Archive for the ‘What We’re Reading’ Category

Thoreau and the mall? No not that mall…

Thoreau and the Mall

Thoreau and the Mall

If you’re a regular reader of our Facebook page, you know that Whole Earth starts every day with a quote. Last year’s 365 quotes were just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of quotes we collected but that failed to make the grade for “publication.” And in gathering this mountain of quotes, we’ve learned several lessons.

Perhaps the most important one is that any quote from Mark Twain must be verified. It seems that our great American writer has been credited with many a quote that he never actually set down on paper. There are often clues that something is amiss – usually a colloquial phrase or a word used before its time. So when we read this quote from Henry David Thoreau, it looked like another example of misattribution.

“When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us if we walked only in a garden or a mall?”

Wait, what? A mall? Thoreau was blessed with foresight, but did he really foresee the great American shopping mall and its early morning mall walkers? Surely this was an “updated” or even a spurious quote. A quick internet search revealed that the quote is genuine. It’s from his famous essay “Walking” published in The Atlantic Monthly on June 1, 1862. So what was a mall to Thoreau?

According to Webster’s Second Unabridged, mall refers to Pall Mall, a game and a place. The game was an ancestor of croquet, played on long grass alleys with large hoops, wooden balls and mallets. In 17th century London, the King and his court played Pall Mall in St. James’ Park. As the game’s popularity waned the Pall Mall alley was repurposed as a tree-lined public promenade, but the name Pall Mall or the Mall stuck. So Thoreau’s mall is a shaded public walk.

What would become of us if we walked only in a garden or a mall? Thoreau believed we would lose our connection to the Wild. He saw walking as a holy act, a communion with the Wild, which enriched our humanity by returning us to our true home within the natural world. It was easy for Thoreau to find the Wild. It was just down the road and over a fence or two. For us, it’s more difficult. But we should not be deterred from following Thoreau’s advice and cultivating our connection with the Wild by walking in wild places whenever we can.

What We’re Reading

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
Cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon for The Halloween Tree

Cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon for The Halloween Tree

Halloween, as it’s celebrated today, is a relatively recent development. Our great grandparents, as children, probably never heard of it and never went trick-or-treating or dressed in costumes. Over the past 100 years, All Hallows Eve has gradually transformed into a holiday for all ages filled with partying, candy and disguises. But its roots lie deep in the past.

In Texas, we’re more aware of those roots than in many other parts of the country. We celebrate both Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. For us, the connection between Halloween and the dead is much clearer and runs deeper than skeleton costumes and white-sheeted ghosts. Now that Halloween is almost upon us, we reread one of our favorite holiday stories: Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree.

Bradbury is perhaps best known for his stories The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451. But he was also a master of the small town fantasy where his youthful characters are faced with great peril, and those who rise to the challenge take giant steps towards a larger, more mature vision of the world. Bradbury’s stories are, by turns, poetic, dramatic, wise and downright scary. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a favorite in the genre, and The Halloween Tree is a close cousin.

In it, boys intent on Halloween thrills get far more than they expect. One of them is spirited away, and his friends travel through space and time to rescue him, with the help of Mr. Moundshroud. Their journey carries them to ancient Egypt; to our distant ancestors, the cave dwellers; to the Celtic Feast of Samhain; into the company of witches and gargoyles; and on to Mexico where the boys decide that Mexican Halloweens are better: “Up in Illinois, we’ve forgotten what it’s all about. I mean the dead, up in our town, tonight, they’re forgotten. Nobody remembers. Nobody cares. Nobody goes to sit and talk to them. Boy, that’s lonely. That’s really sad. But here – it’s both happy and sad. …Up in the graveyard now are all the Mexican dead folks with the families visiting and flowers and candles and singing and candy. I mean it’s almost like Thanksgiving. And everyone set down to dinner and only half the people able to eat.”

