson and informed her that she could become a free woman if she came with them. Williamson and several African-American dockworkers detained Wheeler while Still ushered Johnson and her children away to his home.

Williamson and Still were subsequently arrested, and news of their heroic actions helped stir up support for the abolitionist movement. Still later described Johnson’s story, along with the stories of hundreds of others escaping slavery, in his 1872 book, The Underground Railroad, which is one of few firsthand accounts by African American abolitionists.

In a letter of support for the campaign to protect Still’s house, historian Eric Foner said that in the midst of a nation-wide movement to take down controversial Confederate monuments, it is important to remember the importance of elevating sites that are significant to African American history.

“I prefer to add new historic sites to make the representation of history more accurately reflect our diverse past and present and to honor those who fought against slavery as well as those who went to war to defend it,” Foner wrote, according to Jake Blumgart of Plan Philly. “Thus, designating the Still home as a historic property would be a statement… about what in our past we choose to honor and why.”

Truman Michelson notes on Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho story, 1930 June

National Anthropological Archives
Digital surrogates are available online.

Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.

Citation corrected from 3188 (part) to 3188-b on 2/28/12.

Title changed from "Miscellaneous notes June 9, 11, 13, 1930" 5/22/2014.

Place supplied from 47th Annual Report of Bureau of American Ethnology, page 2.

Handwritten Cheyenne linguistic and ethnographic notes and anthropometric data collected by Truman Michelson in Oklahoma. Much of the information is from his work with Mack Haag. The materials include vocabulary and notes on grammar and phonetics; a short story in Arapaho about spider with an interlineal English translation; notes on Cheyenne family and kinship relationships, marriage, divorce, adultery, illegitimacy, incest, pregnancy, death, etc.; and anthropometrical data on 22 Cheyenne adult males, identified by name and age.

Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, east and west Florida, the Cherokee country, the extensive territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek confederacy, and the country of the Chactaws : containing an account of the soil and natural productions of those regions : together with observations on the manners of the Indians : embellished with copper-plates / by William Bartram

Smithsonian Libraries
"Philadelphia: printed by James and Johnson, 1791."

First published in Philadelphia, 1791. Cf. Sabin (v. 1, p. 513) 3870.

Pt. IV, p. [479]-520 has special half-title: An account of the persons, manners, customs, and government, of the Muscogulges, or Creeks, Cherokees, Chactaws, &c. aborigines of the continent of North America / by William Bartram.

Frontispiece portrait signed: Holloway sculpt.; map signed: T. Conder sculpt.

Signatures: a⁴ b⁸ B-2L⁸.

Final p. is blank.

Press figures.

Includes index.

Directions to the binder: p. [7] (3rd group); this leaf is wanting in SCNHRB c. 2.

ESTC (RLIN) T88530

Also available online.

SCNHRB c. 1 (39088006094742) has ms. signature on end-leaves and on t.p.: Wm. C. Bryant. This copy is a gift to SIL from Harry Lubrecht, with his collection note "OSS 6/68" on front free endpaper; with some brief ms. notes in an unidentified hand in the margins. Also with a printed bookseller's label on front paste-down endpaper: The Arthur H. Clarke Company ... Cleveland, Ohio.

SCNHRB c. 1 has an extra engraved plate inserted between p. 210 and 211, captioned "An Indian warrior, entering his wigwam with a scalp," engraved by Barlow.

SCNHRB c. 1 has old half-leather binding with decorated orange and black paper boards; gilt-ruled spine.

SCNHRB c. 2 (39088010382414), erroneously stamped "W/D DSI," has bookplate: Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Gift of Marcia Brady Tucker; with the Tucker collection's collational notes on front free endpaper and t.p.

SCNHRB c. 2 has a later half-leather binding with brown cloth-clovered paper boards; raised bands; gilt-tooled spine; marbled endpapers; top-edge gilt. Signed: Bayntun, binder, Bath, Eng.


Today's Tattoos

Smithsonian Magazine

Damon Conklin, owner of Super Genius Tattoo in Seattle, Washington, and founder of the Seattle Tattoo Convention, weighs in on which tattoo designs are the most popular on the West Coast. Tom Yak of New York Adorned says tattoo fans on the East Coast want the same provocative styles; the more customized, the better.

1. Flowers

Conklin: Everything from the daisy on the ankle to floral arrangement, reaching across several bodyparts.

Yak: Floral tattoos always remain in style. I do a lot of lotus flowers. I draw American imagery, daisies and roses, but I try to add an eastern sort of flair.

2. Lettering

Conklin: Usually names and quotes, but sometimes they're elaborate. In one instance, a New York-based writer composed a short story. You could only receive a copy of the story if you had an assigned word from the story tattooed on you, and when completed, the some total of participants comprised the whole story.

3. Symbols

Conklin: This could be as simple as an astrological sign or as abstact as an image that somehow represents a time or accomplishment in someone's life.

Yak: About 80 to 90 percent of what I do are personalized designs. That's what people want.

4. Religion

Conklin: Crosses, Jesus or a range of other gods, including depictions of events in sacred text.

5. Skulls

Conklin: Mostly human and other bone-related stuff.

Image by Damon Conklin. #1: Flowers.
Conklin: Everything from the daisy on the ankle to floral arrangement, reaching across several bodyparts. (original image)

Image by Tom Yak. #1: Flowers.
Yak: Floral tattoos always remain in style. I do a lot of lotus flowers. I draw American imagery, daisies and roses, but I try to add an eastern sort of flair. (original image)

Image by Damon Conklin. #2: Lettering.
Conklin: Usually names and quotes, but sometimes they're elaborate. In one instance, a New York-based writer composed a short story. You could only receive a copy of the story if you had an assigned word from the story tattooed on you, and when completed, the some total of participants comprised the whole story. (original image)

Image by Damon Conklin. #3: Symbols.
Conklin: This could be as simple as an astrological sign or as abstact as an image that somehow represents a time or accomplishment in someones life.Yak: About 80 to 90 percent of what I do are personalized designs. That's what people want. (original image)

Image by Wilson Kamin. #4: Religion.
Conklin: Crosses, Jesus or a range of other gods, including depictions of events in sacred text. (original image)

Image by Damon Conklin. #5: Skulls.<Br/>Conklin: Mostly human and other bone-related stuff. (original image)

Image by Ryan Rogers. #6: Japanese designs.<Br/>Conklin: The whole world of traditional Japanese art and tattooing is very influential in today's modern tattooing to the point where almost every tattoo reflects a lesson taken from Japanese art.Yak: I do a lot of Eastern-inspired art and a lot with the elements. Water, fire, wind. Also, power symbols like the dragon and khoi fish. (original image)

Image by Paul Thomas. #7: Portrait.
Conklin: This is mostly the realistic likeness of loved ones or celebrities, but more recently has been expanded to include all manner of realistic tattooing. (original image)

Image by Jeff Cornell. #8: Love.
Conklin: Hearts mostly, but sometimes sarcastic statements about love.Yak: The traditional American style provides the customer with a more historic feel. It's stood the test of time. (original image)

Image by Damon Conklin. #9: Birds.
Conklin: Including mythological flyers like phoenixes and griffins. Flying is always a metaphor for rising above, excelling and emergence. (original image)

Image by Jeff Cornell. #10: Wildlife.
Conklin: All manners of living creatures, from lions to gold fish. (original image)

Image by Damon Conklin. Damon Conklin uses the body, from head to feet, as his canvas. (original image)

Image by Tom Yak. Tom Yak of New York Adorned has tattooed over 10,000 clients. (original image)

Image by Damon Conklin. "A great way to brainstorm a tattoo idea is to mix three of these categories," says Damon Conklin, owner of Super Genius Tattoo, who provided this list of most popular tattoo designs. (original image)

Image by Kelly Durkin. Tom Yak, a tattooer at New York Adorned, has tattooed more than 10,000 clients. (original image)

6. Japanese designs

Conklin: The whole world of traditional Japanese art and tattooing is very influential in today's modern tattooing to the point where almost every tattoo reflects a lesson taken from Japanese art.

Yak: I do a lot of Eastern-inspired art and a lot with the elements. Water, fire, wind. Also, power symbols like the dragon and khoi fish.

7. Portrait

Conklin: This is mostly the realistic likeness of loved ones or celebrities, but more recently has been expanded to include all manner of realistic tattooing.

8. Love

Conklin: Hearts mostly, but sometimes sarcastic statements about love.

Yak: The traditional American style stuff provides the customer with a more historic feel. It's stood the test of time.

9. Birds

Conklin: Including mythological flyers like phoenixes and griffins. Flying is always a metaphor for rising above, excelling and emergence.

10. Wildlife

Conklin: All manners of living creatures, from lions to gold fish.

To Find Baby Planets, Researchers Chase Waterfalls of Gas

Smithsonian Magazine

Since researchers discovered the first exoplanets in the 1990s, astronomers have gotten pretty good at finding satellites orbiting distant suns, cataloguing 4,000 planets in more than 3,000 planetary systems since then. Now, researchers are interested in learning how these planets form, and a new technique may help them find hard-to-locate baby planets.

Young stars often have a disk of gas and dust swirling around them. Planets typically coalesce from this material, and eventually grow large enough to clear a path through these protoplanetary disks. But researchers aren’t certain that all of the gaps they’ve found actually come from young planets. That’s why a team recently looked at these disks in a new way, as they describe in a new study published in the journal Nature.

Astrophysicist Richard Teague, who conducted the study at the University of Michigan, and his team examined new high-resolution data from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a radio observatory in Chile. In particular, they were able to observe the velocity of carbon monoxide gas moving within the protoplanetary disc around a young star called HD 163296. While hydrogen makes up the majority of the gas in the disk, carbon monoxide emits the brightest wavelengths, giving researchers the most detailed picture of how gas moves within the disk.

“With the high fidelity data from this program, we were able to measure the gas’s velocity in three directions instead of just one,” Teague, who is now a research fellow at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, says in a statement. “For the first time, we measured the motion of the gas rotating around the star, towards or away from the star, and up- or downwards in the disk.”

When the data was processed with computer modelling, it revealed three areas where gas from the surface of the disc flows toward the middle layers, like a waterfall. The findings line up with previous studies that suggested three giant planets—one half the size of Jupiter, one Jupiter-sized and one twice the size of Jupiter—are forming in the disk.

“What most likely happens is that a planet in orbit around the star pushes the gas and dust aside, opening a gap,” Teague says in a statement. “The gas above the gap then collapses into it like a waterfall, causing a rotational flow of gas in the disk.”

Erika K. Carlson at Astronomy reports that the findings also suggest that the movement of gases within these protoplanetary disks is pretty complex. “There’s a lot more going on than we previously thought,” Teague tells Carlson. “We thought it was just rotating in a rather smooth manner.”

Since researchers have not directly observed the young planets forming in the disk, it’s possible HD 163296’s magnetic field is causing the anomalies in the disk. But co-author Jaehan Bae of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who ran the computer simulations, says planet formation is the most likely cause.

