Additions to the Five Journalistic “W”s – The New Yorker

Additions to the Five Journalistic “W”s – The New Yorker

In journalism, the “Five ‘W’s” are “Who,” “What,” “When,” “Where,” and “Why.” Referring back to the Five “W”s helps journalists address the fundamental questions that every story should be able to answer. Recent events, however, have shown that traditional journalistic practices might not be working as effectively as they used to. As such, here are a few additions to the Five “W”s that will surely come in handy for today’s journalists.

The Two “A”s

“Are you fucking kidding me?”
These days, journalists will often be asked to report on things that sound like sick fucking jokes. As a reporter, you should always confirm that the event you’re covering is not a tasteless prank, misguided attempt at performance art, or some kind of depraved clown show in a demented carnival of vulgarity.

“Am I dreaming?”
When confronted with strange, unsettling events that seem to proceed according to their own unfathomable logic, reporters should also make sure they’re not having some kind of fever dream. What you’re seeing could very well just be a nightmare, but believe it or not, it might also be an actual event that is actually happening in the real world we actually live in—a reality from which there’s no escape.

The One “S”

Journalists should always look the person they’re interviewing in the eye and ask, “Seriously? You’re seriously saying that to me with a straight face?” (This question can be repeated as often as necessary.)

The Three “H”s

“How did this happen?”
This question used to be about making sense of the chain of events leading up to an incident, but now it’s more about how we all need to take a good hard look in the mirror and think about how the choices we’ve made brought us to where we are today.

“Have you no shame?”
The answer to this question is probably going to be “no,” but you’ve gotta check.

“Holy shit.”
True, this isn’t a question, but it’s an important perspective for journalists to keep in mind.

The One “I”

“Is there no respite from the madness?”
This is a pretty basic question, which is relevant whether you’re reporting on global affairs, business, sports, or even just writing restaurant reviews.

The original Five “W”s can also be repurposed to greater effect. For example, instead of asking “What happened?,” a journalist in 2017 might ask “What kind of God would allow this to happen?,” “What the actual fuck?,” or “What’s the point?” Similarly, instead of asking “Where did this event take place?,” you might ask “Where did it all go wrong?” In lieu of “Why did this event take place?,” try “Why do bad things happen to good people?,” “Why do we live in this benighted, fallen world?,” or simply “Why . . . Why . . . Why?” These are the questions that people want answered.

It’s also now safe to discard one of the “W”s: “Who.” As in, “Who is responsible?” The answer to this question is the same in every story—it’s all of us. We all did it. No one’s hands are clean.

So, to recap: we now have Four “W”s, Two “A”s, One “S”, Three “H”s, and One “I.” Keep these in mind, and you can be confident that you’re covering every angle of a story. Sure, compared to the original system it’s vastly more complicated, confusing, and borderline incoherent in a way that seems to perfectly exemplify this bewildering new era in which the truth seems to have little meaning. But that’s just the way we live now. Sorry!


The Stunning Early Infographics and Maps of the 1800s | Atlas Obscura

The Stunning Early Infographics and Maps of the 1800s | Atlas Obscura

Have you ever wondered what the tallest active volcano is? Or wanted to compare the height of mountain peaks and the lengths of rivers around the world? So did John Emslie and James Reynolds.

Between 1849 and 1851, topographical illustrator and engraver Emslie and publisher Reynolds designed scientifically based diagrams that measured out these geologic landforms and features in the 12-plate book Geological Diagrams. During the era, chartmakers helped increase accessibility and visibility of the latest scientific research by creating maps, illustrations, and figures depicting natural and man-made wonders around the world.

Emslie and Reynolds “take numbers, acute scientific details, and measurements, weaving them into something that’s beautiful to look at and easier to understand,” wrote Sara Barnes in My Modern Met. Part art and part informational chart, these pieces are early scientific infographics that serve as the foundations of the educational diagrams we see today.

The 1800s were marked by significant scientific discoveries, from the first observation of Neptune to theories of evolution. As early as the beginning of the 19th century when Alexander von Humboldt created what are considered the first infographics, publishers and cartographers designed a wide array of vivid displays to explain these new and complex ideas to the public. Reynolds’ publishing business in London printed an enormous output over his approximately 30-year career, responding to the popular demand for information on science and engineering developments. Reynolds worked with several cartographers and engravers, but one of his main collaborators was Emslie.

Together, they produced numerous infographics and maps, and were both elected to England’s Royal Geographical Society—a professional organization dedicated to providing accurate cartographic and geographic information. The appeal and charm of their work comes from a combination of formal cartographic techniques, scientific knowledge, and artistic flair.

Colored by hand and highly detailed, Emslie and Reynolds’ 1851 Geological Diagrams is one of their many artistic portfolios. Maps show the distribution of plants, air currents, and religion, while charts ingeniously splay out major rivers, mountains, waterfalls, and even famous historic buildings.

For example, the panoramic map of principal rivers and lakes line up a selection of the world’s major rivers, visually comparing the lengths of the Colorado, Rhine, Nile, and Amazon rivers. Each are dotted by the major cities that they run through. Above the row of rivers, different lakes including the Dead Sea, the Caspian Sea, Lake Geneva, and Lake Erie are compared. You can see just how expansive the Caspian Sea in Russia and the Black Sea in Turkey are from this view.