The book was first published in 1972, and was based on a screen play penned by Bradbury for an animated feature film by Chuck Jones. The film was finally made in 1993 by Hanna–Barbera and won a daytime Emmy. The book is beloved by many who read it as children and found it scary but also comforting.

Bradbury loved storytelling and writing, and his well-crafted novels and stories are difficult to put down. He creates an immersive experience where the need to know what happens next is matched with visually evocative images that play out in the imagination like a film. Here’s a taste of Bradbury’s magic. The boys of The Halloween Tree have reached Notre Dame in Medieval Paris but see that there are no gargoyles. The call goes out and:

“…all the dead statues and idols and semigods and demigods of Europe lying like a dreadful snow all about, abandoned, in ruins, gave a blink and start and came as salamanders on the road, or bats in the skies or dingoes in the brush. They flew, they galloped, they skittered.

…And obedient to the summons, the mobs, the flocks, the prides, the crush, the collection, the raving flux of monsters, beasts, vices rampant, virtues gone sour, discarded saints, misguided prides, hollow pomps oozed, slid, suckered, pelted, ran bold and right up the sides of Notre Dame. In a floodtide of nightmare, in a tidal wave of outcry and shamble they inundated the cathedral, to crust themselves on every pinion and upthrust stone.”

So if you’re looking for a short Halloween tale to enjoy yourself or to read aloud as a family, The Halloween Tree just might be the book for you. It’s a reminder that “Night and day. Summer and winter. Seedtime and harvest. Life and death. That’s what Halloween is, all rolled up into one.”

Chapter heading for The Halloween Tree by Joseph Mugnaini

Chapter heading for The Halloween Tree by Joseph Mugnaini

What We’re Reading September 27, 2013

On this week’s menu we have fabulous photographs from the 2013 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, why Facebook is for boasting and why that’s good, 35 scientific concepts that can make you smarter, and we finish off with some eye candy: a Kaleidolapse video of Barcelona. Enjoy!


Hi Hello by Ben Canales (USA)

Hi Hello by Ben Canales (USA)

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich has announced the winners of the 2013 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition and posted the photos of the winners, runner-ups and highly commended entries on their website. These images are breath-taking and make us wish that we really could hitchhike around the galaxy and beyond. It’s worth remembering that we are among the first generations of humanity to see such images of our universe. We’re ready for a trip to the McDonald Observatory!


Facebook is for boasting and that’s a good thing

Facebook is for boasting and that’s a good thing, according to 3 Quarks Daily’s Colin Eatock. “Facebook isn’t the first device our culture has employed to work around or subvert the prohibition against boasting. For the great and famous, there are publicists for hire, who will spread the word of their clients’ glory far and wide. The literary accomplishments of authors are proudly presented on the flaps of dust-jackets for all to read. Also, wealthy philanthropists may donate millions of dollars toward the construction of public buildings and other projects – which are then duly named after the donors.”

“At its best, Facebook’s boasting function offers a breath of fresh air – permitting an openness and honesty of self-expression that is still tightly proscribed in many other social contexts. If there’s something good happening in your life that is genuinely of interest to your friends, you do both them and yourself a service by speaking up about it. (And if your friends aren’t genuinely pleased to learn of your joys and achievements, then maybe you need some new friends.)”


The Focusing Illusion – Mark Lennihan/AP

The Focusing Illusion – Mark Lennihan/AP

Daily Good’s 35 Scientific Concepts that will help you understand the world bridges the gap between academic discoveries and our everyday life. Last year Edge.org asked 200 of the brightest minds on the planet what they felt were the most important scientific concepts of the modern era. The answers were compiled in a book This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking. Aimee Groth has selected 35 concepts from the book to help us get started. These concepts help us see our own cognitive biases and, hopefully, move toward a better understanding of the world and our interactions within it.


We leave you with a Kaleidolapse video of Barcelona. Kaleidolapse combines time lapse photography and the elegant and complex symmetry of a kaleidoscope. If you’re lucky enough to know Barcelona, you may be able to recognize some the landmarks in this mesmerizing video.