“Right now, only a direct observation of the planets could rule out the other options,” Bae says in a statement. “But the patterns of these gas flows are unique and it is very likely that they can only be caused by planets.”

Carlson reports that the team hopes to look at HD 163296 using other wavelengths to see if they can get data on gas movements deeper within the protoplanetary disk. And after that, the hope is that such observations will be confirmed visually when a new class of telescopes comes online in the early part of the next decade, including the James Webb Space Telescope scheduled for launch in early 2021.

Tipi Model, Painted

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.


Some of the designs on this tipi model resemble figures in the publication: Catlin, George. Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of North American Indians: The Complete Volumes I and II: Ilustrated. See Volume1, Figure 65, after p. 148, showing robe of Mato-Tope/Four Bears (Mandan), and Volume 2, Figure 311, after p. 248. Compare also the designs on the Mandan buffalo robe of Mato-Tope/Four Bears in the collection of the Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern, Switzerland, Accession No. 1890.410.8 (see p. 191 in Maurer, Evan M., Louise Lincoln, George P. Horse Capture, David W. Penney, Peter J. Powell, Angela Casselton, and Candace Greene. 1992. Visions of the people: a pictorial history of Plains Indian life. Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.)

Three Roads to Urga, circa 1920's [typescript]

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Donated by Silvio A. Bedini, 1996

Detailed account recalling travel to and in Outer Mongolia along three routes that led to Urga (now Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia), with descriptions of the travel conditions, modes of transportation, trade practices, the Russian, Mongolian, and Chinese people of the region, an encounter with the "Andrews expedition" (likely the Central Asiatic Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History, 1922-1925, led by zoologist Roy Chapman Andrews), daily living, housing, customs, and festivals, and animals indigenous to the area. 79 silver prints were adhered to the text and depict the probable author, peoples encountered, transportation vehicles, housing, animals, places visited, and landscapes. The manuscript was previously owned by they note Asian art dealer A.W. Bahr (1877-1959).

Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr and the Election of 1800

Smithsonian Magazine

On the afternoon of September 23, 1800, Vice President Thomas Jefferson, from his Monticello home, wrote a letter to Benjamin Rush, the noted Philadelphia physician. One matter dominated Jefferson’s thoughts: that year’s presidential contest. Indeed, December 3, Election Day—the date on which the Electoral College would meet to vote—was only 71 days away.

Jefferson was one of four presidential candidates. As he composed his letter to Rush, Jefferson paused from time to time to gather his thoughts, all the while gazing absently through an adjacent window at the shimmering heat and the foliage, now a lusterless pale green after a long, dry summer. Though he hated leaving his hilltop plantation and believed, as he told Rush, that gaining the presidency would make him “a constant butt for every shaft of calumny which malice & falsehood could form,” he nevertheless sought the office “with sincere zeal.”

He had been troubled by much that had occurred in incumbent John Adams’ presidency and was convinced that radicals within Adams’ Federalist Party were waging war against what he called the “spirit of 1776”—goals the American people had hoped to attain through the Revolution. He had earlier characterized Federalist rule as a “reign of witches,” insisting that the party was “adverse to liberty” and “calculated to undermine and demolish the republic.” If the Federalists prevailed, he believed, they would destroy the states and create a national government every bit as oppressive as that which Great Britain had tried to impose on the colonists before 1776.

The “revolution...of 1776,” Jefferson would later say, had determined the “form” of America’s government; he believed the election of 1800 would decide its “principles.” “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of Man,” he wrote.

Jefferson was not alone in believing that the election of 1800 was crucial. On the other side, Federalist Alexander Hamilton, who had been George Washington’s secretary of treasury, believed that it was a contest to save the new nation from “the fangs of Jefferson.” Hamilton agreed with a Federalist newspaper essay that argued defeat meant “happiness, constitution and laws [faced] endless and irretrievable ruin.” Federalists and Republicans appeared to agree on one thing only: that the victor in 1800 would set America’s course for generations to come, perhaps forever.

Only a quarter of a century after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the first election of the new 19th century was carried out in an era of intensely emotional partisanship among a people deeply divided over the scope of the government’s authority. But it was the French Revolution that had imposed a truly hyperbolic quality upon the partisan strife.

That revolution, which had begun in 1789 and did not run its course until 1815, deeply divided Americans. Conservatives, horrified by its violence and social leveling, applauded Great Britain’s efforts to stop it. The most conservative Americans, largely Federalists, appeared bent on an alliance with London that would restore the ties between America and Britain that had been severed in 1776. Jeffersonian Republicans, on the other hand, insisted that these radical conservatives wanted to turn back the clock to reinstitute much of the British colonial template. (Today’s Republican Party traces its origins not to Jefferson and his allies but to the party formed in 1854-1855, which carried Lincoln to the presidency in 1860.)

A few weeks before Adams’ inauguration in 1796, France, engaged in an all-consuming struggle with England for world domination, had decreed that it would not permit America to trade with Great Britain. The French Navy soon swept American ships from the seas, idling port-city workers and plunging the economy toward depression. When Adams sought to negotiate a settlement, Paris spurned his envoys.

Adams, in fact, hoped to avoid war, but found himself riding a whirlwind. The most extreme Federalists, known as Ultras, capitalized on the passions unleashed in this crisis and scored great victories in the off-year elections of 1798, taking charge of both the party and Congress. They created a provisional army and pressured Adams into putting Hamilton in charge. They passed heavy taxes to pay for the army and, with Federalist sympathizers in the press braying that “traitors must be silent,” enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which provided jail terms and exorbitant fines for anyone who uttered or published “any false, scandalous, and malicious” statement against the United States government or its officials. While Federalists defended the Sedition Act as a necessity in the midst of a grave national crisis, Jefferson and his followers saw it as a means of silencing Republicans—and a violation of the Bill of Rights. The Sedition Act, Jefferson contended, proved there was no step, “however atrocious,” the Ultras would not take.

All along, Jefferson had felt that Federalist extremists might overreach. By early 1799, Adams himself had arrived at the same conclusion. He, too, came to suspect that Hamilton and the Ultras wanted to precipitate a crisis with France. Their motivation perhaps had been to get Adams to secure an alliance with Great Britain and accept the Ultras’ program in Congress. But avowing that there “is no more prospect of seeing a French Army here, than there is in Heaven,” Adams refused to go along with the scheme and sent peace envoys to Paris. (Indeed, a treaty would be signed at the end of September 1800.)

It was in this bitterly partisan atmosphere that the election of 1800 was conducted. In those days, the Constitution stipulated that each of the 138 members of the Electoral College cast two votes for president, which allowed electors to cast one vote for a favorite son and a second for a candidate who actually stood a chance of winning. The Constitution also stipulated that if the candidates tied, or none received a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives “shall chuse by Ballot one of them for President.” Unlike today, each party nominated two candidates for the presidency.

Federalist congressmen had caucused that spring and, without indicating a preference, designated Adams and South Carolina’s Charles Cotesworth Pinckney as the party’s choices. Adams desperately wanted to be re-elected. He was eager to see the French crisis through to a satisfactory resolution and, at age 65, believed that a defeat would mean he would be sent home to Quincy, Massachusetts, to die in obscurity. Pinckney, born into Southern aristocracy and raised in England, had been the last of the four nominees to come around in favor of American independence. Once committed, however, he served valiantly, seeing action at Brandywine, Germantown and Charleston. Following the war, he sat in the Constitutional Convention; both Washington and Adams had sent him to France on diplomatic missions.

In addition to Jefferson, Republicans chose Aaron Burr as their candidate, but designated Jefferson as the party’s first choice. Jefferson had held public office intermittently since 1767, serving Virginia in its legislature and as a wartime governor, sitting in Congress, crossing to Paris in 1784 for a five-year stint that included a posting as the American minister to France, and acting as secretary of state under Washington. His second place finish in the election of 1796 had made him vice president, as was the custom until 1804. Burr, at age 44 the youngest of the candidates, had abandoned his legal studies in 1775 to enlist in the Continental Army; he had experienced the horrors of America’s failed invasion of Canada and the miseries of Valley Forge. After the war he practiced law and represented New York in the U.S. Senate. In 1800, he was serving as a member of the New York legislature.

In those days, the Constitution left the manner of selecting presidential electors to the states. In 11 of the 16 states, state legislatures picked the electors; therefore, the party that controlled the state assembly garnered all that state’s electoral votes. In the other five states, electors were chosen by “qualified” voters (white, male property owners in some states, white male taxpayers in others). Some states used a winner-take-all system: voters cast their ballots for the entire slate of Federalist electors or for the Republican slate. Other states split electors among districts.

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Presidential candidates did not kiss babies, ride in parades or shake hands. Nor did they even make stump speeches. The candidates tried to remain above the fray, leaving campaigning to surrogates, particularly elected officials from within their parties. Adams and Jefferson each returned home when Congress adjourned in May, and neither left their home states until they returned to the new capital of Washington in November.

But for all its differences, much about the campaign of 1800 was recognizably modern. Politicians carefully weighed which procedures were most likely to advance their party’s interests. Virginia, for instance, had permitted electors to be elected from districts in three previous presidential contests, but after Federalists carried 8 of 19 congressional districts in the elections of 1798, Republicans, who controlled the state assembly, switched to the winner-take-all format, virtually guaranteeing they would get every one of Virginia’s 21 electoral votes in 1800. The ploy was perfectly legal, and Federalists in Massachusetts, fearing an upsurge in Republican strength, scuttled district elections—which the state had used previously—to select electors by the legislature, which they controlled.

Though the contest was played out largely in the print media, the unsparing personal attacks on the character and temperament of the nominees resembled the studied incivility to which today’s candidates are accustomed on television. Adams was portrayed as a monarchist who had turned his back on republicanism; he was called senile, a poor judge of character, vain, jealous and driven by an “ungovernable temper.” Pinckney was labeled a mediocrity, a man of “limited talents” who was “illy suited to the exalted station” of the presidency. Jefferson was accused of cowardice. Not only, said his critics, had he lived in luxury at Monticello while others sacrificed during the War of Independence, but he had fled like a jack rabbit when British soldiers raided Charlottesville in 1781. And he had failed egregiously as Virginia’s governor, demonstrating that his “nerves are too weak to bear anxiety and difficulties.” Federalists further insisted Jefferson had been transformed into a dangerous radical during his residence in France and was a “howling atheist.” For his part, Burr was depicted as without principles, a man who would do anything to get his hands on power.

Also like today, the election of 1800 seemed to last forever. “Electioneering is already begun,” the first lady, Abigail Adams, noted 13 months before the Electoral College was to meet. What made it such a protracted affair was that state legislatures were elected throughout the year; as these assemblies more often than not chose presidential electors, the state contests to determine them became part of the national campaign. In 1800 the greatest surprise among these contests occurred in New York, a large, crucial state that had given all 12 of its electoral votes to Adams in 1796, allowing him to eke out a three-vote victory over Jefferson.

