Volume Control

George Prochnik writes that the ever-present background noise in modern society is more than annoying -- it's actually harmful to our cardiovascular health and concentration, as well as our political discourse.

Most Americans accept that the world around us -- with its traffic, electronics, and cell-phone conversations -- has made silence pretty rare these days. In his new book, "In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise," George Prochnik writes that this noise is more than annoying, and is actually bad for your health. Ever-present background noise hurts our cardivascular system and our concentration, and turns our political discourse into a shrill barrage, writes Prochnik. He looks at different ways that noise intrudes on our lives, and even at how the peculiar pitch and volume of Hitler's voice may have been responsible for convincing Germans to support him.

Why a great education means engaging with controversy

Jonathan Zimmerman explains why teachers should invite, not censor, tough classroom debates.

Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • During times of war or national crisis in the U.S., school boards and officials are much more wary about allowing teachers and kids to say what they think.
  • If our teachers avoid controversial questions in the classroom, kids won't get the experience they need to know how to engage with difficult questions and with criticism.
  • Jonathan Zimmerman argues that controversial issues should be taught in schools as they naturally arise. Otherwise kids will learn from TV news what politics looks like – which is more often a rant than a healthy debate.
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Are these 100 people killing the planet?

Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Jordan Engel, reused via Decolonial Media License 0.1
Strange Maps
  • Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
  • This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
  • The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
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SpaceX catches Falcon Heavy nosecone with net-outfitted boat

It marks another milestone in SpaceX's long-standing effort to make spaceflight cheaper.

Technology & Innovation
  • SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy into space early Tuesday morning.
  • A part of its nosecone – known as a fairing – descended back to Earth using special parachutes.
  • A net-outfitted boat in the Atlantic Ocean successfully caught the reusable fairing, likely saving the company millions of dollars.
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