Editor's note

When Sam Shepard died at the end of July, the country lost one of its greatest playwrights. But even as Shepard rose to fame in Manhattan’s off-Broadway scene, he never forgot his rural roots: the avocado farm where he grew up, the thoroughbreds he tended to and the fields he tilled. According to John Winters, who recently wrote a biography of Shepard, the artist feared that Americans had become so obsessed with technology and so removed from the earth that “people just don’t know themselves or each other or anything.”

As a heat wave slowly eases in the Pacific Northwest, the mercury is rising again in Arizona, with Phoenix facing triple-digit highs this week. Urban heat waves are especially dangerous in poor and minority neighborhoods, where residents have fewer resources to keep cool. University of Connecticut anthropologist Merrill Singer calls for more attention to marginalized communities as cities seek ways to cope with climate change.

And today is Rakshabandhan, a Hindu festival, when sisters tie a thread of protection around their brothers’ wrists as an expression of their bond. The festival, however, is not limited by faith, or blood ties, explains Mathew Schmalz, a Catholic scholar, who is tied a “rakhi” during his visits to India.

Nick Lehr

Editor, Arts and Culture

Top story

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard died of complications from ALS on July 27, 2017, at his home in Kentucky. Jakub Mosur/AP

Rural America: Where Sam Shepard's roots ran deepest

John J. Winters, Bridgewater State University

To the recently deceased playwright, the nation's greatest tragedy was its move from an agricultural society to an urban, industrial one.

Environment + Energy

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Science + Technology

  • Reengineering elevators could transform 21st-century cities

    Antony Wood, Illinois Institute of Technology; Dario Trabucco, Università Iuav di Venezia

    New technology could make it practical to build skyscrapers far taller than even today's highest – and change how people live, work and play in tall buildings.

Ethics + Religion

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  • Why Detroit exploded in the summer of 1967

    Jeffrey Horner, Wayne State University

    Fifty years ago, Jeffrey Horner watched news broadcasts of the riots that erupted just miles from his home. But he was worlds apart from the racial tensions that had been festering for decades.

  • Watching children learn how to lie

    Gail Heyman, University of California, San Diego

    In a new study, psychologists observed young children in real time figuring out how not to tell the truth.

Today’s quote

We imagine that people might live, say, on the 50th floor of a tall building and only rarely have to go all the way down to street level. Instead, they might go sideways to the next tower over, or to the bridge between them, for a swim, a trip to the doctor or the grocery store.


Reengineering elevators could transform 21st-century cities

Antony Wood

Illinois Institute of Technology

Antony Wood