The battle for supremacy in the New York legislature had hinged on the outcome in New York City. Thanks largely to lopsided wins in two working-class wards where many voters owned no property, the Republicans secured all 24 of New York’s electoral votes for Jefferson and Burr. For Abigail Adams, that was enough to seal Adams’ fate. John Dawson, a Republican congressman from Virginia, declared: “The Republic is safe....The [Federalist] party are in rage & despair.”

But Adams himself refused to give up hope. After all, New England, which accounted for nearly half the electoral votes needed for a majority, was solidly in his camp, and he felt certain he would win some votes elsewhere. Adams believed that if he could get South Carolina’s eight votes, he would be virtually certain to garner the same number of electoral votes that had put him over the top four years earlier. And, at first, both parties were thought to have a shot at carrying the state.

When South Carolina’s legislature was elected in mid-October, the final tally revealed that the assembly was about evenly divided between Federalists and Republicans—though unaffiliated representatives, all pro-Jefferson, would determine the outcome. Now Adams’ hopes were fading fast. Upon hearing the news that Jefferson was assured of South Carolina’s eight votes, Abigail Adams remarked to her son Thomas that the “consequence to us personally is that we retire from public life.” All that remained to be determined was whether the assembly would instruct the electors to cast their second vote for Burr or Pinckney.

The various presidential electors met in their respective state capitals to vote on December 3. By law, their ballots were not to be opened and counted until February 11, but the outcome could hardly be kept secret for ten weeks. Sure enough, just nine days after the vote, Washington, D.C.’s National Intelligencer newspaper broke the news that neither Adams nor Pinckney had received a single South Carolina vote and, in the voting at large, Jefferson and Burr had each received 73 electoral votes. Adams had gotten 65, Pinckney 64. The House of Representatives would have to make the final decision between the two Republicans.

Adams thus became the first presidential candidate to fall victim to the notorious clause in the Constitution that counted each slave as three-fifths of one individual in calculating population used to allocate both House seats and electoral votes. Had slaves, who had no vote, not been so counted, Adams would have edged Jefferson by a vote of 63 to 61. In addition, the Federalists fell victim to the public’s perception that the Republicans stood for democracy and egalitarianism, while the Federalists were seen as imperious and authoritarian.

In the House, each state would cast a single vote. If each of the 16 states voted—that is, if none abstained—9 states would elect the president. Republicans controlled eight delegations—New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. The Federalists held six: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware and South Carolina. And two delegations—Maryland and Vermont—were deadlocked.

Though Jefferson and Burr had tied in the Electoral College, public opinion appeared to side with Jefferson. Not only had he been the choice of his party’s nominating caucus, but he had served longer at the national level than Burr, and in a more exalted capacity. But if neither man was selected by noon on March 4, when Adams’ term ended, the country would be without a chief executive until the newly elected Congress convened in December, nine months later. In the interim, the current, Federalist-dominated Congress would be in control.

Faced with such a prospect, Jefferson wrote to Burr in December. His missive was cryptic, but in it he appeared to suggest that if Burr accepted the vice presidency, he would be given greater responsibilities than previous vice presidents. Burr’s response to Jefferson was reassuring. He pledged to “disclaim all competition” and spoke of “your administration.”

Meanwhile, the Federalists caucused to discuss their options. Some favored tying up the proceedings in order to hold on to power for several more months. Some wanted to try to invalidate, on technical grounds, enough electoral votes to make Adams the winner. Some urged the party to throw its support to Burr, believing that, as a native of mercantile New York City, he would be more friendly than Jefferson to the Federalist economic program. Not a few insisted that the party should support Jefferson, as he was clearly the popular choice. Others, including Hamilton, who had long opposed Burr in the rough and tumble of New York City politics, thought Jefferson more trustworthy than Burr. Hamilton argued that Burr was “without Scruple,” an “unprincipled...voluptuary” who would plunder the country. But Hamilton also urged the party to stall, in the hope of inducing Jefferson to make a deal. Hamilton proposed that in return for the Federalist votes that would make him president, Jefferson should promise to preserve the Federalist fiscal system (a properly funded national debt and the Bank), American neutrality and a strong navy, and to agree to “keeping in office all our Foederal Friends” below the cabinet level. Even Adams joined the fray, telling Jefferson that the presidency would be his “in an instant” should he accept Hamilton’s terms. Jefferson declined, insisting that he “should never go into the office of President...with my hands tied by any conditions which should hinder me from pursuing the measures” he thought best.

In the end, the Federalists decided to back Burr. Hearing of their decision, Jefferson told Adams that any attempt “to defeat the Presidential election” would “produce resistance by force, and incalculable consequences.”

Burr, who had seemed to disavow a fight for the highest office, now let it be known that he would accept the presidency if elected by the House. In Philadelphia, he met with several Republican congressmen, allegedly telling them that he intended to fight for it.

Burr had to know that he was playing a dangerous game and risking political suicide by challenging Jefferson, his party’s reigning power. The safest course would have been to acquiesce to the vice presidency. He was yet a young man, and given Jefferson’s penchant for retiring to Monticello—he had done so in 1776, 1781 and 1793—there was a good chance that Burr would be his party’s standard-bearer as early as 1804. But Burr also knew there was no guarantee he would live to see future elections. His mother and father had died at ages 27 and 42, respectively.

Burr’s was not the only intrigue. Given the high stakes, every conceivable pressure was applied to change votes. Those in the deadlocked delegations were courted daily, but no one was lobbied more aggressively than James Bayard, Delaware’s lone congressman, who held in his hands the sole determination of how his state would vote. Thirty-two years old in 1800, Bayard had practiced law in Wilmington before winning election to the House as a Federalist four years earlier. Bayard despised Virginia’s Republican planters, including Jefferson, whom he saw as hypocrites who owned hundreds of slaves and lived “like feudal barons” as they played the role of “high priests of liberty.” He announced he was supporting Burr.

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The city of Washington awoke to a crippling snowstorm Wednesday, February 11, the day the House was to begin voting. Nevertheless, only one of the 105 House members did not make it in to Congress, and his absence would not change his delegation’s tally. Voting began the moment the House was gaveled into session. When the roll call was complete, Jefferson had carried eight states, Burr six, and two deadlocked states had cast uncommitted ballots; Jefferson still needed one more vote for a majority. A second vote was held, with a similar tally, then a third. When at 3 a.m. the exhausted congressmen finally called it a day, 19 roll calls had been taken, all with the same inconclusive result.

By Saturday evening, three days later, the House had cast 33 ballots. The deadlock seemed unbreakable.

For weeks, warnings had circulated of drastic consequences if Republicans were denied the presidency. Now that danger seemed palpable. A shaken President Adams was certain the two sides had come to the “precipice” of disaster and that “a civil war was expected.” There was talk that Virginia would secede if Jefferson were not elected. Some Republicans declared they would convene another constitutional convention to restructure the federal government so that it reflected the “democratical spirit of America.” It was rumored that a mob had stormed the arsenal in Philadelphia and was preparing to march on Washington to drive the defeated Federalists from power. Jefferson said he could not restrain those of his supporters who threatened “a dissolution” of the Union. He told Adams that many Republicans were prepared to use force to prevent the Federalists’ “legislative usurpation” of the executive branch.

In all likelihood, it was these threats that ultimately broke the deadlock. The shift occurred sometime after Saturday’s final ballot; it was Delaware’s Bayard who blinked. That night, he sought out a Republican close to Jefferson, almost certainly John Nicholas, a member of Virginia’s House delegation. Were Delaware to abstain, Bayard pointed out, only 15 states would ballot. With eight states already in his column, Jefferson would have a majority and the elusive victory at last. But in return, Bayard asked, would Jefferson accept the terms that the Federalists had earlier proffered? Nicholas responded, according to Bayard’s later recollections, that these conditions were “very reasonable” and that he could vouch for Jefferson’s acceptance.

The Federalists caucused behind doors on Sunday afternoon, February 15. When Bayard’s decision to abstain was announced, it touched off a firestorm. Cries of “Traitor! Traitor!” rang down on him. Bayard himself later wrote that the “clamor was prodigious, the reproaches vehement,” and that many old colleagues were “furious” with him. Two matters in particular roiled his comrades. Some were angry that Bayard had broken ranks before it was known what kind of deal, if any, Burr might have been willing to cut. Others were upset that nothing had been heard from Jefferson himself. During a second Federalist caucus that afternoon, Bayard agreed to take no action until Burr’s answer was known. In addition, the caucus directed Bayard to seek absolute assurances that Jefferson would go along with the deal.

Early the next morning, Monday, February 16, according to Bayard’s later testimony, Jefferson made it known through a third party that the terms demanded by the Federalists “corresponded with his views and intentions, and that we might confide in him accordingly.” The bargain was struck, at least to Bayard’s satisfaction. Unless Burr offered even better terms, Jefferson would be the third president of the United States.

At some point that Monday afternoon, Burr’s letters arrived. What exactly he said or did not say in them—they likely were destroyed soon after they reached Washington and their contents remain a mystery—disappointed his Federalist proponents. Bayard, in a letter written that Monday, told a friend that “Burr has acted a miserable paultry part. The election was in his power.” But Burr, at least according to Bayard’s interpretation, and for reasons that remain unknown to history, had refused to reach an accommodation with the Federalists. That same Monday evening a dejected Theodore Sedgwick, Speaker of the House and a passionate Jefferson hater, notified friends at home: “the gigg is up.”

The following day, February 17, the House gathered at noon to cast its 36th, and, as it turned out, final, vote. Bayard was true to his word: Delaware abstained, ending seven days of contention and the long electoral battle.

Bayard ultimately offered many reasons for his change of heart. On one occasion he claimed that he and the five other Federalists who had held the power to determine the election in their hands—four from Maryland and one from Vermont—had agreed to “give our votes to Mr. Jefferson” if it became clear that Burr could not win. Bayard also later insisted that he had acted from what he called “imperious necessity” to prevent a civil war or disunion. Still later he claimed to have been swayed by the public’s preference for Jefferson.

Had Jefferson in fact cut a deal to secure the presidency? Ever afterward, he insisted that such allegations were “absolutely false.” The historical evidence, however, suggests otherwise. Not only did many political insiders assert that Jefferson had indeed agreed to a bargain, but Bayard, in a letter dated February 17, the very day of the climactic House vote—as well as five years later, while testifying under oath in a libel suit—insisted that Jefferson had most certainly agreed to accept the Federalists’ terms. In another letter written at the time, Bayard assured a Federalist officeholder, who feared losing his position in a Republican administration: “I have taken good care of you....You are safe.”

Even Jefferson’s actions as president lend credence to the allegations. Despite having fought against the Hamiltonian economic system for nearly a decade, he acquiesced to it once in office, leaving the Bank of the United States in place and tolerating continued borrowing by the federal government. Nor did he remove most Federalist officeholders.

The mystery is not why Jefferson would deny making such an accord, but why he changed his mind after vowing never to bend. He must have concluded that he had no choice if he wished to become president by peaceful means. To permit the balloting to continue was to hazard seeing the presidency slip from his hands. Jefferson not only must have doubted the constancy of some of his supporters, but he knew that a majority of the Federalists favored Burr and were making the New Yorker the same offer they were dangling before him.