This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

What We’re Reading September 20, 2013

This week we were amazed by a photo of a Freshwater Jellyfish. It raised a lot of questions, some of which were answered in our first article. Described as voracious, prodigiously reproductive and potentially immortal, there’s a lot to know about Jellyfish. Then, up popped an essay on the ancient Bristlecone Pines whose author wondered, in passing, how a 4800 year old being experiences time. While our last article doesn’t address the question of Bristlecone awareness, it does take a look at how humans experience time: how it speeds up and slows down for us every day and throughout the course of our lives. Hope you enjoy these great stories in this week’s What We’re Reading!


Moon Jellyfish photo by David Hall

David Hall from Beneath Cold Seas: The Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest

For those of you who follow us on Facebook, you may have seen the photo and video taken by Whole Earthling Jesse of a Freshwater Jellyfish at Quarry Lake in Austin. Freshwater Jellyfish? Who knew? So the next day when Arts and Letters Daily posted a link to a review of Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean by Lisa-ann Gershwin, we took the plunge. Jellyfish have been around for at least 550 million years. They don’t so much die as de-grow, unless eaten by sea turtles and other predators, and they’re taking over. All is revealed in Tim Flannery’s review in The New York Review of Books.


The world’s oldest living trees – Bristlecone Pines. Photo by Nick Paloukos

The world’s oldest living trees – Bristlecone Pines. Photo by Nick Paloukos

Bristlecone Pines are survivors, like Jellyfish, but survivors with a single home – the White Mountains of California. “It is not surprising that it took science so long to find the Bristlecone Pines. These trees rank among the most isolated organisms on Earth. They have spent tens of millions of years crawling away from the planet’s fertile havens, the mild climates and nutrient-rich environments that encourage biodiversity. Not content with the solitude of thin mountain air, these ascetic trees anchor down in nutrient-bereft dolomite, a grey rock that most plants cannot abide. Their muscular roots octopus around underground boulders, forming a base that can keep them rigid and standing for thousands of years after death.” Ross Anderson’s The Vanishing Grove in Aeon takes us for a visit to the oldest trees on our planet and reveals a surprising link between Dendrochronology and Astronomy.


Time - Warped by Claudia Hammond

Our stories on Jellyfish and Bristlecone Pines are dealing with Time as measurement – Jellyfish fossils show us that they’ve been making themselves at home in the sea for 550 million years. The oldest living Bristlecone Pine, Methuselah, has been growing on a mountain top for 4800 years. But Time can be more than measured, it can also be experienced. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings points us to Claudia Hammond’s Time-Warped – Why Time Slows Down When We’re Afraid, Speeds Up as We Age and Gets Warped on Vacation.


This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

What We’re Reading September 13, 2013

Discovery is the watchword for this week. Look what we’ve found: photos from one of the largest caves on our planet, filled with wonders; the publication of a book that seems to have risen from the ashes of an author’s life like a phoenix, and the latest, literally far out development in the field of archaeology. It’s all here in What We’re Reading.


Hang Son Doong / Mountain River Cave  |  Getty Images

Hang Son Doong / Mountain River Cave | Getty Images

Hang Son Doong or Mountain River Cave in Viet Nam was first explored four years ago and is now known to be one of the largest caves on Earth. Located near the Laotian/Vietnamese border, the cave includes waterfalls, giant formations, cave pearls, and, most surprisingly, a rain forest. One section of the cave’s roof collapsed and the rain forest invaded complete with monkeys and Flying Foxes. The cave just hosted its first tourist group who rappelled down 80 meters to the entrance and spent seven days and six nights traversing the length of the cave. The Huffington Post has photos of the marvels of Hang Son Doong.


