LIZZIE WADE

A Writer of Science & Culture

Since its founding in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution has served as the United States’ premier showplace of wonder. … But behind the brilliant display cases, the infrastructure is starting to crack. The kind of harm being done to the Smithsonian’s collections is not the quick devastation of a natural disaster, nor the malicious injury of intentional abandonment. Rather, it’s a gradual decay resulting from decades of incremental decisions by directors, curators, and collections managers, each almost imperceptibly compounding the last. Over time, shifting priorities, stretched budgets, and debates about the purpose of the museum have resulted in fewer curators and neglected collections.

The Smithsonian doesn’t want to talk about its orphaned collections. But Allison Marsh and I did. As fellows in the Think Write Publish program, we collaborated on a long piece that goes inside Allison’s attempt to save the National Museum of American History’s neglected engineering collection from obsolescence. It’s online in full, as well as in the current print issues of Creative Nonfiction and Issues in Science and Technology. Do your patriotic duty this week and take a look.

Since its founding in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution has served as the United States’ premier showplace of wonder. … But behind the brilliant display cases, the infrastructure is starting to crack. The kind of harm being done to the Smithsonian’s collections is not the quick devastation of a natural disaster, nor the malicious injury of intentional abandonment. Rather, it’s a gradual decay resulting from decades of incremental decisions by directors, curators, and collections managers, each almost imperceptibly compounding the last. Over time, shifting priorities, stretched budgets, and debates about the purpose of the museum have resulted in fewer curators and neglected collections.

The Smithsonian doesn’t want to talk about its orphaned collections. But Allison Marsh and I did. As fellows in the Think Write Publish program, we collaborated on a long piece that goes inside Allison’s attempt to save the National Museum of American History’s neglected engineering collection from obsolescence. It’s online in full, as well as in the current print issues of Creative Nonfiction and Issues in Science and Technology. Do your patriotic duty this week and take a look.


Last December, attempting to head off violent crime associated with drug trafficking, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the production, sale, and use of marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes; the government finalized key regulations last month. Legally unshackled, Bracesco and his colleagues at the medical school of Uruguay’s University of the Republic (Udelar) in Montevideo are launching a lab dedicated to marijuana’s chemistry, genetics, medical uses, and side effects.

Legal highs make Uruguay a beacon for marijuana research - Science

Last December, attempting to head off violent crime associated with drug trafficking, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the production, sale, and use of marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes; the government finalized key regulations last month. Legally unshackled, Bracesco and his colleagues at the medical school of Uruguay’s University of the Republic (Udelar) in Montevideo are launching a lab dedicated to marijuana’s chemistry, genetics, medical uses, and side effects.

Legal highs make Uruguay a beacon for marijuana research - Science


Imagine if people from Kansas and California were as genetically distinct from each other as someone from Germany is from someone from Japan. That’s the kind of remarkable genetic variation that scientists have now found within Mexico, thanks to the first fine-scale study of human genetic variation in that country. This local diversity could help researchers trace the history of the country’s different indigenous populations and help them develop better diagnostic tools and medical treatments for people of Mexican descent living all over the world.

People from Mexico Show Stunning Amount of Genetic Diversity - Science

Imagine if people from Kansas and California were as genetically distinct from each other as someone from Germany is from someone from Japan. That’s the kind of remarkable genetic variation that scientists have now found within Mexico, thanks to the first fine-scale study of human genetic variation in that country. This local diversity could help researchers trace the history of the country’s different indigenous populations and help them develop better diagnostic tools and medical treatments for people of Mexican descent living all over the world.

People from Mexico Show Stunning Amount of Genetic Diversity - Science

Repeat until you believe it/it comes true.
Kanye-fidence via USA Today, with h/t to Today in Tabs, the only email newsletter you need.

Repeat until you believe it/it comes true.

Kanye-fidence via USA Today, with h/t to Today in Tabs, the only email newsletter you need.


Studying pyramids and deciphering cryptic writing systems have helped archaeologists piece together the political, cultural, and religious characteristics of many Mesoamerican civilizations. But ceremonial architecture and official records may not reveal how societies actually work. “Tell me what the normal people were doing,” Mendelsohn says. “That won’t be on your monuments.” Mapping lost neighborhoods can help archaeologists see an ancient city through the eyes of its residents, rather than through its leaders. What Mendelsohn and others are discovering through their bottom-up approach to places like Izapa are cities that look like nothing found in the modern world.

Beyond the Temples - Science (paywalled for now)

Studying pyramids and deciphering cryptic writing systems have helped archaeologists piece together the political, cultural, and religious characteristics of many Mesoamerican civilizations. But ceremonial architecture and official records may not reveal how societies actually work. “Tell me what the normal people were doing,” Mendelsohn says. “That won’t be on your monuments.” Mapping lost neighborhoods can help archaeologists see an ancient city through the eyes of its residents, rather than through its leaders. What Mendelsohn and others are discovering through their bottom-up approach to places like Izapa are cities that look like nothing found in the modern world.

Beyond the Temples - Science (paywalled for now)

Drones outfitted with imaging technology such as thermal cameras have “become an amazing tool for identifying archaeological sites and figuring out where excavations should take place,” agrees Austin Hill…There’s just one problem, he says: Drones are “prone to falling out of the sky.”

Aerial Drones Reveal Hidden Archaeology - Science

Condors Bred in Captivity Need Our Tough Love: The Testimonials
"The best piece on condor puppet rearing that you’ll read today." —Christopher Shay
"Smart, provocative piece by @lizzie_wade" —Elizabeth Kolbert (Aside: My hero Elizabeth Kolbert knows my name and typed it with her very own fingers!)
"the allegory of the cave reference made me do a backflip of happiness” —Ross Andersen
"weirdly compelling" —@grammar_girl
"That condor article started out normal and then got VERY REAL about puppets and life and death. Woah." —Commenter, The Toast
Convinced? Read it at Aeon.

Condors Bred in Captivity Need Our Tough Love: The Testimonials

"The best piece on condor puppet rearing that you’ll read today." —Christopher Shay

"Smart, provocative piece by @lizzie_wade" —Elizabeth Kolbert (Aside: My hero Elizabeth Kolbert knows my name and typed it with her very own fingers!)

"the allegory of the cave reference made me do a backflip of happiness” —Ross Andersen

"weirdly compelling" —@grammar_girl

"That condor article started out normal and then got VERY REAL about puppets and life and death. Woah." —Commenter, The Toast

Convinced? Read it at Aeon.

aeonmagazine:

Although few people now doubt the wisdom of saving California condors by raising them in zoos, critics of the programme were right about one thing: captive breeding does, in fact, risk altering the essence of a wild species. So does that make a puppet-reared animal a miracle or tragedy? It’s both – or maybe neither. Puppet-rearing blurs the same categorical lines as puppet theatre does. When we must capture all the wild condors and raise their children for them, what is the difference between survival and extinction? 

I wrote about two of my favorite things—condors and puppet rearing—for Aeon.

aeonmagazine:

Although few people now doubt the wisdom of saving California condors by raising them in zoos, critics of the programme were right about one thing: captive breeding does, in fact, risk altering the essence of a wild species. So does that make a puppet-reared animal a miracle or tragedy? It’s both – or maybe neither. Puppet-rearing blurs the same categorical lines as puppet theatre does. When we must capture all the wild condors and raise their children for them, what is the difference between survival and extinction? 

I wrote about two of my favorite things—condors and puppet rearing—for Aeon.