Burr’s behavior is more enigmatic. He had decided to make a play for the presidency, only apparently to refuse the very terms that would have guaranteed it to him. The reasons for his action have been lost in a confounding tangle of furtive transactions and deliberately destroyed evidence. It may have been that the Federalists demanded more of him than they did of Jefferson. Or Burr may have found it unpalatable to strike a bargain with ancient enemies, including the man he would kill in a duel three years later. Burr may also have been unwilling to embrace Federalist principles that he had opposed throughout his political career.

The final mystery of the election of 1800 is whether Jefferson and his backers would have sanctioned violence had he been denied the presidency. Soon after taking office, Jefferson claimed that “there was no idea of [using] force.” His remark proves little, yet during the ongoing battle in the House, he alternately spoke of acceding to the Federalists’ misconduct in the hope that their behavior would ruin them, or of calling a second Constitutional Convention. He probably would have chosen one, or both, of these courses before risking bloodshed and the end of the Union.

In the days that followed the House battle, Jefferson wrote letters to several surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence to explain what he believed his election had meant. It guaranteed the triumph of the American Revolution, he said, ensuring the realization of the new “chapter in the history of man” that had been promised by Thomas Paine in 1776. In the years that followed, his thoughts often returned to the election’s significance. In 1819, at age 76, he would characterize it as the “revolution of 1800,” and he rejoiced to a friend in Virginia, Spencer Roane, that it had been effected peacefully “by the rational and peaceful instruments of reform, the suffrage of the people.”

This Wearable 'Heart Sock' May Someday Save Lives

Smithsonian Magazine

There's a lot of buzz around wearable electronics these days—Google, for instance, is expanding into the eyewear business, while other companies are scrambling for their share of the market with high-tech clips and watches that track what you eat and how you move.

But none of them are remotely like what John Rogers, the 2013 Smithsonian American Ingenuity award winner in physical sciences, is developing. His device, you see, is engineered not only to fit like a glove, but also perhaps someday save the wearer's life.  

The materials scientist, along with his team of students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have successfully tested what's best described as a sock for the heart. The device, fitted over the entire surface area of the heart, is comprised of a series of sensors to monitor, with uncanny precision, the inner workings of this most vital organ. If it detects a troubling abnormality, it can relay data to medical professionals; in an emergency, such as during a heart attack, it could even intervene by administering an electrode-induced pulse. 

Normally, the heart pumps in a manner that's so efficient we hardly notice it working. But for those with heart rhythm conditions, out-of-sync heart contractions can be debilitating—causing lightheadedness, weakness, vomiting and chest pain, for those with arrhythmia—or, in some cases, deadly. Over time, rhythmic irregularities can cause blood clots (which sometimes lead to strokes) and, in extreme cases, cardiac arrest.

Doctors can usually prescribe medication to correct these sorts of issues. But in some instances, patients must turn to surgical interventions such as pacemakers or defibrillator implants. And while those devices work sufficiently enough, the mechanism they use to regulate a person's heartbeat is actually quite crude. With defibrillator implants, a pair of electrodes is positioned inside the heart chamber. Whenever a life-threatening arrhythmia is detected, the defibrillator sends an electric shock that stuns the heart back into a normal rhythm. The problem with that approach, Rogers says, is that activity from another region of the heart can, by mistake, trigger a painful jolt when there isn't really a need for it.

Rogers' device encloses the heart in a much more sophisticated sensory system that can pinpoint exactly where a rhythmic irregularity occurs. In a sense, it functions like the nerve endings on a secondary skin.

“What we wanted was to harness the full power of circuit technology," Rogers says of the device, which is two and a half years in the making. "With a lot of electrodes, the device can pace and stimulate in a more targeted fashion. Delivering heat or pulses to specific locations, and doing it in measurable doses that are just sufficient enough, is important because applying more than necessary is not only painful but can damage the heart."

This step-by-step diagram illustrates how the heart device was created. (University of Illinois and Washington University)

Besides its potential as an emergency cardiac implant, the heart sock's elasticity allows for an array of other electronic and non-electronic sensors that can monitor calcium, potassium and sodium levels—considered key indicators of heart health. The membrane can also be programmed to track changes in mechanical pressure, temperature and pH levels (acidity), all of which could help signal an impending heart attack.

To fabricate the prototype sheath, the researchers first scanned and 3D printed a plastic model of a rabbit's heart. They then arranged a web of 68 tiny electronic sensors over the mold, coating it with a layer of FDA-approved silicone rubber material. After the rubber set, Rogers' lab assistants peeled off the custom-prepared polymer.

To test the membrane, researchers wrapped it around a real rabbit heart, hooked up to a mechanical pump. The team engineered the device to be a tad bit smaller than the actual organ to give it a gentle, glove-like fit. 

"The tricky thing here," Rogers says, "is that the membrane needs to be sized in a way that it can create just enough pressure to keep the electrodes in sufficient contact with the surface. Pressing too hard will cause the heart to respond in a negative way."

"It needs to fit just right," he adds.

As Michael McAlpine, a mechanical engineer at Princeton University who was not involved in the research, told The Scientist: "What’s new and impressive here is that they’ve integrated a number of different functionalities into a membrane that covers the entire surface of the heart. That spread of sensors provides a high level of spatial resolution for cardiac monitoring and offers more control when it comes to stimulation."

So what will it take for this breakthrough to go from lab to patient? Rogers estimates at least another decade of development before something could be ready for the medical market. In the meantime, he plans to continue collaborating with Washington University biomedical engineer Igor Efimov to refine the proof-of-concept into a practical, safe and reliable technology.

One major obstacle is figuring out how to power the membrane without conventional batteries. Currently, Rogers and his team are exploring a few alternatives, such as ultrasound charging, a method in which power is transmitted wirelessly through skin, as well as using piezoelectric materials that capture energy from the surrounding environment. For the latter, there's some precedent for success. Two years ago, engineers at the University of Michigan harnessed such materials to develop a pacemaker powered solely by its user's heartbeat.

"Since we're trying to incorporate a lot more sensors, as well as deliver electrical impulses and heat, it's going to take more energy than the amount generated for conventional pacemakers," Rogers says. "In the future, we're hoping we can improve the efficiency."

Another crucial element is homing in on a way to send data to an external gadget so patients and specialists can access it. Right now, the sensors record things like changes in temperature and PH, among other patterns, but scientists have yet to figure out a way to deliver that data wirelessly.  

"Bluetooth communication is low-powered, so we're looking at that," Efimov says. “Basically, the device will require more components and we'll need experts in other fields like electronics, telemetry and software. So ultimately, we're going to have to raise venture capital and start a company."

Right now, the focus is making the sleeve work as a practical device; there's no telling how much it will cost to produce, or, how much it will cost consumers when it comes to market. 

The big question, though, is ultimately whether the heart sock will function safely and effectively in vivo, or in actual living test subjects. Pacemakers can typically last 10 years. So, to be practical, Rogers' invention would also have to demonstrate it can stay operational for at least that long. The team is preparing to take that next step with a pilot that will test the membrane inside a living rabbit, a test they hope to complete with funding from the National Institutes of Health, along with other grants they're working to secure. If everything goes well, the next test of whether the gadget is up to snuff will be on humans.

This Tilting, Twirling Artwork, Sculpted Entirely of Sticks, Is Having a Shindig

Smithsonian Magazine

There’s a magical ascendency to Patrick Dougherty’s work. The world-renowned sculptor, who twists switches and saplings into towering whimsical structures, holds a kind of sovereignty over the simple stick.

You wouldn’t immediately recognize his supremacy upon meeting the mild-mannered craftsman from North Carolina, but he has created more than 250 site-specific sculptures on four continents over the past three decades using hundreds of truckloads of sticks.

“A stick is an imaginative object,” says Dougherty, while taking a break recently from the installation of his new work Shindig at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

A parade of playful tent-like structures lean against the gallery walls or appear to be roaming about the 2,400 square-foot room. Soaring 16-and a-half-feet-high, the tips of their switches tease at the ceiling lights of the newly renovated museum. They look, in fact, like individuals possessing a hint of a mischief, as if when the lights go down at night they might take off in a whirl of dance.

Patrick Dougherty is one of nine contemporary artists featured in the Renwick's new exhibition "Wonder." (David C. Calicchio)

But by day, they evoke that primordial need for shelter, and visitors will likely want to hide inside of them.

“I think we have a kind of shadow life of our hunting and gathering past, especially in our childhood play. Because a stick—a piece of wood—is an object that has an incredible amount of vibration for us,” says Dougherty. In a child’s hands, a stick becomes a marching baton, a flute, a sword or even just a simple tool to poke at, or flick something away.

“Sticks really give me a lot of energy,” he says. “I’m very keen to the material and I feel like I sense the potential of a sapling.”

Indeed, since his first visit to the Smithsonian Institution in 2000 when he built Whatchamacallit at the National Museum of Natural History, Dougherty has become known as the "Stickman."  And like a capstone to a full and engaging career, he returns now to welcome the Renwick Gallery back to life as it reopens on November 13 after a two-year, $30 million renovation, and as one of nine contemporary artists in the museum’s inaugural exhibition entitled “Wonder,” named for the awe and splendor that these works bring to the museum’s galleries.


Image by Zan Maddox. Ain't Misbehavin' 2010,Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina (original image)

Image by Duncan Price. Call of the Wild, 2002, Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington (original image)

Image by Fin Macrae. Close Ties, 2006, Scottish Basketmakers Circle, Dingwall, Scotland (original image)

Image by Chandler Curlee. Double or Nothing, 2011, Washington University, st. Louis, Missouri (original image)

Image by Sapristi-Emmanuell Tran-le. Fit for a Queen, 2014, Ville de Nantes, France (original image)

Image by Doyle Dean. Just Around the Corner, 2003, New Harmony Gallery, New Harmony, Indiana (original image)

Image by Paul Kodama. Na Hale 'Eo Waiawi, 2003, Contemporary Art Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii (original image)

Image by Charles Crie. Sortie de Cave, 2008 Jardin des Arts, Chateaubourg, france (original image)

Image by Solku Choi. Traveling Companions, 2013, Deokpyeong Ecoland, Seoul, Korea (original image)

Image by Rob Cardillo. Summer Palace, 2009, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (original image)

To Dougherty, the stick is a tapered line of a drawing. He thinks of his works as illustration and the sticks as the lines of his drawing. But the ease with which he does his work is illusory. There's a lot more to it then it seems. Only after years of painstaking craftsmanship, can he build them as if by magic.

First there is the gathering of the material. Volunteers clamor to help. “There are a lot of closet stick gatherers out there, it turns out,” he says with a chuckle.