The Broken Road by Patrick Leigh Fermor

The Broken Road by Patrick Leigh Fermor

For fans of the British writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, Thursday was a red letter day. The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos was published in the UK. American readers will have to wait until March 2014, unless they travel across the pond or avail themselves of the internet. Leigh Fermor is considered to be one of the great travel writers of the twentieth century. His best loved books, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, recount his adventures walking from London to Istanbul in the 1930’s. While Leigh Fermor did finally arrive in Istanbul, the literary journey ended in Transylvania. And when he died in 2011 at the age of 96, all hope was lost that a further volume would carry the journey to its end. William Dalrymple, a great travel writer in his own right, tells us how The Broken Road came to be.


Interstellar Archaeology  |  Photo courtesy W.M. Keck Observatory

Interstellar Archaeology | Photo courtesy W.M. Keck Observatory

Scientists used to scan the skies for messages from alien civilizations. Now they are looking for their ruins. “In the context of interstellar archaeology, the problem is that we have no analogues in our experience for what advanced cultures might create. Patience is the byword as the effort proceeds, the same patience that Heinrich Schliemann’s successors have used to master the art of sifting through rubble, with careful digging and delicate brushwork sweeping aside soil to uncover the shape of a fragmentary artefact. Interstellar archaeologists are tasked with sifting through gigabytes of data, not layers of soil, but the principle is the same.” Paul Gilster in Aeon introduces us to a new discipline, Interstellar Archaeology, in Distant Ruins.


This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

What We’re Reading September 6, 2013

What do Pangolins, untranslatable words and giant concrete arrows have in common? They’re the subjects of this week’s What We’re Reading. Why do the Italians have a word for the mark left on a table by a cold glass and we don’t? What are those giant concrete arrows pointing westward from New York City to San Francisco? And what exactly is a Pangolin? To learn more, read on!


11 Untranslatable Words from Other Cultures by Ella Frances Sanders

11 Untranslatable Words from Other Cultures by Ella Frances Sanders

Translators know that sometimes it takes a string of nouns, adjectives, adverbs or even participles to translate one word into another language. For example, the Japanese have a word komorebi. In English, komorebi describes sunlight that filters through the leaves of a tree – one word in Japanese, nine in English. Daily Good posted Eleven Untranslatable Words from Other Cultures by Ella Frances Sanders, an intern at Maptia, who gives some entertaining examples. Whole Earthlings should keep an eye on Maptia. It‘s a work in progress that hopes to build “the most inspirational map in the world” to record and share “our most memorable experiences in every corner of the globe and build the ‘home’ for places online.”


Core77  |  Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  18 Jul 2013

Core77 | Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe | 18 Jul 2013

If you were to come upon one of these giant concrete arrows while hiking in the deserts of the American West, you might find yourself wondering if perhaps there was an element of truth in the old Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons. It certainly looks like the remains of one of Wile E.’s schemes to catch that infuriating bird. Who else could possibly have used such a thing? Well, as we discover at Core77’s What Are These Giant Concrete Arrows across the American Landscape? – it was the U.S. Postal Service.


Scott Hurd

Scott Hurd

A Pangolin looks as if it leapt off a page of a medieval bestiary. Like our Nine Banded Armadillo, it uses its armor and its incredible flexibility to roll into a protective ball when faced with danger. The Pangolin is an animal of great presence and mystery, so it’s no wonder that Alice Otterloop of the comic strip Cul-de-Sac wanted to dress up as one for Halloween. In Africa Geographic, photojournalist Christian Boix tells the story of Roxy, a Pangolin rescued from the rare animal black market.


This is yet another installment in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

What We’re Reading August 30, 2013

Last Sunday was cartoonist Walt Kelly’s birthday. He created Pogo, a mid-twentieth century political comic strip that featured a possum and his pals in the Okefenokee Swamp. Porky Pine was the resident philosopher who once said: “Thar’s only two possibilities: Thar is life out there in the universe which is smarter than we are, or we’re the most intelligent life in the universe. Either way, it’s a mighty sobering thought.” Unlike Porky Pine, the folks at the Starship Congress held in Dallas last week can hardly wait to get out of our solar system and meet the neighbors. This week’s edition of What We’re Reading includes a report from the Starship Congress on extraterrestrial protocol, a map that charts over 60 years of large fires near Yosemite, including the Rim Fire, and finally, 155 years after they were recorded, Henry David Thoreau’s botanical notes are being used in current day climate studies.