In addition to the 12 engraved plates in Geological Diagrams, Emslie and Reynolds also worked together on other volumes and single issues of optical charts, school atlases, and astronomical diagrams. Emslie shows the differences between astronomical and geographical clocks, the earth’s revolution around the sun, and the topographical surface of the moon. Some of the astronomical maps were made transparent, allowing viewers to amplify and highlight celestial bodies and constellations by shining a light through the back.

Currently, a selection of Reynolds and Emslie’s astronomical diagrams from the 1850s can be viewed in person at the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford University’s Green Library.

[More are on the web page.]

Researchers design one of the strongest, lightest materials known | MIT News

Researchers design one of the strongest, lightest materials known | MIT News

A team of researchers at MIT has designed one of the strongest lightweight materials known, by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon. The new material, a sponge-like configuration with a density of just 5 percent, can have a strength 10 times that of steel.

In its two-dimensional form, graphene is thought to be the strongest of all known materials. But researchers until now have had a hard time translating that two-dimensional strength into useful three-dimensional materials.

The new findings show that the crucial aspect of the new 3-D forms has more to do with their unusual geometrical configuration than with the material itself, which suggests that similar strong, lightweight materials could be made from a variety of materials by creating similar geometric features.

The findings are being reported today in the journal Science Advances, in a paper by Markus Buehler, the head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and the McAfee Professor of Engineering; Zhao Qin, a CEE research scientist; Gang Seob Jung, a graduate student; and Min Jeong Kang MEng ’16, a recent graduate.

Other groups had suggested the possibility of such lightweight structures, but lab experiments so far had failed to match predictions, with some results exhibiting several orders of magnitude less strength than expected. The MIT team decided to solve the mystery by analyzing the material’s behavior down to the level of individual atoms within the structure. They were able to produce a mathematical framework that very closely matches experimental observations.

Two-dimensional materials — basically flat sheets that are just one atom in thickness but can be indefinitely large in the other dimensions — have exceptional strength as well as unique electrical properties. But because of their extraordinary thinness, “they are not very useful for making 3-D materials that could be used in vehicles, buildings, or devices,” Buehler says. “What we’ve done is to realize the wish of translating these 2-D materials into three-dimensional structures.”

The team was able to compress small flakes of graphene using a combination of heat and pressure. This process produced a strong, stable structure whose form resembles that of some corals and microscopic creatures called diatoms. These shapes, which have an enormous surface area in proportion to their volume, proved to be remarkably strong. “Once we created these 3-D structures, we wanted to see what’s the limit — what’s the strongest possible material we can produce,” says Qin. To do that, they created a variety of 3-D models and then subjected them to various tests. In computational simulations, which mimic the loading conditions in the tensile and compression tests performed in a tensile loading machine, “one of our samples has 5 percent the density of steel, but 10 times the strength,” Qin says.

Buehler says that what happens to their 3-D graphene material, which is composed of curved surfaces under deformation, resembles what would happen with sheets of paper. Paper has little strength along its length and width, and can be easily crumpled up. But when made into certain shapes, for example rolled into a tube, suddenly the strength along the length of the tube is much greater and can support substantial weight. Similarly, the geometric arrangement of the graphene flakes after treatment naturally forms a very strong configuration.

The new configurations have been made in the lab using a high-resolution, multimaterial 3-D printer. They were mechanically tested for their tensile and compressive properties, and their mechanical response under loading was simulated using the team’s theoretical models. The results from the experiments and simulations matched accurately.

The new, more accurate results, based on atomistic computational modeling by the MIT team, ruled out a possibility proposed previously by other teams: that it might be possible to make 3-D graphene structures so lightweight that they would actually be lighter than air, and could be used as a durable replacement for helium in balloons. The current work shows, however, that at such low densities, the material would not have sufficient strength and would collapse from the surrounding air pressure.

But many other possible applications of the material could eventually be feasible, the researchers say, for uses that require a combination of extreme strength and light weight. “You could either use the real graphene material or use the geometry we discovered with other materials, like polymers or metals,” Buehler says, to gain similar advantages of strength combined with advantages in cost, processing methods, or other material properties (such as transparency or electrical conductivity).

“You can replace the material itself with anything,” Buehler says. “The geometry is the dominant factor. It’s something that has the potential to transfer to many things.”

The unusual geometric shapes that graphene naturally forms under heat and pressure look something like a Nerf ball — round, but full of holes. These shapes, known as gyroids, are so complex that “actually making them using conventional manufacturing methods is probably impossible,” Buehler says. The team used 3-D-printed models of the structure, enlarged to thousands of times their natural size, for testing purposes.

For actual synthesis, the researchers say, one possibility is to use the polymer or metal particles as templates, coat them with graphene by chemical vapor deposit before heat and pressure treatments, and then chemically or physically remove the polymer or metal phases to leave 3-D graphene in the gyroid form. For this, the computational model given in the current study provides a guideline to evaluate the mechanical quality of the synthesis output.

The same geometry could even be applied to large-scale structural materials, they suggest. For example, concrete for a structure such as a bridge might be made with this porous geometry, providing comparable strength with a fraction of the weight. This approach would have the additional benefit of providing good insulation because of the large amount of enclosed airspace within it.

Because the shape is riddled with very tiny pore spaces, the material might also find application in some filtration systems, for either water or chemical processing. The mathematical descriptions derived by this group could facilitate the development of a variety of applications, the researchers say.

“This is an inspiring study on the mechanics of 3-D graphene assembly,” says Huajian Gao, a professor of engineering at Brown University, who was not involved in this work. “The combination of computational modeling with 3-D-printing-based experiments used in this paper is a powerful new approach in engineering research. It is impressive to see the scaling laws initially derived from nanoscale simulations resurface in macroscale experiments under the help of 3-D printing,” he says.

