By Zeynep Tufecki
When the polio vaccine was declared safe and effective, the news was met with jubilant celebration. Church bells rang across the nation, and factories blew their whistles. “Polio routed!” newspaper headlines exclaimed. “An historic victory,” “monumental,” “sensational,” newscasters declared. People erupted with joy across the United States. Some danced in the streets; others wept. Kids were sent home from school to celebrate.
One might have expected the initial approval of the coronavirus vaccines to spark similar jubilation — especially after a brutal pandemic year. But that didn’t happen. …
By Megan Garber
On Tuesday evening, at the start of his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson shared the results of an investigation that he and his staff had conducted into a well-known agent of American disinformation. “We spent all day trying to locate the famous QAnon,” Carlson said, “which, in the end, we learned is not even a website. If it’s out there, we could not find it.” They kept looking, though, checking Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Twitter feed and “the intel community,” before coming to the obvious conclusion: “Cable news” and “politicians talking on TV,” Carlson said, must be responsible…
This article is part of “Inheritance,” a project about American history and Black life.
By Adam Harris
Granddaddy’s voice was raspy; love laced his hello. His throne, a maroon recliner, filled the corner of the den in his ranch-style home. On a typical summer afternoon — during one of our weeklong sojourns back to Montgomery, Alabama, from wherever the Air Force took my dad — my cousins and I would be sprawled across the floor, keeping up a ruckus.
In the evening, Granddaddy would fumble with the remote, his hands worn from years working on the telephone lines for South…
By Rachel Gutman
The past 11 months have been a crash course in a million concepts that you probably wish you knew a whole lot less about. Particle filtration. Ventilation. Epidemiological variables. And, perhaps above all else, interdependence. In forming quarantine bubbles, in donning protective gear just to buy groceries, in boiling our days down to only our most essential interactions, people around the world have been shown exactly how linked their lives and health are. …
By Arthur C. Brooks
For years, I was haunted by a fear of failure. I spent my early adulthood as a professional French hornist, playing in chamber-music ensembles and orchestras. Classical music is a perilous business, relying on absolute precision. Playing the French horn, prone as it is to missing notes, is a virtual high-wire act in every concert. I could go from hero to goat within a few mistakes during a solo. I lived in dread, and it made my life and work misery.
By Elaine Godfrey
Dozens of Texans are dead because of the state’s energy crisis last week. Some froze in their bed or their living room. Others suffocated in their idling car, poisoned by carbon monoxide. A few perished in house fires while trying to keep their family warm. And millions spent days without heat or running water. Gaming out the electoral ramifications of an event when it’s still causing pain may seem crass. But the politics of the energy crisis are inextricable from the event itself. Many Texans blame the collapse of the power grid — the impetus for all…
The end of the coronavirus pandemic is on the horizon at last, but the timeline for actually getting there feels like it shifts daily, with updates about viral variants, vaccine logistics, and other important variables seeming to push back the finish line or scoot it forward. When will we be able to finally live our lives again?
Pandemics are hard to predict accurately, but we have enough information to make some confident guesses. A useful way to think about what’s ahead is to go season by season. In short: Life this spring will not be substantially different from the past…
By Marina Koren
The descent of a little rover from the top of the Martian atmosphere to the surface is one of the most notoriously stressful occasions in space exploration. When NASA’s newest rover, Perseverance, took the plunge last week, the engineers at mission control braced themselves. They knew just how much had to go right — and how much could go terribly wrong — in the next seven minutes.
By Zephyr Teachout
Big Tech companies are facing an existential crisis, but they are doing everything they can to resist it and keep things just as they are. Facebook and Google, in particular, want to keep playing three roles: essential infrastructure, publisher, and targeted-ad mogul. They want to be perceived as neutral platforms, while also being perceived as civically responsible, while also maximizing surveillance and the targeting of ads. That’s impossible — so the government has to force them to choose a new business model; or, rather, it has to choose for them.
Facebook and Google occupy an unprecedented political…
Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here.
The summer of 2021 is shaping up to be historic.
After months of soaring deaths and infections, COVID-19 cases across the United States are declining even more sharply than experts anticipated. This is expected to continue, and rates of serious illness and death will plummet even faster than cases, as high-risk populations are vaccinated. Even academics who have spent the pandemic delivering ominous warnings have shifted their tone to cautiously optimistic now that vaccination rates are exploding.