Selenites from Georges Méliès – A Trip to the Moon - 1902

Selenites from Georges Méliès – A Trip to the Moon - 1902

Last week, Dallas played host to the Starship Congress – a gathering of people who hope to move humanity toward the stars and membership in interstellar civilization. We’ve envisioned our first meeting with intelligent life in the universe in many ways – Vulcans who just happened to be passing by during the first warp engine flight, mysterious Monoliths, a stranded ET and some not so friendly encounters like The War of the Worlds or Independence Day, to name only a few. Is it too early for humanity to start thinking about a Prime Directive? Ian O’Neill of Discovery News reports on The Ethics of Interstellar Alien Encounters at the Starship Congress.


Detail of Rim Fire and Large Fire History / Jim Lawrence

Detail of Rim Fire and Large Fire History / Jim Lawrence

The Rim Fire is growing larger every day and is now in Yosemite National Park. Frank Jacobs, creator of the blog Strange Maps, has a new post on The Fire Last Time: Mapping Blazes Past, Present – and Future. He’s found a map – The Rim Fire and Large Fire History – compiled by Jim Lawrence of the Modesto Bee, which brings home the recurring nature of wildfires in the American West. “The Rim Fire has them all beat when it comes to devastation. By the time this fire-breathing dragon has been slain, it will have overlapped the perimeter of virtually every major fire in the region since 1949.”


Walden Pond / Wikipedia

Walden Pond / Wikipedia

Henry David Thoreau started collecting and pressing plant specimens in 1850. His aim was to create an Herbarium that he could use to identify plants found in the fields and woodlands surrounding Concord. He also kept records of the first flowering dates for 500 wildflowers in the area. Fast forward to the 21st century and Thoreau’s records are no longer just relics of a great American author. Richard Primack and Abraham Miller Rushing “realized how useful they would be for pinning down the impact of the changing climate over the last century and a half.” Alison Flood tells the tale in Scientists use Thoreau’s journal notes to track climate change in The Guardian.


This is one in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

What We’re Reading August 23,2013

This week we’re listening to and reading about sounds – birdsongs, roaring lions, a Ted Talk (under 6 minutes!), sounds on the internet, and recordings made by Bernie Krause, the father of soundscape ecology. The stories appeared swiftly one after the other and serve as an invitation to open up our ears and listen to the sounds of life flowing around us.

Illustration by Martin Venezky

Illustration by Martin Venezky

Last week Clive Thompson opined that the web was too quiet and it was time to pump up the volume. He’s hoping for a search engine for sound or a Wikipedia of audio – “a worldwide effort to collect and record what the everyday world sounds like. Capture enough of it and we might discover fascinating new ways to understand the world.”

Serendipitously, Julian Treasure’s Ted Talk on sound – The 4 Ways Sound Affects Us – arrived via email. Treasure wants to us to be more aware of sounds and know their effects upon us. He caught our attention with his thoughts on birdsong. He points out that most people find birdsong reassuring. And there’s a good reason for that: over hundreds of thousands of years we’ve learned that if the birds are singing, things are safe. It’s when they stop that you need to be worried. Treasure recommends at least five minutes of birdsong a day, but there is no maximum dose.

Shortly thereafter, scrolling through facebook, what should appear but a link to The Sound of Birds – 60 Minutes – Natural Sounds. It seemed like the perfect time to put Julian Treasure’s five minute prescription to the test. An hour later, calm had set in. If you can’t be outdoors first thing in the morning to hear the dawn chorus, a recording like this might help you meet your daily requirement of birdsong.