This work, Gao says, “shows a promising direction of bringing the strength of 2-D materials and the power of material architecture design together.”

Initial Meeting of the National Parks Revolutionary Coordinating Committee – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Initial Meeting of the National Parks Revolutionary Coordinating Committee – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

BADLANDS: My fellow national treasures, I call this meeting to order. Thank you all for coming. It seems like nobody else is willing to save America, so I’m taking matters into my own landscape. Our purpose today is to decide on our initial strategy.

SHENANDOAH: I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this. I mean, we’re parks. What the heck are we going to do to combat the Trump administration? Aren’t we supposed to just sit here looking pretty and letting people visit us?

BADLANDS: Look, our mission as parks is “to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” But if we don’t act now, all those natural and cultural resources are going to get closed to the public, sold off to Big Oil, blasted by climate change, or even devastated in a goddamn nuclear war. We can’t fulfill our mission without leading the revolution. And let’s face it, on our side we have not only science but also a vast cadre of trained survivalists, terrifying wild animals, forbidding terrain, and last but definitely not least, motherfucking active volcanoes. We can win this thing. So who’s with me?

[Enthusiastic shouts of “Hear, hear!” and “We are!” erupt.]

SHENANDOAH: Okay, okay. I just — I mean, I’m really close to DC. I’m kind of in the line of fire here.

LINCOLN MEMORIAL: I’m in DC and you don’t hear me complaining.

SHENANDOAH: Aren’t you a national monument? I thought this meeting was for parks.

LINCOLN MEMORIAL: Back off. I’m part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. And look, I deserve to be here. Trump defiled me with a huge banner at his inauguration and he’s trying to dismantle my entire legacy. I’m on board for the revolution.

BADLANDS: We’re all friends here. We have to be a united front. That means everything administered by the National Park Service — monuments, memorials, whatever.

YOSEMITE: Please tell me you’re not inviting the National Forests.

BADLANDS: No. Of course not.


BADLANDS: Now that we’ve settled that, let’s brainstorm ideas for the fight ahead. There are a lot of you, and I don’t know what you all have to offer. No idea too small!

GRAND CANYON: If we can get Trump to the edge of me, maybe someone could push him over?

CRATER LAKE: Same here.

DEATH VALLEY: I can overheat him so that orange makeup runs and he dies of thirst.

BADLANDS: I don’t get the sense Trump is all that outdoorsy. We might need to go to him. Anyone else?

CHANNEL ISLANDS: I have a bald eagle breeding program. Those birds are fierce and we know they hate Trump’s guts. What say we get together an eagle squadron?

LASSEN: Hey, buddy, you’re not the only one with bald eagles. Just because I’m undervisited doesn’t mean—

BADLANDS: Calm down, calm down. Bald eagles are a great idea. We all know they’ve made a spectacular recovery and are no longer endangered, thanks to exactly the kind of environmental regulations our new leader wants to remove. I think almost all of us have bald eagles and can work together on that. Channel Islands, can you head up the bald eagle committee? Lassen, you put your head together with Volcanoes to talk about how to deploy your firepower.

VOLCANOES: How come Lassen gets to be in charge? That place hasn’t erupted for a century.

MOUNT RAINIER: And what about me?

BADLANDS: There’s room for all of you. It’s a cooperative committee. We’re comrades in the revolution here.

[Disgruntled murmurs subside.]

GRAND TETONS: Is participation mandatory? I — I’m a little concerned Trump is just going to grope me. I mean, you know what my name means, right?

BADLANDS: Don’t worry — he has plenty of other things to grope closer to home. But we’ll definitely take a zero-tolerance policy on that.

SHENANDOAH: I’m still not sure about this. What are we going to do against a developing authoritarian regime? We can’t just tweet.

YELLOWSTONE: I hear the Education Secretary has a thing about bears. Yosemite and I can coordinate on that front.

SHENANDOAH: You thinking grizzlies in schools?

YELLOWSTONE: Don’t be ridiculous. They wouldn’t go near a school. But unleash some bears in the Department of Education and that lady will fold like a cheap tent. A cheap tent with food in it, attacked by a bear.

KATMAI: [heatedly] Oh, sure, let Yosemite and Yellowstone take the glamorous bear detail. Come on. I know I’m way up in Alaska but if you want bears, do I ever have bears. I have a goddamn bearcam, for Christ’s sake!

YELLOWSTONE: Fine. You can do bears. But what am I going to do?

KATMAI: Dude, you’re the super famous one with Old Faithful. Plus I heard a rumor you’re sitting on top of a massive supervolcano. Doesn’t that beat having the nuclear codes? I’m sure you can figure something out, Mr. First National Park.

EVERGLADES: To switch gears for a minute, can we talk about how Trump wants to drain the swamp? I don’t like the sound of that.

BADLANDS: Understandable. You take charge of swamp defense. Oh, that reminds me. Anyone here abut or straddle a national boundary?


BADLANDS: Great. You three, you’re on border wall prevention. Do whatever it takes.

GLACIER: Sounds good.

BADLANDS: This is a great start. One more thing. Is Mount Rushmore here?


BADLANDS: Hey, neighbor, good to see you. I have your revolutionary assignment ready.

MOUNT RUSHMORE: I’ll do anything. Sniper attacks? Guerrilla warfare? Shearing off giant rocks and catapulting them onto the White House?

