Thanks to the magic of Facebook’s timelines it’s trivial to see what we were up to at just about any arbitrary date in our past. Timelines also give companies, and particularly periodicals, an incredibly useful new tool. The Atlantic’s timeline might be the most stunning example of this: Jared Keller, The Atlantic’s social media editor, has been studiously populating the timeline with some of their most memorable pieces dating all the way back to 1857. The New Yorker’s, too, poses a great threat to your free time. Sadly, The Feature wasn’t founded in 1857, but we’ve been here since 2008, and now our timeline collects the most popular articles and essays that we’ve posted in that time. Therein lies surprises, and independent exploration is encouraged, but by way of introduction, here’s what our Timeline says we were enjoying this time last year:
- The Possibilian (Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker)
If Eagleman’s body bears no marks of his childhood accident, his mind has been deeply imprinted by it. He is a man obsessed by time. As the head of a lab at Baylor, Eagleman has spent the past decade tracing the neural and psychological circuitry of the brain’s biological clocks. He has had the good fortune to arrive in his field at the same time as fMRI scanners, which allow neuroscientists to observe the brain at work, in the act of thinking. But his best results have often come through more inventive means: video games, optical illusions, physical challenges. Eagleman has a talent for testing the untestable, for taking seemingly sophomoric notions and using them to nail down the slippery stuff of consciousness. “There are an infinite number of boring things to do in science,” he told me. “But we live these short life spans. Why not do the thing that’s the coolest thing in the world to do?”
- North Korea’s digital Underground (Robert S. Boynton, The Atlantic)
To smuggle facts into or out of North Korea is to risk imprisonment and even execution. Yet today, aided by a half-dozen stealthy media organizations outside the country, citizen-journalists are using technologies new and old to break the regime’s iron grip on information. Will the truth set a nation free?
- Has BP really cleaned up the Gulf oil spill? (Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian)
There are few people who can claim direct knowledge of the ocean floor, at least before the invention of the spill-cam, last year’s strangely compulsive live feed of the oil billowing out of BP’s blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico. But for Samantha Joye it was familiar terrain. The intersection of oil, gas and marine life in the Mississippi Canyon has preoccupied the University of Georgia scientist for years. So one year after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, killed 11 men and disgorged more than 4m barrels of crude, Joye could be forgiven for denying the official version of the BP oil disaster that life is returning to normal in the Gulf.