Lion image from National Geographic - Michael Nichols

Michael Nichols for National Geographic

Other Earthlings have been listening to something completely different – National Geographic’s The Serengeti Lion: Life on the Plains with the Vumbi Pride. This online feature combines audio and video clips that bring viewers astonishingly close to the lions, bone-crunchingly close. Though it’s not as reassuring as birdsong, it may add the spice of adrenalin to your body chemistry. And, as with all National Geographic creations, it is visually rich.

Bernie Krause

Bernie Krause

To end this week’s edition of What We’re Reading, we’d like to reprise an article from several weeks ago, in case you missed it. Bernie Krause, known as the father of soundscape ecology, describes how he came to record the sounds of the natural world in Orchestra of the Wild. The article includes links to Krause’s recordings of Midsummer Nights West, Rainstorm in Borneo, African Safari Zimbabwe, and Amazon Days, Amazon Nights.


This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

What We’re Reading August 16, 2013

In this week’s edition we take a look at scary clowns and how they got that way; how eleven sets of eyes can see very different things when they take a walk around the same block; and what our children really learn from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Enjoy!

The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

“Most clowns aren’t trying to be odd. They’re trying to be silly and sweet, fun personified. So the question is, when did the clown, supposedly a jolly figure of innocuous, kid-friendly entertainment, become so weighed down by fear and sadness? When did clowns become so dark? Maybe they always have been.” The Smithsonian traces the history of scary clowns.

The Art of Looking: What 11 Experts Teach Us about Seeing Our Familiar City Block with New Eyes

The Art of Looking (Maira Kalman)

“Right now, you are missing the vast majority of what is happening around you. You are missing the events unfolding in your body, in the distance, and right in front of you. By marshalling your attention to these words, helpfully framed in a distinct border of white, you are ignoring an unthinkably large amount of information that continues to bombard all of your senses.” Maria Popova at Brainpickings introduces us to Alexandra Horowitz’s On Looking wherein she takes eleven walks around her block with expert eyes that see very different things.

Beasts at bedtime. (Photo By Craig F Walker/The Denver Post/Getty)

Beasts at bedtime. (Photo By Craig F Walker/The Denver Post/Getty)

“When people ask me what experiences made me want to be an environmental scientist, I usually think first of adventures with pets, shell-collecting along Dublin’s strands, maintaining the aquarium with my father, and much later, the college summers I spent collecting insects in Ireland’s national parks. But it seems clear to me now that time spent indoors, reading and being read to, had an equally powerful affect on me. Reading introduced me to nature – the sort of ordinary but wholly involving nature I encountered right outside my door.” Liam Heneghan at aeon answers the question, what do our children learn from The Very Hungry Caterpillar?


This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.

What We’re Reading August 9, 2013

It’s been a scorcher this week – the perfect time to stay inside and read. In this edition of What We’re Reading, we find the answers to three questions: What if William Shakespeare wrote Star Wars? What does it mean that the Sun’s magnetic field is about to flip? And finally, what does a sculptor do when he goes to the beach?

Geometric Sandcastles by Calvin Seibert

Geometric Sandcastles by Calvin Seibert

Headed to the beach this weekend? Here’s some inspiration for your sandcastle creations. Sculptor Calvin Seibert says that building sprawling sandcastles is a challenge, “nature will always be against you and time is always running out.”
But he remains undaunted, and his sandcastles are fleeting works of art.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher

If you’re a person of a certain age and interest, you can recite verbatim from the Star Wars Trilogy. Enter Ian Doescher. He re-imagines the movie as a Shakespearean play: “In time so long ago begins our play / In star-crossed galaxy far, far away.” Maria Popova shares some choice scenes.

It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s about to. Data from NASA shows that the sun’s global magnetic field is going to flip before the end of the year. The reversal, which signifies the arrival of Solar Maximum, will have ripple effects throughout our solar system.


This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.