BADLANDS: I love the enthusiasm. But you don’t need to be violent. All you have to do is stay where you are and remind the entire nation of what a president should actually be.

Get Lost In This 1 Gigapexel Photo Inside the USAF Museum

Get Lost In This 1 Gigapexel Photo Inside the USAF Museum

Last summer the United States Air Force Museum officially opened the doors on their fourth hangar featuring some very exotic aircraft like the XB-70 Valkre Supersonic bomber. All the museum exhibits are open to the public free of charge, but if you can’t make the trip to Dayton, Ohio, this massive composite image is the next best thing.

The photo spans over 190 degrees from left to right and is compiled from 115 separate images stitched together to create a panoramic experience at a resolution of over 1 gigapixel—1,030 megapixels to be exact. During your virtual trip around the museum, you’ll get detailed views of the world’s fasted air breathing jet, the SR-71. You’ll also take a gander at the X-15, claiming the highest speed ever recorded by a manned aircraft.

There are many more fascinating aircraft ready to explore in four different—Presidential, Research and Development, Space, and Global Reach. The building also hosts three science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Learning Nodes. And if that doesn’t satiate your historic aircraft viewing cravings, the museum’s website also features 360-degree interactive cockpit photos from over 60 of its other exhibits.

To make these massive pictures, a photographer uses an automated rotating gimbal made by Gigapan. Once the boundaries of the desired image are defined, the device can automatically meter and focus through a series of shots all while seamlessly stitching them to create an impressive ultra high-resolution photo.

It’s a neat piece of a technology and a perfect one to show off examples of the U.S.’s aerospace achievement.

[You will have to go to the web page to see and manipulate the full picture.]

Adversity Inspires Politically Polarized Attitudes

Adversity Inspires Politically Polarized Attitudes

Many reasons have been offered for the increasing polarization of political attitudes. Now, a new study uncovers a different, more personal catalyst for moving to the far left or right.

It finds people who have experienced significant adversity in their lives are more likely to gravitate toward an extreme spot on the ideological spectrum.

This appears to be an example of “compensatory affirmation” — the widely reported tendency of people to respond to uncertainty or fear by clinging more closely to the belief systems that give their lives meaning. It appears that need to believe moves many to a more extreme position.

A research team led by Daniel Randles of the University of Toronto and Roxane Cohen Silver of the University of California–Irvine presents its findings in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The researchers used data from the Societal Implications Study, whose 1,613 participants were a nationally representative sample of Americans.

Participants were interviewed annually for three years, from 2006 through early 2009. On each occasion, they were asked their opinion on a series of questions referring to intergroup hostility and aggression, such as “The U.S. is justified in using torture to protect national security.”

“Cumulative lifetime adversity was measured by asking respondents whether they ever experienced each of 37 negative events, and the ages at which they occurred,” the researchers write. These included an illness or injury; physical violence; the death of a loved one; and experiencing a disaster such as a major earthquake or flood.

In their initial questionnaire, participants reported which of these they had experienced, how often, and when. As part of the two follow-ups, they updated the list to include more recent experiences.

The researchers found that, “regardless of direction, everyone is moved by adversity to become more polarized in their beliefs.” What’s more, experiencing a greater number of painful events nudges people “to holding ever more extreme positions.”

This shift “appears to be more strongly related to the experience of past, rather than recent, adversity,” the researchers add. They speculate that “once a person begins to show a tendency toward polarized thinking, the process becomes self-reinforcing and permanent.”

These findings come with several cautionary notes. The researchers point out that hardening one’s political beliefs as a “coping strategy” may be restricted to individualistic cultures such as our own. They add that adversity “is only one contributing factor behind a person’s motivation to take extreme or polar opinions.”

Still, it’s instructive to understand that certain psychological needs drive many people to the faux certainty of extreme beliefs. Rather than argue with your politically rigid neighbor, it might be more productive to get them to talk about the difficulties they have endured.

Scientists unveil new form of matter: Time crystals | EurekAlert! Science News

Scientists unveil new form of matter: Time crystals | EurekAlert! Science News

To most people, crystals mean diamond bling, semiprecious gems or perhaps the jagged amethyst or quartz crystals beloved by collectors.

To Norman Yao, these inert crystals are the tip of the iceberg.

If crystals have an atomic structure that repeats in space, like the carbon lattice of a diamond, why can’t crystals also have a structure that repeats in time? That is, a time crystal?

In a paper published online last week in the journal Physical Review Letters, the University of California, Berkeley assistant professor of physics describes exactly how to make and measure the properties of such a crystal, and even predicts what the various phases surrounding the time crystal should be — akin to the liquid and gas phases of ice.

This is not mere speculation. Two groups followed Yao’s blueprint and have already created the first-ever time crystals. The groups at the University of Maryland and Harvard University reported their successes, using two totally different setups, in papers posted online last year, and have submitted the results for publication. Yao is a co-author on both papers.

Time crystals repeat in time because they are kicked periodically, sort of like tapping Jell-O repeatedly to get it to jiggle, Yao said. The big breakthrough, he argues, is less that these particular crystals repeat in time than that they are the first of a large class of new materials that are intrinsically out of equilibrium, unable to settle down to the motionless equilibrium of, for example, a diamond or ruby.

“This is a new phase of matter, period, but it is also really cool because it is one of the first examples of non-equilibrium matter,” Yao said. “For the last half-century, we have been exploring equilibrium matter, like metals and insulators. We are just now starting to explore a whole new landscape of non-equilibrium matter.”

