New at Zócalo


Before We Settle on Mars, Let's Make Sure It's Not Already Occupied

While the Technology Is Within Reach, We Haven't Figured out How to Minimize the Risks to Both Humans and Martians

By David Weintraub

    Humanity has dreamed of going to Mars for decades. Mars appeals to us as a possible second home because of how Earthlike it is—and how much more Earthlike it might become, given a whole lot of human ingenuity and planet-scale engineering. Furthermore, Mars has the potential to be habitable by humans, though it is potentially already inhabited by microorganisms that could be DNA-based life forms.
    Recently, NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, the Mars One Foundation and the Mars 2117 Project all have their eyes on transporting humans to the red planet. The future seems to be coming at us quickly, but the questions of whether we should go to Mars, and what we need to know before we make that decision, are big ones that don’t get nearly enough attention.
    Our obsession with Mars-travel started in the 19th century. In the 1890s, astronomer Percival Lowell barnstormed the United States ...

What It Means to Be American

The 'Ambassador of Aloha' Who Showcased Hawai‘i's Splendors to the World

Duke Kahanamoku Broke Records, Integrated Swimming Pools and Beaches, and Personified the Islands' Gracious Spirit

By David Davis

    On the morning of June 14, 1925, Duke Kahanamoku was camping out on the beach in the seaside village of Corona del Mar, about 50 miles south of Los Angeles, getting ready to do some surfing with friends, when he noticed a fishing boat named The Thelma heading out to sea.
    Kahanamoku was at a crossroads in his life. He was about to turn 35 years old and his days of winning Olympic gold medals for swimming were over. He’d moved to Southern California to become a movie star, but instead had only landed roles as an extra, playing Moor pirates, Indian chiefs, and South Seas tribesmen.
    It was a sobering comedown for an extraordinary athlete who, while less remembered today, was considered to be both the Michael Phelps and the Jackie Robinson of his era.
    His American journey, a story well known ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews

  • My Plan for Building the Perfect California City

    Welcome to 'Joeville,' Where the First Rule Is Not to Play by the Rules

        Recently a startup founder in San Jose asked me a question: What would you do if you were starting a California city?
        My first answer: Get my head examined.
        For 40 years, the state government and California voters ...

  • From Voting to Tech Innovation, California Ranks First at Second Best

    Whether in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, or El Segundo, Golden Staters Now Prefer to Follow the Leader

        The world over, people long to finish first. But in California, it’s better to be second best.
        This is the larger truth at the center of the Golden State’s June 5 first-round elections for ...

  • Video Highlights

    Looking Back at Four Years of “What It Means to Be American”

    The Smithsonian/ASU/Zócalo Project on U.S. History and Identity Is Just Getting Started

    Since its launch on April 14, 2014, the "What It Means to Be American" project has convened 12 events in seven cities and published more than 300 essays on American history and identity. And we're just getting started. Here's a look back at where we've been, and where we're going.