How Societies Are Defined by the Segmentation of Time

While There's an Astronomical Basis for Years and Days, Most Temporal Units Are the Product of Language and Culture

Why does an hour last 60 minutes? Why does a minute last 60 seconds? What are “minutes” and “seconds,” really? A minute is just the duration you arrive at if you divide an hour into 60 equal segments. Seconds are merely what you get if you divide hours by 60 a second time.

We use these units because some of the first people to make precise astronomical calculations, the Babylonians, utilized a base-60 (sexagesimal) number system that they inherited from a more ancient population in Mesopotamia, the Sumerians. The Sumerian …

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Spinning the Story of Their Culture

The Wixárika People of Western Mexico Developed a Vibrant Way to Preserve Their Psychedelic Spiritual Beliefs

Psychedelic drugs, anthropology, art, commerce, 1960s counterculture, and indigenous culture collide in the stunningly vibrant and intricate yarn paintings of the Wixárika people of Western Mexico. On one level, these …

Why Manicurists Are Modern-Day Michelangelos

Yesterday’s Pink Polish Is Giving Way to a New Art Form—and a New Way to Talk With Our Hands

On a memorable Sunday afternoon when I was 6, my aunt gave me my first manicure. She spread out dozens of vials of shiny polish, and I chose scarlet: cherry …

2014 and the Year of the Horse Both Taste Delicious

Why People Around the World Eat to Celebrate the New Year

When I taught a course called “Food and Culture” at UCLA, I loved asking my students to investigate their families’ food histories by focusing on one feast or reunion—and then …