• The Fourth Part of the World: An Astonishing Epic of Global Discovery, Imperial Ambition, and the Birth of America
    The Fourth Part of the World: An Astonishing Epic of Global Discovery, Imperial Ambition, and the Birth of America
  • Da Vinci's Ghost: Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image
    Da Vinci's Ghost: Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image
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Blog Index
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Articles - A Newspaper, Magazine, and Online Sampler

"The Storyteller" (Tufts MagazineFall 2017
An interview with David Grann, the author of Flowers of the Killer-Moon.

"The World's Most Mysterious Book" (The Wall Street JournalDecember 10, 2016[subscription required]
The cryptographers who broke the ciphers used by the Germans and the Japanese during World War II were defeated by the Voynich Manuscript.

"The Slippery Slope to Extinction" (The Wall Street JournalMarch 21, 2015[subscription required]
Forty-thousand years ago, dogs proved themselves to be man’s best friend—and possibly the Neanderthals' enemy.

"Marco Polo's Visit to Alaska" (The Wall Street JournalNovember 28, 2014) [subscription required]
Was he guided around the Bering Strait by a grizzled Syrian sea dog?

"Catholic Confession's Steep Price" (The Boston GlobeFebruary 16, 2014)
Former seminarian John Cornwell traces how a sacrament went astray—and how it could be revived.

"When Paradise was on the Map" (The Boston GlobeJanuary 12, 2014)
The curious history of how cartographers located Eden—and hell.

"A 100 MPG Car? It's Already Possible" (The Boston GlobeDecember 8, 2013)
An interview with Jason Fagone, the author of Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America.

"King David, 'Vile Human Being'" (The Boston Globe, November 17, 2013)
An interview with Joel S. Baden, the author of The Historical David: The Real Life of an Invented Hero.

"Soaring Ambitions" (The American Scholar, Fall 2013)
A review of Falling Upwards, by Richard Holmes.

"The History of the Vitruvian Man" (The Huffington Post, February 16, 2012)
A brief slideshow focusing on the precedents for Leonardo's iconic image.

"The Other Vitruvian Man" (Smithsonian Magazine, February 2012)
Did Leonardo have help when he drew his famous image of a man in a circle and a square?

"Leonardo da Vinci: The Genius of Everything (Except Deadlines)" (London Times, Saturday Review, October 29, 2011)
Essay on Leonardo in Milan, in anticipation of the opening of a Da Vinci exhibit at the National Gallery, in London.
[Subscription and password required to view online]

How America Got Its Name” (Boston Globe, July 4, 2010)
Essay on Matthias Ringmann, the obscure scholar who coined the name America 

The Waldseemüller Map: Charting the New World” (Smithsonian, December, 2009)
The story of the map that named America
The Map That Changed the World” (BBC Magazine, October 28, 2009)
Story of the Waldseemüller map of 1507, the map that gave America its name
A World Redrawn” (Boston Globe, October 11, 2009)
How the map that named America also helped Copernicus rethink the nature of the cosmos
Armchair Travelers” (American Scholar, Fall, 2009)
Adventures in literary geography, with Petrarch and Boccaccio
Map Quest” (The Atlantic, January-February, 2007)
A journey to Alsace-Lorraine, the birthplace of the name America
Notes from Antiquity” (The Atlantic, November, 2002)
A profile of a scholar trying to reconstruct ancient Greek music
Oh Gods” (Cover story, The Atlantic, February, 2002)
A survey of the sociology of new religious movements
The Reinvention of Privacy” (Cover story, The Atlantic, March, 2001)
New businesses and technologies may help improve privacy, not erode it
Anthologized in The Best Business Stories of the Year: 2001

Author Interview, (The Atlantic Online, May 2000)
George Saunders, Pastoralia
Author Interview, (The Atlantic Online, March 2000)
Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point
The Money Artist” (The Atlantic, July, 1999)
A review of Boggs: A Comedy of Values, by Lawrence Weschler
What is the Koran?" (Cover story, The Atlantic, January 1999)
A report on the world of revisionist Koranic scholarship
Finalist, Livingston Award for Young Journalists, 1999

 New-Alphabet Disease?” (The Atlantic, July 1997)
A dispatch from on Azerbaijan on the country’s efforts to change alphabets
Finalist, Livingston Award for Young Journalists, 1997

Secondhand Music” (The Atlantic, April 1997)
A lighthearted musing on the chance harmonies created by the machines used in daily life
Featured on the radio program This American Life