And then later, the volunteers join him to build the structure. Dougherty starts the process, crafting out the base of the structure, marking it with paint or rope and then weaving it all together stick after stick before finally finishing it, loosening, clipping and correcting, with his only tool—a pair of pruning clippers. Sometimes his volunteers are a little too good at weaving, he says, a little too tight sometimes. "I'll go around and loosen it up and give the surface a sense of the flyaway."

And the weaving is nothing like that of a basket. “Don’t go horizontal or vertical,” he tells his helpers. “It’s not geometric. We want it to be more loose and friendly.”

Dougherty found his artistry only after a first career as a hospital administrator, But in the early 1970s, after leaving his job to care for his two children while his first wife worked, he bought property and built a home by hand, using as guidance the how-to Foxfire books, popular with the back-to-the-land movement of the time.

Finding in that creation his passion, he went back to school and sought training as an artist. His first sculpture—a funerary piece, evocative of a cocoon—he built out of maple saplings at his backyard picnic table.

“One could imagine a kind of personage in there for its final resting place,” he recalls. The work entitled Maple Body Wrap was included in the North Carolina Biennial exhibition. And Dougherty’s career took off from there.


Dougherty says he wanted his sculpture Shindig to look as if the "forest is kind of acting up within the geometric space of the gallery." (Ron Blunt/ Renwick Gallery/ SAAM)

His influence was the artist Robert Smithson, known for his provocative large scale earthworks. “I was kind of bent on making really big things. Smithson’s work freed up my mind. I didn’t have to follow the normal rules. Smithson stepped out of line, but for me that was the beginning,” he laughs.

The busy artist has been traveling the world making one monumental sculpture after another from Scotland to Korea to Australia and across the United States, one every three weeks after which he takes a week off—as many as ten a year. He’s booked solid through 2017. Here in Washington, D.C., the sculpture he’s crafted is one he thinks of as “natural beings, windswept, or energized and activating the space.”

An energy perhaps that is channeled from their creator, who beneath his thoughtful and patient demeanor seems never to rest. (He didn’t own a sofa until his second wife, Linda Johnson Dougherty, the chief curator of contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, made him buy one—because he never sat down.)

The challenge of his schedule and the constant travel is underscored by the simple way he gathers his materials, patiently teaching, instructing and showing his volunteers as if he is mentoring hundreds of future stick sculptors. He explains the best wood—maple saplings are his preference but sweetgum will do. No, he doesn’t like poplar—cutting and bundling, and then bringing them to the next location.

At the Smithsonian, the sticks had to be custom prepped. Leaves were removed and then the wood was frozen first to kill pests and then treated with a fire retardant.

"If you had a drawing on a piece of paper, you're making tapered lines," says Dougherty. "All of these sticks are pretty tapered and so there is a sense of energetic motion." (Ron Blunt/ Renwick Gallery/ SAAM)

Each site where he is invited to work is a blank page or canvas, says the artist who rarely comes with a design in mind.

“I don’t do research. I try to remember how I feel about a place and I make word associations with each location so that I can try to get something going,” he says. It might be something someone says. Or the way the trees line up on the horizon or the way a rooftop of a nearby building fits into the landscape. And soon the creative process begins. “I start imagining that I could make something provocative in that space.”

Dougherty, dressed in jeans and greeting a reporter with a solid workman's handshake, explains his art in a refreshingly uncomplicated manner.

How long do they last? "One year and one pretty good year." Why do they lean? "For fun." Why are they so inviting? “Everyone, even adults, responds to the idea of simple shelter. There’s a call to just go in there and sit.”

And why call this work Shindig? “They are having a hell of a good time.”

Patrick Dougherty is one of nine contemporary artists featured in the exhibition “Wonder,” on view November 13, 2015 through July 10, 2016, at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Watch this video in the original article

This Spring, Dalí Museum Visitors Will Be Welcomed by AI Version of the Artist Himself

Smithsonian Magazine

In a move that would have appealed to its namesake’s flair for larger-than-life dramatics, the Salvador Dalí Museum is presenting an interactive iteration of the mustachioed modern art master himself this spring.

With just a click of a button, Taylor Dafoe writes for artnet News, the Surrealist artist will materialize on giant screens set up throughout the St. Petersburg, Florida, institution, ready to offer insights on his creative process and, most curiously, current events that the real Dalí has missed out on in the decades since his death in 1989.

Called “Dalí Lives,” the venture—which will debut in April—draws on archival footage, photographs and interviews, as well as new footage featuring a Dalí lookalike.

According to a press release, the Dalí Museum partnered with creative advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P) to produce the AI experience. It marks the third collaboration between the museum and GS&P. In 2014, Stuart Elliott reports for The New York Times, the gallery hosted an exhibition featuring a photo kiosks where visitors could take a selfie. These images were stitched together to create a pixelated digital reproduction of a 1976 painting by the Surrealist, which wthen projected onto the wall beside Dalí’s original portrait.

Interestingly, Susana Martinez-Conde notes for Scientific American, the canvas, a dream-like portrait of the artist’s wife titled “Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln-Homage to Rothko (Second Version),” was itself painted after Dalí read a Scientific American article on face perception.

A second partnering in 2016 resulted in “Dreams of Dalí,” a virtual reality experience that brought visitors inside of the artist’s 1934 work, “Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus.’”

This time around, the museum drew on hundreds of archival sources to teach an algorithm the artist’s mannerisms and appearance. Next, the team recruited an actor to deliver various monologues, most of which draw on quotes attributed to Dalí himself but also feature an array of what the statement describes as “dynamic present-day messages.”

Three promotional videos released in conjunction with the museum’s announcement offer an enticing sneak peek of how that might translate on screen.

In the longest of the three clips, the virtual reality Dalí meditates on the artist's real philosophy on death, which he saw as a natural, and therefore welcome, result of life—at least when it came to others. When pondering his own mortality, however, Dalí declared his death a distant near-impossibility.

“I understand that better now,” the Dalí approximation declares, pausing a moment to let those words sink in before teasing, conspiratorially: “[Still,] I do not believe in my death. Do you?”

Hank Hine, executive director of the Dalí Museum, tells artnet News’ Dafoe that they let the artist's own ideas guide the project. “Dalí was famous for his sense of his own eternal significance. It’s almost like, if had left instructions for us, this project would have been among them,” he says.

As Dalí himself once proclaimed, “If someday I may die, although it is unlikely, I hope that the people in the cafes will say, ‘Dalí has died, but not entirely.’”

This Secret Corner of California Is a Paradise for Lovers of Great Food and Top-Notch Wines

Smithsonian Magazine

Seemingly everyone you meet in Anderson Valley can tell you a migration story that has the flavor of myth — a tale that casts their arrival in this shockingly picturesque corner of California’s Mendocino County as the climax of a great quest, or the punch line of a cosmic joke, or both. One of the best yarns, surely, is Bruce Anderson’s. In 1971, Anderson, an avowed “big hippie,” rolled out of San Francisco in a Volkswagen bus, heading, like many pilgrims of the period, back to the land. For years, Anderson had lived in the thick of San Francisco’s counterculture. He had played a leading role in anti–Vietnam War protests. But as the 60s turned into the 70s, the city’s bohemian enclaves were gripped by malaise, Flower Power dreams withering amid rising violence and a plague of hard drugs. So Anderson hit the road with his wife, his young son, his brother, and a handful of friends, heading up the coast in a caravan, seeking spiritual rejuvenation in a landscape of stretching redwoods and soaring oceanside cliffs. And they had another plan in mind: to raise a dozen troubled Bay Area foster children in the countryside, far from the deprivations and vices of city life.

Anderson and company hadn’t decided exactly where they were headed, but the decision was soon made for them. About 125 miles northwest of San Francisco, Anderson pulled into a service station in a tiny town whose name, Boonville, made no secret of the fact that it was, well, the boondocks. “We barely knew where we were,” Anderson recalled. “We just happened to run into a guy who told us there was a ranch for lease south of town.”

They drove to the ranch and stayed. The basics of rural homesteading proved a mystery. (“Gravity-flow water systems, septic tanks — all that was completely new,” Anderson said.) As for the foster kids, that plan didn’t work out too well: “We had the delusional idea that juvenile delinquents would be less delinquent under the redwoods than they were under streetlights. They turned out to be twice as delinquent.”

But nearly a half-century later, Bruce Anderson has become so synonymous with Anderson Valley that he’s often mistakenly assumed to be its namesake. Today he lives with his wife in the center of Boonville. He works steps away, in a 40-foot trailer that serves as the headquarters of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, the weekly newspaper that he has owned, edited, and largely written for 34 years. At 78, Anderson looks and sounds the part of an éminence grise, with an ample white beard and a commanding basso profundo. He is a fount of local lore. Ask for a history lesson and he will tell you about successive generations of economic refugees, fortune seekers, and utopian questers who made their way to the valley: the European pioneers who pushed into Pomo Indian country in the mid 19th century; the Arkies and Okies who arrived after World War II, finding work in the then-booming timber industry; the members of his own hippie tribe, who came in the 70s, buying up cheap logged-over land where they raised kids and communed with nature.

From left: Donnelly Creek, outside Boonville; Daniel Townsend, co-owner of the Bewildered Pig, chats with a guest outside his restaurant. (Alex Farnum)

A fourth wave of Anderson Valley migration is under way. The climate and topography that for decades nurtured the valley’s agricultural staples — first apples and pears, then cannabis—has proven ideal for growing grapes, especially Pinot Noir. Today, Anderson Valley is California’s most exciting emerging wine region, a magnet for the 21st century’s new class of NoCal back-to-the landers: oenophiles, foodies, and others who want to live simply but sumptuously. Travelers who once bypassed the valley, following the siren call of Mendocino’s famous coastline, are increasingly journeying inland. What they find there is bounteous farmland and deep forests, a food-and-wine scene slowly but steadily coming into its own, a place that has maintained the funkiness that was long ago gentrified out of the county’s more well-trafficked communities. For locals, the transformation of Anderson Valley is nothing short of surreal. “It’s like something out of science fiction,” marveled Anderson. “Everywhere you look, you see vineyards coming over the ridge.”

My first glimpse of Anderson Valley came on a vibrant morning, when the sun streamed through cracks in a ceiling of magnificent gray-white clouds. The night before, I’d completed my own trek to the valley from San Francisco. The last leg of the journey was hair-raising: a 30-mile-long drive along fearsomely twisty Route 128, which slaloms north and west across a forested mountain pass before dropping into the valley at Boonville. (Locals credit the challenging drive with keeping the area’s population down.) I quickly got my reward in the form of an early lunch at Boonville’s Pennyroyal Farm, which for the last decade has been producing excellent wines and the valley’s most famous small-batch cheeses.