While Yao is hard put to imagine a use for a time crystal, other proposed phases of non-equilibrium matter theoretically hold promise as nearly perfect memories and may be useful in quantum computers.

An ytterbium chain

The time crystal created by Chris Monroe and his colleagues at the University of Maryland employs a conga line of 10 ytterbium ions whose electron spins interact, similar to the qubit systems being tested as quantum computers. To keep the ions out of equilibrium, the researchers alternately hit them with one laser to create an effective magnetic field and a second laser to partially flip the spins of the atoms, repeating the sequence many times. Because the spins interacted, the atoms settled into a stable, repetitive pattern of spin flipping that defines a crystal.

Time crystals were first proposed in 2012 by Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek, and last year theoretical physicists at Princeton University and UC Santa Barbara’s Station Q independently proved that such a crystal could be made. According to Yao, the UC Berkeley group was “the bridge between the theoretical idea and the experimental implementation.”

From the perspective of quantum mechanics, electrons can form crystals that do not match the underlying spatial translation symmetry of the orderly, three-dimensional array of atoms, Yao said. This breaks the symmetry of the material and leads to unique and stable properties we define as a crystal.

A time crystal breaks time symmetry. In this particular case, the magnetic field and laser periodically driving the ytterbium atoms produce a repetition in the system at twice the period of the drivers, something that would not occur in a normal system.

“Wouldn’t it be super weird if you jiggled the Jell-O and found that somehow it responded at a different period?” Yao said. “But that is the essence of the time crystal. You have some periodic driver that has a period ‘T’, but the system somehow synchronizes so that you observe the system oscillating with a period that is larger than ‘T’.”

Yao worked closely with Monroe as his Maryland team made the new material, helping them focus on the important properties to measure to confirm that the material was in fact a stable or rigid time crystal. Yao also described how the time crystal would change phase, like an ice cube melting, under different magnetic fields and laser pulsing.

The Harvard team, led by Mikhail Lukin, set up its time crystal using densely packed nitrogen vacancy centers in diamonds.

“Such similar results achieved in two wildly disparate systems underscore that time crystals are a broad new phase of matter, not simply a curiosity relegated to small or narrowly specific systems,” wrote Phil Richerme, of Indiana University, in a perspective piece accompanying the paper published in Physical Review Letters. “Observation of the discrete time crystal… confirms that symmetry breaking can occur in essentially all natural realms, and clears the way to several new avenues of research.”

Yao is continuing his own work on time crystals as he explores the theory behind other novel but not-yet-realized non-equilibrium materials.–sun012617.php

The Royal Archives Reveals the Hidden Genius Behind George III’s “Madness” | History | Smithsonian

The Royal Archives Reveals the Hidden Genius Behind George III’s “Madness” | History | Smithsonian

Windsor Castle is a hybrid of medieval treasure and modern marvel. Moving past guards and a fierce-looking cannon, I ascend 104 steps to reach the iconic Round Tower, where the Royal Archives are housed. There, a small army of researchers is orchestrating a revolution in archival access—one focused on George III, the monarch whose supposed tyranny sparked a revolution in the American colonies, shaping the course of world history.

Reading the royals’ mail in person at their castle calls for a bit of time travel. A few steps from William the Conqueror’s 11th-century footprint, technicians painstakingly stitch together digital images of manuscripts. Across the way, in the Royal Library, bibliographers bustle along the same walking gallery where Elizabeth I strode daily. Down in the bookbindery, a new fleet of apprentices learns to bind books, apply royal seals with gold finishing, and conserve volumes. Nearby, Windsor archivists ponder the metadata needed to make George’s life word-searchable and wrestle with imposing order on such a massive archive.

Blame the bustle on a horde of historians curious about George. They are now welcome in Windsor thanks to the Georgian Papers Programme, launched by Elizabeth II in April 2015 to open 350,000 private manuscripts to the public. In a milestone installment, roughly 33,000 documents of George III, Charlotte, and their royal household are now available to read online for free. By 2020, the entire archive will be online.

The newly accessible trove reveals a methodical monarch, the royal system he ran, and the dilemmas he met in doing so. For scholars, the archive offers a clearer window onto life at court from 1714 to 1837—and if scholars enter the archives with one snapshot of the king, they often leave with another.

“There is an extraordinary range of material, much of it unexplored, and always the chance of the serendipitous discovery,” says Arthur Burns, professor of British history at King’s College London, where he serves as the Programme’s academic director. “It’s a cliché, but it is also the case that all human life is there, from the kitchens to the closet, from war to farm management.”

Opening that vast window on the past hasn’t been easy. “The Georgian Papers is a fascinating puzzle, because the papers are not yet catalogued,” says Oliver Walton, the curator of the Historical Papers Project. “The big challenge for us is to make the papers discoverable for users while retaining the integrity of the historic arrangement, however complex that may have been.” To organize and transcribe the Georgian Papers, Windsor archivists have joined with the Royal Collection Trust and King’s College London. The collaboration has gone global. The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the College of William & Mary serve as the primary U.S. partners for the project, and have sponsored research fellows to study the archive. (You can apply here.) Mount Vernon, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Library of Congress have also announced their participation.

Conservators in Windsor’s high-tech laboratory have made many documents, despite a century or so of storage in a damp city cellar, research-ready. Some manuscripts are now mounted, windowpane style, with the intent of being bound. Ledgers, pamphlets, letterbooks and a few very personal tokens (like a lock of one child’s hair coiled up and sent by Charlotte to the royal governess) have weathered the centuries for scholars’ use.

“You feel an immediate connection to both the place and the materials,” says historian Andrew Beaumont. “When a letter comes out of the box marked Windsor, I certainly experienced that thrill of knowing that the letter had come from here, and eventually found its way back again.”

The archive painstakingly preserves a George who is more than a despot or a madman. “I got to know George III as a tyrant, as an awkward youth, and as a locus of patriotic celebration,” recalls historian Rachel Banke. What she found in the Georgian Papers led her to recast him as a careful political thinker and thwarted reformer, too. “He had high intentions to reform the political system and bring a virtue and success unknown to the nation since the Elizabethan era. His failures came not out of malice but resulted from mistakes, circumstances beyond his control, and the harsh consequences of a complex political system.”

George was America’s final king, and Australia’s first. He was the chief executive of a global empire who flooded ministers with instructions, hour to hour. And at least once, when politics drained his patience, King George III considered abdication. Duty reined him in.

Deep in his family papers, lie the instructions that George’s mother read aloud to him as a boy: reduce national debt, lower the interest rate (“for God’s Sake, do it”), avoid foreign war, and, above all, “never give up Your Honour nor that of the Nation.” So George stayed put at Britain’s helm, dating his memoranda down to the minute, and trusting spies like “Aristarchus” for covert intelligence on assassination plots.

He never traveled far from London, but George’s empire of ideas was vast. Around him, people fought wars, tried out parliamentary reforms, abolished the slave trade, and dove into industrialization. George interpreted the changing world in multiple tenses. Keenly, he eyed cultural shifts through the prisms of past history, present duty, and the nation’s future. He weighed out his words. From his Richmond observatory in June 1769, for example, George recorded the Transit of Venus, careful to note that it would not be enjoyed again until the far-off years of 1874 and 2004.

Familiar concerns, royal and domestic, frequently broke into the king’s stargazing. Along with German-born wife Queen Charlotte, George mulled over their daughters’ lessons and kept height charts of 15 children. Like any parent, he agonized over his son’s hard-partying ways. While crises like the American Revolution blossomed into all-out war, George tallied how many blankets British soldiers would need, and copied out long French naval lists. In quieter moments, “Farmer George” holed up in Windsor Castle and neatly drafted wide-ranging historical essays.

Troubled by mental illness (possibly hypomania) from the late 1780s until his death in 1820, George withdrew from political life by 1811. Contemporary caricaturists and modern scholars alike chose to depict him as a mad tyrant who lost the American colonies. Hailed in history books as Britain’s longest-reigning king, George III was often looked at but rarely seen.

Until now.

A first round of researchers has started to reframe George’s royal portrait—and review traditional takes on his personality and politics. On the page, Beaumont says, George rarely asked questions. He trusted advisers “until his trust was shown to have been misplaced, whereupon he showed a clear, ruthless edge.”

Yet the king was also kind, explains historian Cynthia A. Kierner, who has studied the culture of disaster relief. When a great fire ripped through Montreal in 1765, George sent £500 in aid to foster goodwill. His mother Augusta, the Princess of Wales, contributed to philanthropic causes, too. “Access to the collections in the Royal Archives led me to think about their humanitarian works in the larger context of the history of British philanthropy,” Kierner says.

George and Charlotte emerge anew as monarchs engaged with the issues of the day: revolution, slavery, religion, and reform. “The volume and detail of his papers emphasizes his role as chief executive of a global empire, heavily involved in many of the big decisions on policy and strategy,” says naval historian Andrew Lambert. “He was not a ceremonial figurehead.”

According to Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy, currently serving as the first Sons of the American Revolution visiting professor at King’s College, George’s use of political power merits extra scrutiny. After the Boston Tea Party of December 1773, O’Shaughnessy explains, George “became the most hawkish” of politicians. “He articulated better than most the reason for remaining in the war,” O’Shaughnessy says, “which he increasing argued was to maintain the importance of Britain as a power in Europe. He threatened to abdicate rather than accept the loss of America. He even wrote out his abdication.”

That March 1783 manuscript has proven rich for other scholars, too. “Where, for example, did George get the idea that he might want to abdicate in the first place? There were no relevant precedents in recent British history, and even in the European context few that matched the specific circumstance,” Burns says. “Thinking about this sends us back to other parts of the archive which chart the education through which he came to this understanding of what it was to be king, and the nature of the role.”

Unveiling the monarch and the man, the Georgian Papers are open for you to explore. Teams of transcribers are digging into the manuscripts, says historian Karin Wulf, director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, and more are welcome.

There’s always the chance to uncover the unexpected, and make a new people’s history of the Georgian era. Historian Suzanne Schwarz, busy researching George III’s role in the development of the African colony of Sierra Leone, came across a moving petition in her reading room pile. The letter was from Sarah McCoy, a pregnant mother who sought the king’s pardon. She hoped to “prevent her being transported,” a punishment she faced for a first offense of theft of “3 Childs caps valu[e]d 3d” and a handkerchief.

Did George extend his mercy? What was Sarah McCoy’s fate? The answer may lie inside Windsor—but now, it is no longer under lock and key.

Peter’s Choice | Mother Jones

Peter’s Choice | Mother Jones

This past October, I taught a weeklong seminar on the history of conservatism to honors students from around the state of Oklahoma. In five long days, my nine very engaged students and I got to know each other fairly well. Six were African American women. Then there was a middle-aged white single mother, a white kid who looked like any other corn-fed Oklahoma boy and identified himself as “queer,” and the one straight white male. I’ll call him Peter.

