One Very Surreal Day with Salvador Dalì

One Very Surreal Day with Salvador Dalì

Even today, in this era of “nothing shocks us anymore”, Dalì still manages to get an eyebrow raise out of me. The man is endlessly fascinating and just when I think I’ve seen all his work, up pops another thing I never knew he did. Just this morning, I found Read the rest

How the Zombie Fungus Takes Over Ants’ Bodies to Control Their Minds

To find the world’s most sinister examples of mind control, don’t look to science fiction. Instead, go to a tropical country like Brazil, and venture deep into the jungle. Find a leaf that’s hanging almost exactly 25 centimeters above the forest floor, no more and no less. Now look underneath it. If you’re in luck, you might find an ant clinging to the leaf’s central vein, jaws clamped tight for dear life. But this ant’s life is already over. And its body belongs to Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the zombie-ant fungus.

When the fungus infects a carpenter ant, it grows through the insect’s body, draining it of nutrients and hijacking its mind. Over the course of a week, it compels the ant to leave the safety of … Read the rest

The Bagel’s Complicated Journey Into Israeli Cuisine


Xoho, a sun-drenched café in central Tel Aviv, is one of only a handful of places in Israel where you can find what most of the world considers a quintessential Jewish food: bagels.

“Many Israelis here order the bagels, but they don’t even realize the Jewish connotation,” says Xoli Ormut-Durbin, Xoho’s Canadian owner and manager. Every morning, her peppy international staff boils small batches of bagels in malt syrup to achieve the delicate chewy-to-fluffy ratio found in a New York bagel. She says this cafe has “come a long way” in getting Israelis to accept the bagel.


The bagel traces its roots to Poland’s bagel-like obwarzanek krakowski, which were stacked on strings and sold individually by market peddlers. Although not an exclusively Jewish food, since … Read the rest

The Conqueror Who Longed for Melons


Zahir al-Din Muhammad, the 16th century Central Asian prince better known as Babur, is renowned for his fierce pedigree and proclivities. Descended from both Timur and Genghis Khan, he used military genius to overcome strife and exile, conquer northern India, and found the Moghul dynasty, which endured for over 300 years. He was a warlord who built towers of his enemies’ skulls on at least four occasions. Yet he was also a cultured man who wrote tomes on law and Sufi philosophy, collections of poetry, and a shockingly honest memoir, the Baburnama, in which he appears to us as one of the most complex and human figures of the early modern era.

Through the Baburnama, we learn that Babur was versed in courtly Persian … Read the rest

Introducing MapLab

Welcome to the first edition of MapLab, a newsletter exploring how maps illuminate the world around us. Here there will be many, friendly dragons: featurettes on newsworthy mapping efforts, fascinating cartographers, snippets of history, eye-popping data visuals, and intriguing map links. I’ll drop you a mix every two weeks.

You’re probably getting this because you subscribe to another CityLab newsletter. Yes, your inbox is jammed. But these dispatches won’t be designed for passive receipt. I want to pull map makers and map lovers together, to share and discuss the incredible landscape of cartographic work this digital century has spawned.

To get started, sign up here. You won’t continue to receive MapLab unless you do!

Anchors aweigh,


Orient yourself: gerrymandering


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Galactic Glow, Thought to Be Dark Matter, Now Hints at Hidden Pulsars

In 2009, Dan Hooper and his colleagues found a glow coming from the center of our galaxy that no one had ever noticed before. After analyzing publicly available data from the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope, a satellite launched a year earlier, the team concluded that the center of the Milky Way was radiating more gamma rays than astrophysicists could account for.

The finding was so unexpected that, at the time, few believed that it was real. It didn’t help that Hooper wasn’t a member of the Fermi collaboration, but rather an outsider picking over the data that the Fermi team made public. One of the scientists working on Fermi called his work “amateurish,” arguing that Hooper simply didn’t know how to properly interpret the data.… Read the rest

The Quest to Save Baltimore’s Iconic Berger Cookie


In 2018, an Obama-era ban on trans fats will come into effect, and it will likely affect at least one of your beloved childhood snacks: Oreos, Cheetos, Pillsbury biscuits, and even Girl Scout cookies. But for one Baltimore bakery, the stakes of the ban are much higher, as their product, Berger Cookies, happens to be one of the city’s most adored food icons.

Trans fats, a man-made fat that improves the shelf life of a product by converting vegetable oils to solid fat, have long been a source of controversy in the packaged foods industry. Research has shown that they contribute significantly to heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol—more so than other, more natural sources of fat.

The packaged food world relies on trans fats to … Read the rest