In the tasting room, locals and visitors crowded around the bar, sampling whites and rosés. I made my way outside, taking a table on a canopied patio that offered views of the vineyard. Twenty-three acres of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapevines lace a landscape roamed by sheep that do double duty as cheese suppliers and weeders of the vineyard floor. The food arrived on heaping platters: charcuterie; pickled vegetables; a big dollop of Laychee, Pennyroyal’s signature goat cheese; a slab of Boont Corners Vintage Tomme, a tangy, salty goat-and-sheep-milk cheese. I washed it down with a bracing Blanc. A couple seated at the next table, Pennyroyal regulars, told me, “You can’t leave without trying the Pinot.” The advice was less a suggestion than a command; it seemed foolish to ignore it. The pour of the day was Pennyroyal’s 2015 Jeansheep Vineyard Pinot, dark and spicy with notes of morello cherry. I ordered a glass, drank it, and ordered a second.

House-made cheeses at Pennyroyal Farm, in Boonville. (Alex Farnum)

The first Anderson Valley vineyards appeared in the 1970s, but it was the arrival of legendary French champagne maker Louis Roederer in the early 80s that established the region’s bona fides. Since then, dozens of vintners have set up shop, specializing in wines that thrive in the region’s distinctive terroir. Anderson Valley is a narrow strip, just 25 miles long, tucked between coastal redwoods and inland oaks. It’s threaded by the Navarro River, which passes through Boonville and two smaller hamlets, Philo and Navarro, on its way to the Pacific. In summer, fog drapes the valley in the morning. Afternoon temperatures can reach 100 degrees; in the evening, the thermometer may plummet 40 or 50 degrees. “When it comes to grapes, the temperate climate here makes all the difference,” said Matt Parish, a winemaker from New Zealand who in 2017 took the helm at Philo’s Lula Cellars. “You get that nice, even ripeness without blowing out the fruit flavors in too-hot weather.”

Lula Cellars is a favorite of valley cognoscenti. The wine is superb: meaty Pinots, holding lingering notes of dark fruit, with tannins that tickle the palate. The vibe at the vineyard is High Quirky. The tasting room manager, Dan Reed, is a burly man with a courtly manner and a wit as dry as the Pinots he pours. His business card reads pushy salesman, but his technique leans more toward gentle persuasion. “I think you’ll like this,” he told me, offering a glass of 2014 Costa Pinot Noir. (I liked it.) Reed lives on the property, in a house that he shares with Honey, a yellow Labrador mix, who has her own Lula business card (head of barketing). When visitors bring their dogs—a practice Lula encourages—Honey leads them on bombing runs into the vineyard’s pond to chase frogs. Honey often rides shotgun in Lula’s house car, a vintage Morris Minor, when Reed does errands in Philo and Boonville. “Me and Honey, we’re a little bit famous around here,” Reed said.

In years past, visitors who sought upscale lodging were forced to leave Anderson Valley and spend their nights on the coast, where options are plentiful. But today the valley has its own high-end Shangri-La, which sacrifices nothing in the way of amenities while offering the kind of oddity that can’t be faked.

The Madrones stands behind a grand gateway entrance in Philo, just across the Boonville line. The property includes a rose garden and a working farm. There are tasting rooms for three local wineries and an excellent little restaurant, Stone & Embers, that serves exquisite wood-fired pizzas and small plates.

There are four guest rooms in the compound’s main building, and five more in guest houses situated on the raffishly landscaped grounds. The rooms are appointed with a variety of antiques, nearly all from the collection of Jim Roberts, the owner. Weirder items from his stash—19th-century German anatomy posters, Victorian embalming machines—are on sale in the hotel’s curiosity shop, the Sun & Cricket. The main building has the look of a Mediterranean villa, with a shady courtyard and tiled roof. But there’s also a scattering of Asian statuary, a huge bronze dragon that presides over the hotel’s circular drive, and two fierce Chinese lions painted a lurid shade of pink. The first time I met Roberts, I confessed that I found the architectural hodgepodge delightful but disorienting. “Is this Tuscany? Spain? China? I’m not sure where I am,” I told him. “Good,” he said.

Roberts grew up in Orange County, California. “I always wanted to live in Mendocino,” he said. “I read about it. I dreamed about it. So I packed up my car and went.” For years the property was his home and the office for his now-shuttered interior design firm. In 2011, Roberts decided to try his hand at hospitality and, in the succeeding years, has gradually expanded the Madrones. Now, Roberts and his partner in business and life, Brian Adkinson, have added an adjacent property to the compound. One afternoon they took me to the Brambles, which occupies sprawling acreage in a grove of old-growth redwoods a short distance from the Madrones. The Brambles’ guesthouse, holding three spacious suites, is a Victorian stick-and-shingle structure. It looked like something out of a Grimms’ fairy tale.

Roberts and Adkinson epitomize the new breed of Anderson Valley refugees: creative, unconventional, entrepreneurial. On Boonville’s main drag, you can shop at Farmhouse Mercantile, a housewares emporium as tastefully rustic-chic as any in San Francisco’s hipster redoubts. Even the old Boonville Hotel—which dates back to the town’s rugged mid-19th-century frontier era—bills itself as a “modern roadhouse” where the restaurant serves food “inspired by whim and season.” It’s a big change for a place that has always been hardscrabble. A century ago, Boonvillians developed a language impenetrable to outsiders, Boontling. (A few old-timers still speak the argot, which is heavy on sexual and scatological terms: “moldunes” are large breasts; to “burlap” is to have intercourse.) On weekends, the streets ran with blood from bare-knuckle bar fights, and the brothels heaved. “This was wild country,” Bruce Anderson told me. “Lots of little mill shacks and people who worked hard, played hard.”

The valley grew more sedate when the timber mills began to shutter in the late 50s and 60s. But the outlaw spirit endured in the formerly illicit trade that has formed the backbone of Mendocino’s economy since the 70s: growing and selling marijuana. On New Year’s Day 2018, California’s first retail weed shops opened their doors, and the question hovering over the region today is how life will transform in the era of legalization. Everywhere you go in Anderson Valley, you hear grumblings that the pot business is facing a corporate takeover and that mom-and-pop growers will be left in the cold. Some imagine a time when marijuana farms and tasting rooms will line Route 128 alongside the vineyards, with “ganja sommeliers” proffering varietals to “weed tourists.” But if that day comes, who will reap the profits?

For now, the answers—like the pungent scent of Mendocino cannabis that locals proudly pronounce the world’s best—are blowing in the wind. In the meantime, curious new forms of life are taking root in the valley’s loamy soil. Oddly enough, the place that may best embody Anderson Valley’s iconoclastic spirit is its fanciest restaurant.

The Bewildered Pig sits on an otherwise sparsely developed stretch of 128 in Philo, about two miles south of the Navarro line. Janelle Weaver, the Bewildered Pig’s chef, and her partner, Daniel Townsend, fit the archetypal profile of Mendocino pilgrims. For seven years, they rolled up and down the coast in their 1978 Volkswagen Westphalia camper, seeking the ideal spot for the restaurant they envisioned. Weaver grew up in Michigan and Alaska, where she hunted and fished with her family; her first professional cooking job was at a breakfast counter, at age 12. Townsend spent much of his childhood on the White Mountain Apache reservation in Arizona. (His father was a missionary.) The couple met in 2004, in Napa Valley, where both had worked for years as chefs. Townsend is also a landscape designer and tinkerer whose touch is all over the Pig: a “cactus wall” that shields outdoor diners from traffic; gurgling fountains ingeniously crafted from repurposed industrial scraps; a gorgeous adjacent patio, where they plan to host DJ nights and other events. The dining room is an enchanted space. Weaver and Townsend like to throw around the term “refined rustic,” an apt description of both their design aesthetic and Weaver’s astonishing cooking.

From left: Anderson Valley sheep supply milk for cheese; miso deviled eggs and a salad of foraged greens at the Bewildered Pig, one of the area’s best restaurants, in the town of Philo. (Alex Farnum)

I had one of the great meals of my life at the Pig. It was a lavish six-course tasting menu with wine pairings, highlighted by dishes like the explosively flavorful spruce-tip custard garnished with maitake mushrooms and locally foraged herbs, and an obscenely delicious sunchoke bisque with house-smoked black cod and smoked trout roe. There are notes of Eastern European cooking in Weaver’s plates. (Her Polish grandmother was an early influence.) There is a classical French sense of balance, too, and the requisite Alice Watersian emphasis on garden-fresh ingredients and regional sources.

But Weaver’s style is bold and unusual; an inventory of influences doesn’t tell the tale. Maybe, eventually, Weaver’s innovative food will simply be called Anderson Valley Cuisine. To say that the Bewildered Pig is the valley’s best restaurant is not to insult the area competition: soon enough, it may be the best restaurant in California. With its mix of revelatory food, conviviality, and ambition without pretension, it feels like a dream of what a restaurant should be.

Tourism isn’t rocket science. But Anderson Valley is the kind of place where you can get sightseeing advice from a rocket scientist. While sipping Pinot at the Lula Cellars tasting room one afternoon, I met a Lula regular, Todd Lukes, a southern California expat who moved to Mendocino five years ago. Lukes has the languid, sun-fried look of an aging surfer, but he works in the aeronautics industry. After quizzing me about my visit to the valley, he concluded that I’d spent too little time experiencing its natural wonders. He asked if I’d explored Hendy Woods State Park in Philo. Yes, I’d done that: I’d been struck dumb by the cathedral-like groves of ancient redwoods. “Then you have to head to the beach,” Lukes said. “You can’t leave Mendo without hitting the coast.” Where exactly should I go? “Blues Beach, just outside the town of Westport. There’s no sign. But you’ll know it when you see it.”

Lukes was right. On a shimmering morning I guided my rental car down the steep curves of Route 1 until I spotted a little jog off the big road. I practically drove right onto the beachfront, an unspoiled, unpeopled coastline that seemed to stretch to infinity. I scrambled down to the sand and marched north, stepping over chunks of seaweed the size of large squid, with the wind and surf roaring. It was a scene of almost unseemly beauty. The sky was a deep, dusty blue, roiled by swiftly moving clouds. About 500 yards from the beach, two giant outcroppings rose from the deep—rocks that animist ancients might have worshipped as gods. This was Mendocino utopia: a place on the edge of the continent, where nature at its most untrammeled is on display, and freedom seems absolute.

From left: The Brambles, a new property in Philo by the owners of the Madrones, consists of a cluster of cottages nestled in a grove of redwood trees; the Mendocino coast south of the town of Little River. (Alex Farnum)

An hour passed, maybe two. It was time I moved along. The next day I would have to follow Route 128’s zigzags out of the valley, to Route 101 South and on to San Francisco to catch a flight back to the East Coast. In the meantime, I longed to get back to the valley, which offers its own mellow version of splendid isolation: a glass of something strong and red, a vineyard vista, a landscape gradually turning deep blue as the sun drops into the sea on the far side of the pine-lined ridges. I remembered a comment Jim Roberts made about Anderson Valley’s slowly-but-steadily rising profile. “The secret is out,” Roberts said. “But, you know, it’s not tooout.”

Exploring Mendocino County

Three days in Anderson Valley allows time to sample local wines, experience gastronomic nirvana, and immerse yourself in natural beauty. Add two or three days to your itinerary to visit the county’s famously dramatic coastline.