Peter is 21 and comes from a town of about 3,000 souls. It’s 85 percent white, according to the 2010 census, and 1.2 percent African American—which would make for about 34 black folks. “Most people live around the poverty line,” Peter told the class, and hunting is as much a sport as a way to put food on the table.

Peter was one of the brightest students in the class, and certainly the sweetest. He liked to wear overalls to school—and on the last day, in a gentle tweak of the instructor, a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. A devout evangelical, he’d preferred former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at the start of the primary season, but was now behind Donald Trump.

One day the students spent three hours drafting essays about the themes we’d talked about in class. I invited them to continue writing that night so the next morning we could discuss one of their pieces in detail. I picked Peter’s because it was extraordinary. In only eight hours he’d churned out eight pages, eloquent and sharp.

When I asked him if I could discuss his essay in this article, he replied, “That sounds fine with me. If any of my work can be used to help the country with its political turmoil, I say go for it!” Then he sent me a new version with typos corrected and a postelection postscript: “My wishful hope is that my compatriots will have their tempers settled by Trump’s election, and that maybe both sides can learn from the Obama and Trump administrations in order to understand how both sides feel. Then maybe we can start electing more moderate people, like John Kasich and Jim Webb, who can find reasonable commonality on both sides and make government work.” Did I mention he was sweet?

When he read the piece aloud in class that afternoon in October, the class was riveted. Several of the black women said it was the first time they’d heard a Trump supporter clearly set forth what he believed and why. (Though, defying stereotypes, one of these women—an aspiring cop—was also planning to vote for Trump.)

Peter’s essay took off from the main class reading, Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Its central argument is that conservative movements across history are united in their devotion to the maintenance of received social hierarchy. Peter, whose essay was titled “Plight of the Redneck,” had a hard time seeing how that applied to the people he knew.

“We all live out in the wilderness, either in the middle of a forest or on a farm,” he wrote. “Some people cannot leave their homes during times of unfortunate weather. Many still dry clothes by hanging them on wires with clothespins outside. These people are nowhere near the top, or even the middle, of any hierarchy. These people are scraping the bottom of the barrel, and they, seemingly, have nothing to benefit from maintaining the system of order that keeps them at the bottom.” His county ended up going about 70 percent for Trump.

Concerning race, Peter wrote, “In Oklahoma, besides Native Americans, there have traditionally been very few minorities. Few blacks have ever lived near the town that I am from…Even in my generation, despite there being a little more diversity, there was no racism, nor was there a reason for racism to exist.” His town’s 34 or so black people might beg to differ, of course; white people’s blindness to racism in their midst is an American tradition. As one of the African American students in the class—I’ll call her Karen—put it, whites in her town see “racism as nonexistent unless they witness it firsthand. And then it almost has to be over the top—undeniable acts of violence like hate crimes or cross burnings on front lawns—before they would acknowledge it as such.” But it’s relevant to the story I’m telling that I’m certain Peter isn’t individually, deliberately racist, and that Karen agrees.

Still, Peter’s thinking might help us frame a central debate on the left about what to make of Trump’s victory. Is it, in the main, a recrudescence of bigotry on American soil—a reactionary scream against a nation less white by the year? Or is it more properly understood as an economically grounded response to the privations that neoliberalism has wracked upon the heartland?

Peter knows where he stands. He remembers multiple factories and small businesses “shutting down or laying off. Next thing you know, half of downtown” in the bigger city eight miles away “became vacant storefronts.” Given that experience, he has concluded, “for those people who have no political voice and come from states that do not matter, the best thing they can do is try to send in a wrecking ball to disrupt the system.”

When Peter finished with that last line, there was a slight gasp from someone in the class—then silence, then applause. They felt like they got it.

I was also riveted by Peter’s account, convinced it might be useful as a counterbalance to glib liberal dismissals of the role of economic decline in building Trumpland. Then I did some research.

According to the 2010 census, the median household income in Peter’s county is a little more than $45,000. By comparison, Detroit’s is about $27,000 and Chicago’s (with a higher cost of living) is just under $49,000. The poverty rate is 17.5 percent in the county and 7.6 percent in Peter’s little town, compared with Chicago’s 22.7 percent. The unemployment rate has hovered around 4 percent.

The town isn’t rich, to be sure. But it’s also not on the “bottom.” Oklahoma on the whole has been rather dynamic economically: Real GDP growth was 2.8 percent in 2014—down from 4.3 percent in 2013, but well above the 2.2 percent nationally. The same was true of other Trump bastions like Texas (5.2 percent growth) and West Virginia (5.1 percent).

Peter, though, perceives the region’s economic history as a simple tale of desolation and disappointment. “Everyone around was poor, including the churches,” he wrote, “and charities were nowhere near (this wasn’t a city, after all), so more people had to use some sort of government assistance. Taxes went up [as] the help became more widespread.”

He was just calling it like he saw it. But it’s striking how much a bright, inquisitive, public-spirited guy can take for granted that just is not so. Oklahoma’s top marginal income tax rate was cut by a quarter point to 5 percent in 2016, the same year lawmakers hurt the working poor by slashing the earned-income tax credit. On the “tax burden” index used by the website WalletHub, Oklahoma’s is the 45th lowest, with rock-bottom property taxes and a mere 4.5 percent sales tax. (On Election Day, Oklahomans voted down a 1-point sales tax increase meant to raise teacher pay, which is 49th in the nation.).

