What Makes the “Lion Whisperer” Roar?

Susan Orlean profiles “Lion Whisperer” Kevin Richardson, who has dedicated his life to the ethical conservation of lions.

Source: Smithsonian
Published: May 26, 2015
Length: 18 minutes (4,507 words)

How Oregon’s Second Largest City Vanished in a Day

Intended as temporary solution for Portland’s wartime housing shortage, Vanport housed 40,000 residents at its height, making it the second largest city in Oregon. In a few short years the community went from a shining example of American innovation to a crime-laden slum, largely due to discriminatory housing policies. Ultimately, a natural disaster would spell the end for Vanport, but the community’s legacy remains a dark chapter in Portland’s discriminatory history.

Source: Smithsonian
Published: Feb 18, 2015
Length: 14 minutes (3,661 words)

Who Was the Marquis de Sade?

How the once-reviled 18th-century libertine writer became France’s most decadent cultural hero.

Source: Smithsonian
Published: Feb 1, 2015
Length: 20 minutes (5,000 words)

The Radical Paradox of Martin Luther King’s Devotion to Nonviolence

A conversation with King biographer Taylor Branch about the civil rights leader’s true legacy.

Source: Smithsonian
Published: Jan 1, 2015
Length: 15 minutes (3,954 words)

Amid the Heated Debates, Iraqi Immigrants Struggle to Make a Living in Arizona

Thousands of Iraqi immigrants have started new lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and it has been far from easy.

Source: Smithsonian
Published: Aug 25, 2014
Length: 11 minutes (2,892 words)

Rise of the Sea Urchin

Sea urchin as fine dining delicacy. A profile of a Scottish man in Norway who dives into icy waters to collect the urchins known as Norwegian greens, which get shipped to some of Europe’s finest restaurants.

Author: Franz Lidz
Source: Smithsonian
Published: Jul 1, 2014
Length: 12 minutes (3,064 words)

The Unlikely History of the Origins of Modern Maps

GIS technology has opened up new channels of understanding how the world works. But where did it begin?

Canada may be a large country, but the flight from Ottawa to Toronto is short – a mere hour. Still, in that time, Pratt and Tomlinson struck up a conversation and began chatting about their work. As Tomlinson listened to Pratt describe his plan to collect and synthesize thousands of maps to document the wealth of the vast Canadian landscape, he felt a rush of serendipity. After all, he’d been thinking about the challenge of representing multitudinous data in a map for most of his short career and was on the cusp of programming a computer system for geographic information.

Source: Smithsonian
Published: Jun 2, 2014
Length: 7 minutes (1,880 words)

How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future

How science fiction writers inform the way we think about the real world:

Jordin Kare, an astrophysicist at the Seattle-based tech company LaserMotive, who has done important practical and theoretical work on lasers, space elevators and light-sail propulsion, cheerfully acknowledges the effect science fiction has had on his life and career. “I went into astrophysics because I was interested in the large-scale functions of the universe,” he says, “but I went to MIT because the hero of Robert Heinlein’s novel Have Spacesuit, Will Travel went to MIT.” Kare himself is very active in science fiction fandom. “Some of the people who are doing the most exploratory thinking in science have a connection to the science-fiction world.”

Microsoft, Google, Apple and other firms have sponsored lecture series in which science fiction writers give talks to employees and then meet privately with developers and research departments. Perhaps nothing better demonstrates the close tie between science fiction and technology today than what is called “design fiction”—imaginative works commissioned by tech companies to model new ideas. Some corporations hire authors to create what-if stories about potentially marketable products.

Source: Smithsonian
Published: Apr 28, 2014
Length: 8 minutes (2,054 words)

The Race to Save Mali’s Priceless Artifacts

A secret operation to save medieval manuscripts in Timbuktu:

The jihadists soon shoved aside the secular Tuaregs, declared sharia law and began attacking anything they perceived as haram—forbidden—according to their strict definitions of Islam. They banned singing and dancing, and forbade the celebration of Sufi Islamic festivals. They demolished 16 mausoleums of Timbuktu’s beloved Sufi saints and scholars, claiming that veneration of such figures was a sacrilege. Eventually the militants set their sights on the city’s ultimate symbols of open-mindedness and reasoned discourse: its manuscripts.

A network of activists was determined to thwart them. For five months, smugglers mounted a huge and secret operation whose full details are only now coming to light. The objective: to carry 350,000 manuscripts to safety in the government-held south. The treasures moved by road and by river, by day and by night, past checkpoints manned by armed Islamic police. Haidara and Diakité raised $1 million to finance the rescue, then arranged for safe storage once the manuscripts arrived in Bamako.

Source: Smithsonian
Published: Jan 1, 2014
Length: 15 minutes (3,883 words)

The Curious Case of Nashville’s Frail Sisterhood

During the Civil War, the Union Army put more than 100 prostitutes onto a boat leaving Nashville, as a way to prevent troops from contracting syphilis and gonorrhea:

“It took a week for the Idahoe to reach Louisville, but word of the unusual manifest list had reached that city’s law enforcement. Newcomb was forbidden from docking there and ordered on to Cincinnati instead. Ohio, too, was uneager to accept Nashville’s prostitutes, and the ship was forced to dock across the river in Kentucky—with all inmates required to stay on board.”

Source: Smithsonian
Published: Jul 9, 2013
Length: 8 minutes (2,160 words)