Getting There

The scenic way to reach Mendocino County from San Francisco is Route 1, which winds along the coastline. The drive takes roughly four hours; stop at Point Reyes National Seashore if time allows. If you’re in a hurry, take inland Route 101 to Route 128, which reaches Anderson Valley in three hours.

Anderson Valley


Boonville Hotel In the 19th century, this place was a raucous roadhouse. Today, it has 15 comfortable rooms, including a private creekside bungalow with a screened-in porch. Boonville; boonville​; doubles from $155.

The Brambles From the owners of the nearby Madrones hotel, this renovated homestead in a secluded redwood grove has three suites and two adjacent cabins. Philo;; doubles from $250.

The Madrones Nine accommodations in a gorgeous setting that is part Tuscany, part Alice’s Wonderland. Philo;; doubles from $252.

Philo Apple Farm Hidden in one of the valley’s last fruit orchards is this exclusive hotel with four chic guest cottages. Visitors can choose to “just stay” or to “stay and cook,” joining staff in hands-on farm-to-table meal preparation. Philo; philoapple​; doubles from $300.

Food & Drink

Anderson Valley Brewing Co. This 30-year-old valley institution is one of the country’s pioneering craft-beer makers. Try Frisbee golf on an 18-hole course that wends through oak groves and pasture. Boonville;

Bewildered Pig The Anderson Valley culinary revolution starts here. Janelle Weaver’s “refined rustic” food will bowl you over; the dining room feels like your long-lost home. Book in advance. Philo; bewildered​; entrées $26–$32.

Goldeneye Winery “The Pearly Gates of Pinot Noir” is this vineyard’s none-too-humble tagline, but the wine merits the boast. Experience an Essentials Tasting for $15, or book the Elevated Tasting, a deep dive into the winery’s portfolio. Philo; goldeneye​

Lula Cellars The wines are delicious and surprisingly complex; the vineyard views, gorgeous. Philo;

Navarro Vineyards One of the valley’s oldest vintners, with a charming, barnlike tasting room. The Pinots are big and flavorful, but don’t miss the Gewürztraminer. Philo; navarro​

Pennyroyal Farm Come for the farmstead cheeses, stay for the wine. Anderson Valley’s most hopping lunch scene. Boonville; pennyroyal​

Stone & Embers This delightful restaurant on the Madrones property makes the most of its tiny space. The inventive wood-fired pizzas have toppings like “turducken sausages.” Philo; stoneand​; entrées $15–$19.

Table 128 The Boonville Hotel’s restaurant serves family-style dinners. Reservations are a must. Boonville;; prix fixe from $38.


Hendy Woods State Park To step into the redwood groves is to enter a sublime space—nature’s own Chartres Cathedral. The trees are towering (some stretch to 300 feet) and ancient (some are more than 1,000 years old). Philo; 


Farmhouse Mercantile This lovely Boonville shop sells housewares, clothing,

Point Cabrillo Light Station, outside the town of Mendocino. (Alex Farnum)

The Coast


Brewery Gulch Inn A perennial on T+L’s World’s Best list, Brewery Gulch Inn overlooks a spectacular swathe of coastline. The inn combines the best elements of luxe resort, bed-and-breakfast, and rec room; in the high-beamed dining-room-cum-lounge there are plush couches, board games, and picture windows that frame eye-popping views. Mendocino;; doubles from $385.

Inn at Newport Ranch This brand-new hotel is situated on a 2,000-acre working ranch with more than a mile of private coastline. Take advantage of the hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails that run through the property. Fort Bragg; theinnat​; doubles from $375.

JD House This just-renovated bed-and-breakfast is named for John Dougherty, its original resident. The rooms are a modern take on a sea captain’s quarters, with fireplaces and Persian rugs. Mendocino; bluedoor​; doubles
from $159.

Food & Drink

Circa ’62 at the Inn at Schoolhouse Creek A quaint inn uphill from Route 1 serves a decadent brunch. Menu highlights include kimchi pancakes and bacon-and-sweet-corn hash. Little River; schoolhouse​; entrées $7–$17.

Trillium Café Housed in a whitewashed clapboard house, this restaurant is beloved for its quintessential California cuisine with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Mendocino; trillium​; entrées $24–$37.

Wild Fish At this Pacific Coast Highway restaurant on the cliffs above Little River Cove, all ingredients come from local purveyors or are grown on the property. Little River;; entrées $22–$39.


Blues Beach Located just south of the town of Westport off Route 1, this pristine stretch of shore is officially known as Chadbourne Gulch Beach. You can drive your car right onto the sand.

Mendocino Headlands State Park The town of Mendocino is surrounded by 347 acres of protected green space. Visit for the pleasant nature trails and the park’s two beaches, which draw fishers, sailors, and scuba divers. Mendocino;

Skunk Train This 133-year-old train line, nicknamed for its diesel fumes, winds through the forest for more than 40 miles. Fort Bragg; skunk​; adult fares from $25. — Jody Rosen and Hannah Walhout

This content was produced with the assistance from Brewery Gulch Inn and the Madrones.

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This Is How Much Starlight the Universe Has Produced

Smithsonian Magazine

Since the first stars first started flickering about 100 million years after the Big Bang our universe has produced roughly one trillion trillion stars, each pumping starlight out into the cosmos. That’s a mind-boggling amount of energy, but for scientists at the Fermi Large Area Telescope Collaboration it presented a challenge. Hannah Devlin at The Guardian reports that the astronomers and astrophysicists took on the monumental task of calculating how much starlight has been emitted since the universe began 13.7 billion years ago.

So, how much starlight is there? According to the paper in the journal Science, 4×10^84 photons worth of starlight have been produced in our universe, or 4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 photons.

To get to that stupendously ginormous number, the team analyzed a decades worth of data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a NASA project that collects data on star formation. The team looked specifically at data from the extragalactic background light (EBL) a cosmic fog permeating the universe where 90 percent of the ultraviolet, infrared and visible radiation emitted from stars ends up. The team examined 739 blazars, a type of galaxy with a supermassive black hole in its center that shoots out streams of gamma-ray photos directly toward Earth at nearly the speed of light. The objects are so bright, even extremely distant blazars can be seen from Earth. These photons from the shiny galaxies collide with the EBL, which absorbs some of the photons, leaving an imprint the researchers can study.

Looking at blazars ranging in age from 2 million to 11.6 billion years old allowed the researchers to use the sensitive instruments on the Fermi telescope to analyze their light, measuring how much radiation it lost as it moved through the EBL. This let them create an accurate measure of the density or thickness of the EBL over time, essentially creating a history of starlight in the universe since, in deep space, distance and time are almost the same thing.

“By using blazars at different distances from us, we measured the total starlight at different time periods,” co-author Vaidehi Paliya of Clemson University says in a press release. “We measured the total starlight of each epoch – one billion years ago, two billion years ago, six billion years ago, etc. – all the way back to when stars were first formed. This allowed us to reconstruct the EBL and determine the star-formation history of the universe in a more effective manner than had been achieved before.”

Researchers have tried to measure the EBL in the past, but were unable to get past the localized dust and starlight close to Earth, making it almost impossible to collect good data on the EBL. The Fermi telescope, however, finally allowed the team to minimize that interference by looking at gamma rays. The data they collected is in line with previous estimates for the density of the EBL.

The study shows that the peak of star formation in the universe took place about 11 billion years ago. Over time, it has slowed drastically, but stars are still forming, with about seven new stars lighting up in the Milky Way every year alone.

The study was not just an exercise in smashing the zero key either. Ryan F. Mandelbaum at Gizmodo reports that the measurement gives scientist an upper limit to the number of galaxies that were floating around 12 billion years ago during the Epoch of Reionization, the period when dark matter, hydrogen and helium first coalesced into stars and ordinary matter. It’s also possible that the EBL measurement could help develop new ways to look for unknown particle types.

Clemson astrophysicist and lead author Marco Ajello says in the release that the study is also good step toward understanding the universe’s earliest days.

“The first billion years of our universe’s history are a very interesting epoch that has not yet been probed by current satellites,” he says. “Our measurement allows us to peek inside it. Perhaps one day we will find a way to look all the way back to the big bang. This is our ultimate goal.”

This Former Noma Chef Is Revamping the School Cafeteria

Smithsonian Magazine

Dan Giusti trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and spent three years as head chef of Noma, the cutting-edge Copenhagen restaurant that’s earned two Michelin stars and is considered by many the best restaurant in the world. Tables fill up months in advance, and lunch can easily run $500.

But now, Giusti is focused on cooking for a slightly different clientele: schoolkids. His program, Brigaid, brings professional chefs into public school cafeterias to create made-from-scratch menus. Brigaid launched in the New London, Connecticut school system in 2016 and expanded to the Bronx last fall.

We talked to Giusti about what he’s learned since the program started, how he hopes to change kids’ attitudes towards food, and why butternut squash soup is no longer on the menu.

What did you see as the biggest problem with school food when you decided to start Brigaid?

There’s this misconception—people think that [the problem with] school food is all about the nutrition. But all school food has to meet standard nutritional guidelines. The real problem is that the kids aren’t eating the food because it’s not tasty. In a nutshell, the idea was that the food doesn’t taste good, there’s not enough thought put into the food itself. If you could make food consistently that met the nutritional guidelines and the budget and that tasted very good to the kids, then you would be in great shape.

What are some of the changes you have made to the menu?

We took all those processed things—chicken nuggets, chicken tenders—and we put on raw meats we cook from scratch, so that we can control how they’re cooked and seasoned. We make all our own pasta sauces. We make a lot of baked goods ourselves. You’re not just appealing to a kids’ tastes when you’re cooking—kids can smell things that are happening. We serve them warm; it’s just a different experience.

Beef enchiladas with salsa roja, stewed black beans, kale caesar salad and fresh cut cantaloupe (Brigaid)

What is something that has been a hit with the kids?

It was such a simple thing, but we saw the consumption of fruit just spike up because we went from serving whole pieces of fruit that were not really good quality—kids weren’t interested in eating a whole apple that wasn’t very nice, or fruit that was frozen or canned—to serving fresh fruit that’s been cut daily. That really encouraged kids to eat fruit, which they really weren’t eating. Which was really strange because kids—most people—eat fruit. The baked goods we do, kids love. Certainly things that are more traditional like pizza—we make our own dough, and kids really love the pizza that we make. They recognize that a good amount of work goes into it. We do composed salads where we assemble a salad like a chicken Caesar or Cobb, and they just take it and put dressing on it. In a school of 700 or 800 kids we can sell 100 in a day. We like our kids wanting to eat salads, so that’s really cool.

What were some notable failures?

Things that didn’t work? There are tons. It’s a challenge. When we started, we had lots of kids inquire about fish. We managed to create a relationship with a purveyor out of Boston who supplied us with fresh fish. It was a pretty amazing thing, but just super-polarizing. A small percentage of kids enjoyed it, but a good portion of kids when they think fish, they think ‘fish sticks’—some kind of processed fish that’s breaded and fried. We’re not going to do that. If we revisit it, maybe there’s a way to mimic a fish stick.

