• Essay

    How Americans Learned to Condemn Drunk Driving

    In the 1980s, Liberal Activists and Anti-Drug Conservatives Joined Forces to Override a Libertarian Ethos

    By Barron H. Lerner

    At a traffic safety conference in 1980, a Californian named Candy Lightner delivered her first public speech about a 13-year-old freckle-faced girl who had recently ...

  • Essay

    Why Do So Many Nevadans Still Die on the Job?

    Decades After 187 Laborers Perished at the Hoover Dam Construction Site, the State's Safety Rules Are Out of Sync With Modern Workplaces

    By Michelle Follette Turk

    In the span of 18 months in 2007 and 2008, Nevada was the scene of 12 worker fatalities at casino construction sites. The disasters were not small: A 7,300-pound ...

  • Essay

    The Escaped Slave Who Discovered America

    Esteban, a Captive of Spanish Explorers, Led an Eight-Year, 3,500-Mile Trek Across the Southwest and Mexico

    By Dennis Herrick

    “The first white man our people saw was a black man,” wrote historian and Pueblo native Joe Sando in Pueblo Nations. ...

New at Zócalo

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AMERICAN

The Sleeping Car King Who Brought America to the “Ragged Edge of Anarchy”

George Pullman’s Unbending Business Acumen Made Him a Mogul, But Also Inspired the Greatest Labor Uprising of the 19th Century

By Jack Kelly

    George M. Pullman literally raised Chicago from the mud. He introduced luxury to the nation’s rail lines. He even created a model company town for his workers—a feat that prompted some to proclaim him the “Messiah of a new age.”
    Then, in the greatest labor uprising of the nineteenth century, he found himself cast as the villain and his reputation turned to dust.
    Pullman began his career lifting buildings. Taking over a business started by his father, he moved warehouses and barns to allow a widening of the Erie Canal. During the 1850s, officials in Chicago decided to raise their whole city ten feet to allow for drainage of its mud-clogged streets. Pullman jumped at the opportunity. ...

Essay

Even Nobel Prize-Winning Physicists Need a Little Luck

Accidental Experiments and Chance Encounters Helped Enrico Fermi Develop the First Nuclear Reactor

By David N. Schwartz

    The general public may view the scientific enterprise as rational and methodical, moving forward in an orderly, cohesive way. But science moves in fits and starts, sometimes forward and sometimes backward, sometimes methodically and sometimes quite by accident. The extraordinary role that chance and accident play in scientific discovery can be seen in the remarkable career of Enrico Fermi, one of the 20th century’s greatest physicists. Fermi is known primarily for his work on neutron physics, nuclear fission, and the experiments that led to the first atomic bomb.
    In October 1934, Fermi was leading a small team in Rome to create radioactive elements by bombarding various elements with neutrons, the heavy neutral particles sitting in the nucleus of most atoms. In doing so he split the ...

Poetry

  • By Rita O'Connell

    Never much good at judging distances
    or my own physical strength, I imagine
    this morning that I ...

  • By Felicia Zamora

    & the blades of grass prepare for dormant;
    think think in stillness, under winter’s palm in
    swift approach; desire ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews