Did air pollution help create the Impressionists?

Did air pollution help create the Impressionists?

The late 19th century in Europe saw the emergence of the hazy style of the Impressionists, which privileged mood and light over fine details. While this monumental shift has long been attributed to shifting stylistic preferences, a new study argues that it was also due to a change in the environment’s appearance: As the Industrial Revolution engulfed London and Paris in smog, the world literally became blurrier. Climate scientists Anna Lea Albright of the Sorbonne University and École Normale Supérieure in Paris and Peter Huybers of Harvard University researched this phenomenon by focusing mainly on 60 oil paintings by J.M.W. Turner and 38 works by Claude Monet.

What some young girls thought of the Apollo space program in 1971

There are a lot of myths about the Apollo space program. Chief among them is that most Americans fervently supported the space program’s enormous costs. In reality, most Americans of the 1960s thought the Apollo space program wasn’t a good use of taxpayer funds, with many people asking why that money wasn’t being spent to fight homelessness or hunger in the U.S.—the same criticisms you hear today. One of the girls quoted in the article in the Billings Gazette newspaper, 11-year-old Betsy Longo, expressed a similar sentiment. “I don’t think they should use so much money to go to the moon,” Longo said. “They should use it to stop cancer and help people here on Earth.”

This woman started as a maid and became a famous astronomer

Williamina Fleming was working as a teacher in Boston when her husband abandoned her, so she had to seek work as a maid. She started working in the home of Edward Charles Pickering, an astronomer at the Harvard College Observatory who, according to legend, criticized his young assistants by saying "My maid Williamina could do a better job!" He was right – he hired Fleming to do clerical work at the observatory, and she developed a system of assigning stars a letter according to how much hydrogen could be observed in their spectra. She went on to discover the Horsehead Nebula in 1888.

The coffee break was a capitalist invention

Today, we think of the coffee break, ideally, as a respite from our work day. We view coffee as a relaxing escape or energy hack because we’re programmed to experience it that way. As noted journalist and caffeine fiend Michael Pollan says on a February 2022 episode of Gastropod, “Capitalism and caffeine are hand in hand. If you want any proof of that, just look at the institution of the coffee break... Your employer not only gives you a free drug at the at the workplace, but gives you a place and time in which to enjoy it twice a day, in most places. Why would employers do that if it didn’t offer them more benefit than cost? And clearly it does. They get more work out of people.”

The strange tale of a law firm's ritual approach to a partner's death

Do partners of the esteemed law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore recite a culty ritual chant at their colleagues’ funerals? Yes, according to an article that appeared in the Financial Times on April 9, 2018 that says: ​"​For those who stay the course to become Cravath partners, it is a lifetime career that comes with a guaranteed annual salary of several million dollars. Underscoring the “lifetime” part are traditions such as the Cravath Walk: every partner is entitled to a procession of partners at their funeral, after which the assembled lawyers chant: “The partner is dead, the firm lives.” But does this really happen?

The great wetsuit debate among cold-water swimmers in San Francisco

Cold-water immersion is having a moment these days, with growing numbers of fans plunging into low-temperatures to try to feel better. But in San Francisco, the chatter about chilly water goes much deeper than in most places. It is home to the great wetsuit divide. The wetsuit has a long history in San Francisco, popularized by Jack O’Neill in 1952 to ward off hypothermia in surfers. The wetsuit split is legendary in Bay aquatics. Some local triathlete pages call wetsuits “wuss suits.” Over the years, in actual cold cases, wetsuits have mysteriously vanished from the changing room at the South End Rowing Club.

Painting so the painting itself disappears into the background