We’ve done soups. Some soups are successful. But one soup was butternut squash that was pureed. Kids don’t want pureed soup. You find out when a kid spits it out on the ground.

A typical day of lunch offerings: Two hot entrées (chicken curry with ginger rice and roasted cauliflower or ravioli with marinara sauce, a garlic roll and steamed broccoli), two types of sandwiches (BLT and tuna), cold entrée salads (chicken caesar and cold lo mein), kale caesar side salad, and various fresh cut fruits (pineapple and honeydew melon). (Brigaid)

What was one of your unexpected challenges?

The challenging thing is not letting your own tastes get in the way. We made a lot of changes we thought were appropriate, and it made sense to take away processed foods. But sometimes those changes are deterrents. Taking a chicken patty off the menu that kids really enjoyed, because it’s a processed product, could really hurt you in terms of getting food that children will eat.

The biggest challenge, honestly, is that there’s a big discrepancy about the perception of what 'good' food is between parents, administrators, teachers, etc. People have this idea in their head, everything should be organic, everything should be this or that. But sometimes we serve very basic things because we want to make the kids feel comfortable, and sometimes people are disappointed about that, almost underwhelmed. It’s not about 'look what we got the kids to eat!' Lunch should be the last place that kids feel stressed out. We want to make sure the kids are eating, and that they feel good about it. If that’s happening, then we can use that environment to get them to try new things.

Public schools don't have the budgets of high-end restaurants. How do you keep costs down?

Well, it's a lot of experimenting. You kind of have to rethink how you cook. You need to find less expensive ways to develop and add flavor. For example, as a chef, you are very accustomed to using a lot of fresh herbs. We cannot really afford that, so instead we use a lot of dried spices and herbs.

How do you hope the program might change kids’ relationships to food in the long run?

Oftentimes, people are trying to get kids to really think deeply about things regarding food. Seasonal, local—that’s fine. But kids’ appetites for [learning about food culture] might not be there just yet. You need to sell them on the food first. Our idea is slowly but surely introducing new items so they trust you and they’ll continue to try things. We’ve seen this already with the kids that we’ve been with for three years. You can see that their attitude towards trying things or not trying things is much different than what we saw when we first came. They’re just experienced with eating.

The goal on a day-to-day basis is to make these kids feel comfortable and really provide them with a meal that makes them feel good and helps them get through their day.

Caribbean chicken with rice and beans, roasted sweet potatoes, kale caesar salad and orange segments (Brigaid)

You’re hiring trained chefs. What’s the appeal to them of working in a school cafeteria?

The initial appeal is that it’s weekends off, it might be a shorter day, you might have holidays off, which is a huge change from working in the hotel or restaurant industry. That’s a benefit, but by no means do we want people choosing this job solely for that reason. Chefs want a challenge—it’s their personality. To come day in and day out and solve a problem that’s very complicated.

What’s the difference between cooking for schoolkids and cooking for the kind of people who eat at restaurants like Noma?

I think the biggest difference is kids are honest. They have no reason not to be honest. They’ll tell you what they think, and sometimes they don’t have much of a filter and they say things that are difficult to hear. If you can get them to articulate why, you can really use that feedback. You can be upset about it, or take that and make improvements.

Adults, especially in a place like Noma, where people are waiting months to eat, it’s hard to get an honest opinion. They’ve waited all this time to eat in a restaurant, they’re there with their family, they don’t want to be the one who didn’t like the food because it’s almost like they feel they didn’t ‘get it.’

Do you remember eating in your own school cafeteria? Did you have any favorite dishes? Anything you hated?

I don’t even remember eating at all. I think it’s because for me, lunch was just a break period. At that time in my life food was very important—I came from an Italian family, I was used to eating well, and I was working in a restaurant full-time. But lunch was just a break period to talk to your friends. That’s indicative. If you don’t feel like food’s being prepared in a thoughtful manner, it’s just a break period.

I was fortunate to have access to good food outside of school. But there are a lot of kids who are coming to the cafeteria who don’t have access to good food—or food—outside of that lunch. So it’s even more imperative that we put as much of our thought into it as we can.

This Device Lets People Video Chat With Their Pets

Smithsonian Magazine

There are "pet owners" and then there are “pet parents.” For the latter, there isn’t an effort to a great or a price too high to make their little ones feel like part of the family.

Over the years, the multi-billion dollar pet market has happily catered to these truest of animal lovers, making it possible for them to spoil their precious furballs with facials and manicures at dog spas, specially-concocted fragrances and custom-designed orthopedic pet beds. Being so attached, you can imagine the separation anxiety pet parents experience when they're at work or vacationing for an extended amount of time.

To alleviate this stress, a Minnesota-based startup has invented a two-way petcam that enables both owner and pet to connect and interact remotely in a manner similar to Skype or Apple’s FaceTime. The $350 PetChatz device features a "chew-proof" intercom-sized unit with a built-in speakerphone, camera system and interactive LCD screen that can be plugged into any wall outlet.

Connected via Wi-Fi, owners would then use an app on their computer or mobile device to start a "chat" session, which can be recorded and shared with others. A special ring tone signals to the pet that someone's calling and an additional motion and sound detection system can be set up to notify parents of any activity around the house. While technically dogs or cats don’t have the ability to chat, people can use the "Greet & Treat" system to reward their pets by dispensing tasty treats and even special scents that are kept in a refillable hidden compartment.

Credit: Anser Innovations

PetChatz was created by Mark Kroll, a medical technology developer with more than 350 patents to his name. He holds the title of Minnesota's most prolific inventor. The idea came to him about a decade ago when, while he was Skyping with his daughter, the family's labrador recognized her voice and came running into the room. Kroll later collaborated with veterinary technician Lisa Lavin to to develop PetChatz and other similar long-distance technologies under a new venture called Anser Innovation.

"As a pet parent myself, I understand how strongly people feel about their pets," says Lavin, who estimates that she has spent a total of $11,200 on vet bills and $80 a month on dog food for both of her live-in poodles. "We miss them. We feel guilty when we're away on vacation and this is a way to alleviate that separation anxiety."

If there is one aspect of these extravagant pet parenting products that some might find troubling, other than the cost, it's that promoting them involves a great deal of anthropomorphizing. Though dogs and cats are intelligent, they still aren't human, and treating them as such hints at a kind of resolute denial to accept the fact that they may not even enjoy being the benefactor of pricey skin treatments. Some experts think its a stretch to believe that the critter on the other end even recognizes a person being displayed on a screen.

"This product introduces the potential for interaction between the dog and the technology," Margaret Duxbury, an animal behavior professor at the University of Minnesota, told the Star-Tribune a year ago. "It will certainly be disappointing if the dogs don't respond at all [to PetChatz]. Perhaps they will respond to the voice but not recognize that the picture is of their owner. Does that even matter if they respond to the voice?''

Lavin claims that the company has since tested the device, with pet and human subjects, and discovered that pets can be easily trained to at least recognize the ring in a manner similar to a Pavlovian response. (Some animals have even been trained to be government spies.) As for whether a pet knows who's on-screen, she says that would depend on how much visual technology the pet has been exposed to.

"What we found was that the pet who spends a lot of time watching TV is more likely to be compelled to recognize your image on the screen and follow commands than one who doesn't," she says.

What's important, she emphasizes, is that this device does more for the emotional welfare of the owner than for the pet. If there is any benefit for the pet (besides food), she adds, it's that the pet, especially dogs, receives some stimulation during the day, which animal behaviorists agree can do wonders for their well-being.

PetChatz is slated to be available for purchase on the product's website and at select independent pets stores nationwide during the first quarter of 2014. For now, the company is taking pre-orders for the device. Packets of special treats and essential oil drops will also be available in the near future.

This Ancient Shark Looked Like an Eel and Swallowed Its Prey Whole

Smithsonian Magazine

Almost everything paleontologists know about ancient sharks comes from their teeth. That’s because the animals had skeletons made of cartilage, which does not fossilize as easily as bone. So researchers were surprised to find several shark skulls and an almost complete skeleton of 360-million-year-old primitive shark in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

The fossils, described in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, come from two species of sharks in the genus Phoebodus, which went extinct during the Caroboniferous Period about 299 to 359 million years ago, leaving behind no known ancestral species. Bob Yirka at reports that prior to the discovery, Phoebodus sharks were only known from three teeth.

These fossils survived because the area where the animals died was a shallow sea basin. Their bodies were covered in sediment and limited water circulation and low oxygen levels allowed them to fossilize without being destroyed by predators or broken down by bacteria.

Still, the fossils were fragile, so the team chose to examine them using a CT scan instead of chipping them out of the rock. The imaging reveals a very strange, un-shark-like creature. Yirka reports Phoebodus had a long, thin body along with a flat skull and jaw. The creature looks much more like a giant eel than a typical modern shark.

But it does resemble an atypical modern shark—the elusive frilled shark. That species is found in deep water around the world, but is little studied. Until 2004 when the creature was first video recorded, it was only known from being pulled up in fishing nets.

Tim Vernimen at National Geographic reports that the three-cusped teeth of the ancient species and the frilled shark are similar and can offer clues to how the ancient species hunted.

“The frilled shark is a specialized predator, with the ability to suddenly burst forward to catch its prey,” David Ebert at the Pacific Shark Research Center, who has studied frilled sharks, but was not involved in the new study, says. “The inward-pointing teeth then help to make sure the prey can only go one way: into its throat. Maybe Phoebodus did something similar.”

While most modern sharks use their teeth to rip prey to pieces before gobbling them up, the frilled shark—and perhaps Phoebodus—use their unique teeth to capture prey and swallow them whole, study coauthor Christian Klug of the University of Zurich tells Vernimen .

Because data on frilled sharks is almost as elusive as fossils of Phoebodus, the team also examined the jaws and teeth of the alligator gar, a species of North American fish dating back 100 million years that has a surprisingly similar mouth to the ancient shark. The gar hunts in open water, and its long jaw and flat head allows it to snap at a fishing coming from almost any direction.

It’s possible that Phoebodus developed its unique shape hundreds of millions of years earlier to hunt in the same manner. “When a certain structure or strategy is effective, there is a tendency for it to show up time and time again—both in living creatures and in the fossil record,” Justin Lemberg, gar researcher at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the study, tells Vernimmen. “While a lot has changed since Phoebodus swam the Devonian oceans, the physics of feeding in water have not.”

This isn’t the only rare shark fossil rewriting what we know about ancient sharks. Last month, researchers from the University of Chicago made a CT scan of a 2-foot-long, 335-million-year-old shark found in Scotland in 1837. They found that the early shark was a suction feeder, using mouth parts in a manner similar to modern day nurse-sharks and carp.

Modern imaging techniques are showing researchers that ancient sharks had diverse feeding patterns, similar to modern sharks.

“The quantity of data that is emerging from studies such as this is staggering,” paleontologist John Maisey of the American Museum of Natural History, not involved in the study, tells Vernimmen. “We are experiencing a renaissance of anatomy.”

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