Children in the Czech Republic gather around to explore “Chimp & See,” one of the many ongoing Zooniverse projects.

One recent rainy afternoon, I helped researchers identify animal behaviors in the African jungle. I also analyzed slides of breast cancer cells, and I transcribed a recipe from Shakespeare’s time. I did all of this without ever leaving home, without any prior knowledge of the scientific studies I was contributing to, and without any training beyond simple directions. How?

David Allison (far right) and wife Diane meet with Andrew Carroll about the more than 300 letters David’s father wrote home during World War II.

Most of them were penned in the midst of filth and violence: In the fire trenches of a ravaged French pasture; the foxholes of a Belgian forest; the jungles of Vietnam; and the parched sands of Iraq. Letters to and from home have been a source of comfort for military personnel in every American war from the Revolution to present-day operations in the Middle East.

A Phenakistoscope disk called "A Couple Waltzing."

Eadweard Muybridge didn’t exaggerate when he signed his photographs Helios. Like his pseudonym’s namesake—a Greek god who brought light to the world by pulling the sun with his chariot—Muybridge used his brilliant gift for invention to illuminate and advance the art of photography, and most importantly, motion pictures.

illustration of brain training

Brain training is a popular pastime. People are doing crossword and Sudoku puzzles, playing trivia games, and completing memory exercises to keep their minds sharp and engaged. While there may be benefits to cognitive training, some of the fabulous claims made by a leader in the field aren’t backed up by science.

Victoria Claflin Woodhull, circa 1870

Early in 2016, there were two women running for President of the United States— Secretary Hillary Clinton, for the Democrats, and Carly Fiorina, who subsequently withdrew from the race, for the Republicans. A poll conducted for YouGov in 2015 shows that 67% of Americans believe the United States is ready to elect a female president. 

The Gerber Baby

Although many today may not know her name, her creation is household knowledge. Dorothy Hope Smith, who gave us the timeless image of the Gerber Baby, was one of the most talented illustrators of the twentieth century.

Born in Maryland in 1895, Smith was the middle of three girls. In her early teens, she moved with her parents to Chicago, Ill., where she spent her formative years.

male and female disposable razors

President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act over 50 years ago, yet the gender pay gap persists. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American women earn just $.79 for every dollar men earn. Under the law, women must be paid the same wage for the same work.

cars connected through technology

Imagine if your car could anticipate a crash and not only warn you about it, but also change speed or direction to avoid danger. Imagine if your car could communicate with the infrastructure—so it would know when the next traffic signal is about to change and adjust its speed to maximize energy use.

The TF-X flying car will fit in a single-car garag

The flying car has long been a staple of science fiction and fantasy stories. From Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to The Jetsons to Back to the Future, flying cars represent the most fantastical vision of the future.