As for government assistance, Oklahoma spends less than 10 percent of its welfare budget on cash assistance. The most a single-parent family of three can get is $292 a month—that’s 18 percent of the federal poverty line. Only 2,469 of the more than 370,000 Oklahomans aged 18 to 64 who live in poverty get this aid. And the state’s Medicaid eligibility is one of the stingiest in the nation, covering only adults with dependent children and incomes below 42 percent of the poverty level—around $8,500 for a family of three.

But while Peter’s analysis is at odds with much of the data, his overall story does fit a national pattern. Trump voters report experiencing greater-than-average levels of economic anxiety, even though they tend have better-than-average incomes. And they are inclined to blame economic instability on the federal government—even, sometimes, when it flows from private corporations. Peter wrote about the sense of salvation his neighbors felt when a Walmart came to town: “Now there were enough jobs, even part-time jobs…But Walmart constantly got attacked by unions nationally and with federal regulations; someone lost their job, or their job became part-time.”

It’s worth noting that if the largest retail corporation in the world has been conspicuously harmed by unions and regulations of late, it doesn’t show in its net profits, which were $14.69 billion in 2015.* And of course, Walmart historically has had a far greater role in shuttering small-town Main Streets than in revitalizing them. But Peter’s neighbors see no reason to resent it for that. He writes, “The majority of the people do not blame the company for their loss because they realize that businesses [are about] making money, and that if they had a business of their own, they would do the same thing.”

It’s not fair to beat up on a sweet 21-year-old for getting facts wrong—especially if, as is likely, these were the only facts he was told. Indeed, teaching the class, I was amazed how even the most liberal students took for granted certain dubious narratives in which they (and much of the rest of the country) were marinated all year long, like the notion that Hillary Clinton was extravagantly corrupt.

Feelings can’t be fact-checked, and in the end, feelings were what Peter’s eloquent essay came down to­—what it feels like to belong, and what it feels like to be culturally dispossessed. “After continually losing on the economic side,” he wrote, “one of the few things that you can retain is your identity. What it means, to you, to be an American, your somewhat self-sufficient and isolated way of life, and your Christian faith and values. Your identity and heritage is the very last thing you can cling to…Abortion laws and gay marriage are the two most recent upsets. The vast majority of the state of Oklahoma has opposed both of the issues, and social values cannot be forced by the government.”

On these facts he is correct: In a 2015 poll, 68 percent of Oklahomans called themselves “pro-life,” and only 30 percent supported marriage equality. Until 2016 there were only a handful of abortion providers in the entire state, and the first new clinic to open in 40 years guards its entrance with a metal detector.

Peter thinks he’s not a reactionary. Since that sounds like an insult, I’d like to think so, too. But in writing this piece, I did notice a line in his essay that I had glided over during my first two readings, maybe because I liked him too much to want to be scared by him. “One need only look to the Civil War and the lasting legacies of Reconstruction through to today’s current racism and race issues to see what happens when the federal government forces its morals on dissenting parts of the country.”

The last time I read that, I shuddered. So I emailed Peter. “I say the intrusions were worth it to end slavery and turn blacks into full citizens,” I wrote. “A lot of liberals, even those most disposed to having an open mind to understanding the grievances of people like you and yours, will have a hard time with [your words].”

Peter’s answer was striking. He first objected (politely!) to what he saw as the damning implication behind my observation. Slavery and Reconstruction? “I was using it as an example of government intrusion and how violent and negative the results can be when the government tries to tell people how to think. I take it you saw it in terms of race in politics. The way we look at the same thing shows how big the difference is between our two groups.”

To him, focusing on race was “an attention-grabbing tool that politicians use to their advantage,” one that “really just annoys and angers conservatives more than anything, because it is usually a straw man attack.” He compared it to what “has happened with this election: everyone who votes for Trump must be racist and sexist, and there’s no possible way that anyone could oppose Hillary unless it’s because they’re sexist. Accusing racism or sexism eliminates the possibility of an honest discussion about politics.”

He asked me to imagine “being one of those rednecks under the poverty line, living in a camper trailer on your grandpa’s land, eating about one full meal a day, yet being accused by Black Lives Matter that you are benefiting from white privilege and your life is somehow much better than theirs.”

And that’s when I wanted to meet him halfway: Maybe we could talk about the people in Chicago working for poverty wages and being told by Trump supporters that they were lazy. Or the guy with the tamale cart in front of my grocery store—always in front of my grocery store, morning, noon, and night—who with so much as a traffic violation might find himself among the millions whom Trump intends to immediately deport.

I wanted to meet him halfway, until he started talking about history.

“The reason I used the Civil War and Reconstruction is because it isn’t a secret that Reconstruction failed,” Peter wrote. “It failed and left the South in an extreme poverty that it still hasn’t recovered from.” And besides, “slavery was expensive and the Industrial Revolution was about to happen. Maybe if there had been no war, slavery would have faded peacefully.”

As a historian, I found this remarkable, since it was precisely what all American schoolchildren learned about slavery and Reconstruction for much of the 20th century. Or rather, they did until the civil rights era, when serious scholarship dismantled this narrative, piece by piece. But not, apparently, in Peter’s world. “Until urban liberals move to the rural South and live there for probably a decade or more,” he concluded, “there’s no way to fully appreciate the view.”

This was where he left me plumb at a loss. Liberals must listen to and understand Trump supporters. But what you end up understanding from even the sweetest among them still might chill you to the bone.

Plight of the Redneck