The Solar Eclipse as a Religious Experience

Tens of millions of people across the United States are preparing to look skyward next Monday as the moon passes between Earth and the sun and, for a few brief moments, daylight turns to darkness. For many, the solar eclipse is one of nature’s greatest spectacles, a magnificent demonstration of what can happen when celestial objects align.

For others, its magnificence is of a different kind.

Some religious groups and institutions are anticipating the eclipse through the lens of faith. A religious perspective provides certain tools for encountering natural wonders, adding a few extra layers to the experience. It can the eclipse into something other than just a really cool thing, and into a reminder of heavenly wonder, an opportunity to proselytize, or as an … Read the rest

The Dark Minds of the Alt-Right

Some of the protesters who marched through Charlottesville last weekend were described as “alt-right,” a newish term that has been used for everyone from white supremacists to economic populists. But what does it actually mean? The Associated Press recently issued guidelines discouraging journalists from using the term “generically and without definition” since “the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience.” Meanwhile, President Trump recently told reporters that some of the protesters in Charlottesville who waved Nazi insignia and chanted anti-Jewish slogans weren’t all nefarious—some “were very fine people.”

A psychology paper put out just last week by Patrick Forscher of the University of Arkansas and Nour Kteily of … Read the rest

When White Nationalists Get DNA Tests That Reveal African Ancestry

The white-nationalist forum Stormfront hosts discussions on a wide range of topics, from politics to guns to The Lord of the Rings. And of particular and enduring interest: genetic ancestry tests. For white nationalists, DNA tests are a way to prove their racial purity. Of course, their results don’t always come back that way. And how white nationalists try to explain away non-European ancestry is rather illuminating of their beliefs.

Two years ago—before Donald Trump was elected president, before white nationalism had become central to the political conversation—Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan, sociologists then at the University of California, Los Angeles, set out to study Stormfront forum posts about genetic ancestry tests. They presented their study at the American Sociological Association meeting this Monday. … Read the rest

Seoul Isn’t Worried (Even If You Are)

On September 15, 1996, 26 North Korean commandoes slipped ashore near the South Korean town of Gangneung after their submarine floundered off the coast. The impromptu mini-invasion made international headlines, and tensions rose sharply for several weeks between the two countries as the South Korean military hunted down the infiltrators. Two dozen were killed.

But in the city of Busan, where I’d been teaching English for more than a year, my friends seemed unconcerned; no one I knew was preparing for war. The only person I knew who was truly worried was my mother in Michigan. Was I safe? Wasn’t it a good idea to come home and get out of harm’s way?

I told her the same thing that everyone in South Korea says whenever … Read the rest

America’s Most (and Least) Sustainable Cities, Ranked

U.S. coastal cities are coming the closest to meeting sustainability goals set by the UN, according to the first analysis of 100 metropolitan cities by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). But no U.S. city has yet managed to reach a score of even half of what is necessary to satisfy the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Sustainable Development Goals Index measures how successfully cities are dealing with issues related to poverty, health, and equitable income distribution in addition to climate change objectives like cutting large carbon emissions. Jeff Sachs, Director of the SDSN, said the report—the first of many—creates “an accurate starting line” for cities in their “race to 2030 and a smart, fair, and sustainable future.”

The results show that within U.S. cities, economic circumstances … Read the rest

The Midwest Town That Designs Above Its Weight

The new movie Columbus, set against the backdrop of largely unknown Columbus, Indiana, tells the story of the budding friendship between Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a local high school grad, and Jin (John Cho), a professional visiting from Korea.

Equally important, it’s a moving portrayal of the influence thoughtful architecture can bring to a place, something the city is thinking about off-screen today.

Columbus is a growing workshop for those who may fashion the next generation of public space. Its unique story is coming to broader recognition now as a touchstone and inspiration.

This city of 44,000, less than an hour’s drive south of Indianapolis, benefited over many decades from both the business savvy and civic-minded philanthropy of the Irwin and Miller families, epitomized in … Read the rest

Lab Report: Chicago vs. DOJ

On offense: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that his city will sue the Justice Department over requirements placed on crime-fighting funds that would force cities to comply with federal immigration policies. The Chicago Sun-Times reports:

Emanuel said Trump and Sessions are using [the stipulations] to “coerce” the city into choosing between its values and effective policing. He said immigration and policing strategy are unrelated.

“Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values, and we are and will remain a welcoming city,” Emanuel said.

Subway rescue plan: To fund improvements for the beleaguered New York City subway and reduce fares for low-income riders, Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing for a so-called “millionaire’s tax”— asking “the wealthiest in our city to chip in a little extra … Read the rest

What New York Subway Stations Actually Look Like

On the official map of the New York subway, each station is a tiny dot. But that representation obscures the labyrinth-like complexity of these structures, which can span two or more blocks and multiple levels. They contain walkways, escalators, tunnels, ramps, forming mazes that befuddle even the staunchest New Yorkers, let alone the troves of tourists exploring the city. Even when commuters navigate these stations successfully, they are likely coming out the other side in the wrong direction.

For these reasons and others, architect Candy Chan has felt “constantly lost” in New York. In Hong Kong, where she’s originally from, each exit is labeled with a letter and a number. And in the absence of such detailed signage in New York, she started thinking about … Read the rest

Advice for Eclipse Newbies

Like most people in the United States, at least, I’ve never witnessed a total solar eclipse. I’m really looking forward to it, as are tens of thousands of other Americans who live in the eclipse’s promised “path of totality” or are planning to travel there. But aside from traffic and crowds, what should they expect? What do you bring to an eclipse? We asked readers and eclipse experts to share some tips.

A total solar eclipse only lasts a few minutes — for this one, about two and a half minutes, depending on where you are — but the partial eclipse lasts an hour or so. You’ll want to bring eclipse glasses, which are available online for a few dollars. Be sure to get … Read the rest

Green Roofs Are Saving Birds and Hatching Bird-Watchers

Urban development hasn’t always accommodated birds. Window collisions due to reflective glass and bright lights have hurt migrating bird populations wherever there are skyscrapers, with the American Bird Conservancy estimating that each year, up to a billion birds die via collisions in the U.S. alone.

An overnight storm this past March left 395 warblers and orioles dead outside the 23-story One Moody Plaza in Galveston, Texas. The skyscraper is among the tallest in the area, and while it’s not wrapped in bird-unfriendly, floor-to-ceiling glass, a combination of lightning, building lights, and corner windows still disoriented the migrating birds into colliding with the structure.

However, when ecology and engineering unite, city roofs can become bird-roosting and bird-watching havens. Take … Read the rest

How Blind Astronomers Will Observe the Solar Eclipse

Like millions of other people, Wanda Diaz Merced plans to observe the August 21 total solar eclipse, when the moon’s shadow will sweep across the sun and, for a few brief moments, coat parts of the United States in darkness. But she won’t see it. She’ll hear it.

Diaz Merced, an astrophysicist, is blind, with just 3 percent of peripheral vision in her right eye, and none in her left. She has been working with a team at Harvard University to develop a program that will convert sunlight into sound, allowing her to hear the solar eclipse. The sound will be generated in real time, changing as the dark silhouette of the moon appears over the face of the bright sun, blocking its light. Diaz Merced … Read the rest

Trump and the Paris Agreement: What Just Happened?

On Friday afternoon, the Trump administration struck an unusually Augustinian tone as it continued to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. We’re definitely, completely, undoubtedly leaving the accord, said the U.S. State Department in a statement. Just not yet.

The announcement didn’t contain any surprising news, but it answers a few outstanding questions about how the United States would formally withdraw from the international agreement. There were essentially three big developments—and you can mentally file them as news, news, and psuedo-news.

First, what actually happened is that the State Department sent a formal communication to the United Nations that the country would leave the accord as soon as possible. President Donald Trump announced the country’s intention to do this more than two months … Read the rest

This Music Festival Stage Will House Homeless Veterans

For the last four months, architecture students at Portland State University have worked on designing a big stage. This weekend, their efforts start to pay off. Fans who venture out to the Pickathon Music Festival in Portland to see Ty Segall on Sunday night—or any of the other acts on the Treeline Stage over the weekend—are bound to notice the distinctive backdrop. The stage is a perforated pavilion comprised of nearly 700 wooden gable trusses.

PSU Architecture’s design will outlast all the Instagrams from the festival, though. The Treeline Stage is only the beginning: After Pickathon 2017 wraps on Sunday, the venue will be broken back down into those individual trusses, which will then be shipped to another site in Clackamas County and used to build … Read the rest