Editor's note

Have you ever visited ruins left behind by an ancient culture and had trouble imagining what it was like to live in that place so long ago? Sometimes the area’s silence now can make it hard to picture how vibrant daily life was back then. A growing field called acoustic archaeology is starting to put sound back into the picture. University at Albany’s Kristy Primeau and University at Buffalo’s David Witt describe the way they modeled the soundscape of Chaco Canyon – and what we can learn about the Ancestral Puebloans who lived there by figuring out how voices and music would have traveled through the space.

What does a sea sponge have in common with the Eiffel Tower? As doctoral student Michael Monn explains, both are constructed of assemblies of numerous beam-like elements. And the design of certain fibers in sea sponges could yield insights into creating stronger, more resilient structures for bridges and cars.

What would Henry David Thoreau – who would have turned 200 years old this summer – think of today’s media landscape? According to Indiana University’s Mark Canada, Thoreau’s dim view of 19th-century newspapers gives us a pretty good idea of what he’d say about Twitter and cable news.

Maggie Villiger

Senior Editor, Science + Technology

Top story

What sounds did the people of Chaco Canyon hear during daily life? David E. Witt

Soundscapes in the past: Adding a new dimension to our archaeological picture of ancient cultures

Kristy E. Primeau, University at Albany, State University of New York; David E. Witt, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

We tend to think of archaeological sites as dead silent – empty ruins left by past cultures. But this isn't how the people who lived in and used these sites would have experienced them.

Environment + Energy

Arts + Culture

Ethics + Religion

  • Explaining 'Rakshabandan' – a Hindu festival that celebrates the brother-sister bond

    Mathew Schmalz, College of the Holy Cross

    On the day of Rakshabandhan, sisters tie a protective thread around the right wrist of their brothers to affirm their bond. This bond is not limited by faith or blood relationship.

  • A trans soldier in the ancient Roman army?

    Tom Sapsford, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

    An ancient Roman fable imagines a cinaedus, well-known for his brazen effeminacy, fighting heroically. This story raises concerns over gender identity in the military like those seen in current times.

  • When do moviegoers become pilgrims?

    S. Brent Rodriguez-Plate, Hamilton College

    Films motivate people to travel to locations previously unknown. In the process, tourists become a lot like spiritual seekers.

Health + Medicine

  • Why you may not need all those days of antibiotics

    Brad Spellberg, University of Southern California

    We've been told for a long time that we must take all of our antibiotics. But maybe we didn’t need so many to begin with. Here's why.

  • Concussions and CTE: More complicated than even the experts know

    Russell M. Bauer, University of Florida; Michael S. Jaffee, University of Florida

    A recent study that showed that 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players had a serious brain disease raised concerns once again about concussions. But there's a lot we still need to know.

  • What does choice mean when it comes to health care?

    Norman Daniels, Harvard Medical School

    The Republican position on health care has been based upon a belief in individual choice. Here's how their own versions of health care bills eroded choice, however, and how they also did harm.

Economy + Business

Politics + Society

Science + Technology

Today’s quote

While Detroit grew geographically to accommodate newcomers, most blacks were confined to four districts in the city until about 1960. Venturing into other neighborhoods came at a considerable risk.


Why Detroit exploded in the summer of 1967

Jeffrey Horner

Wayne State University

Jeffrey Horner