The Puerto Rican Trees That Can Stand Up to Hurricanes

In El Yunque, the Tropical Rainforest Has Evolved to Shed Its Limbs to the Wind—But Stay Upright

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is one of the jewels of the United States system of national forests—and its only tropical rainforest. When talking about El Yunque, forest ecologist Jess Zimmerman can’t help describing what happened here during hurricane season last year: “First, we had Hurricane Irma. I call that one a ‘drive by.’ It wasn’t so bad, and it got us all ready for Hurricane Maria, which went the length of the island. After Maria, if you looked out the window here, there wasn’t a leaf on …

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How Hawai‘i Forces Us to Redefine the Meaning of ‘Native’

An Environmental Historian Argues That Being Indigenous Is More Alchemy Than Fact

I was born in the Territory of Hawai‘i, three weeks before statehood. As a kid I played in its dirt, ran around in the rain (my hometown of Hilo is …

When Numeracy Superseded Literacy—and Created the Modern World

The Renaissance's Embrace of Numbers Revolutionized Commerce, Science, and Art

In 1025, two learned monks, Radolph of Liége and Ragimbold of Cologne, exchanged several letters on mathematical topics they had encountered while reading a manuscript of the sixth-century Roman philosopher, …

The 19th-Century Pseudo-Science Trend That Gave Us ‘Animal Magnetism’

By Promising a Pathway to the Unconscious, Mesmerism Captivated the Public and Intellectuals Alike

In 1836, a trendy European phenomenon took New England by storm. Charles Poyen, a Frenchman and self-proclaimed professor of animal magnetism, launched a multi-city tour of “mesmeric” theatrical shows, the …

What America’s National Parklands Taught My Three Boys About Their Country

A Michigan Teacher Wanted His Sons to Roam the Nation's Expanses, Grasp Its Opportunities, and Understand Its Injustices

Last August, my sons and I paddled canoes through the Missouri River Breaks National Monument in eastern Montana. The Breaks is remote country, a prairie river cutting through coulees and …

What One New England Tree Can Tell Us About the Earth’s Future

By Studying a Single Massachusetts Oak, I Recorded How Climate Change Is Confusing Nature

Trees are up to more than we think. Belying their image as mute, unmoving, and solitary, trees are not just standing there. They move. Breathe. Communicate. Politically astute and nimbly …