As the mercury ticked upward in Portland, Ore., last month, I braced for my apartment to become unbearable.
Normally, my un-air-conditioned basement unit would be fine for the Pacific Northwest’s temperate summers. But these are not normal times.
Climate change has lengthened and intensified heat waves, pushing temperatures to unheard-of extremes. In Portland, a new all-time high was set three days in a row: First, 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Then 113 degrees. Then 116.
To my astonishment, the apartment stayed tolerable all weekend. The tile floors seemed to emanate coolness. The greenery surrounding my windows blocked direct sunlight and helped bring down the temperature of the outside air. I didn’t have a thermometer, but my guess is that the temperature inside never got above 80 degrees.
The following is a guest post by Micah Messenheimer, Curator of Photography, Prints & Photographs Division.
This week’s anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing provides a perfect opportunity to explore our holdings of lunar photography in the Prints & Photographs Division.
From the medium’s beginnings, the moon fascinated photographers as both a subject of scientific inquiry and as poetic muse. Early efforts to photograph the moon were often met with failure due to the low sensitivity of available materials.
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre attempted photographs in his eponymous process around 1838 that were described as “fuzzy and low in details,” by his advocate, François Arago. Successful photographs of the moon using the daguerreotype process would not be made until over a dozen years later, when the celebrated Boston portrait photographer John Adams Whipple sought the assistance of Harvard astronomer William Cranch Bond and his son, George Phillips Bond.
Using the college observatory’s Great Refractor telescope, they captured the sphere in its waxing gibbous phase on March 14, 1851.
While humans have been struggling to control the Covid-19 pandemic, baking in record heat, and trying to figure out how not to run out of water, our spacecraft on Mars have been enjoying a rather more tranquil existence.
(Not needing to breathe helps.) Parked on the Martian surface, the InSight lander is listening for marsquakes, while the Perseverance rover is rolling around in search of life.
This week, scientists are dropping an Olympus Mons of findings from the two brave robots. In three papers published today in the journal Science—each authored by dozens of scientists from around the world—researchers detail the clever ways they used InSight’s seismometer to peer deep into the Red Planet, giving them an unprecedented understanding of its crust, mantle, and core.
It’s the first time scientists have mapped the interior of a planet other than Earth. And yesterday, another group of scientists held a press conference to announce early research results from Perseverance, and the next steps the rover will take to explore the surface of Jezero Crater, once a lake that could have been home to ancient microbial life.
About the author: Conor Friedersdorf is a California-based staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.
Behold California, colossus of the West Coast: the most populous American state; the world’s fifth-largest economy; and arguably the most culturally influential, exporting Google searches and Instagram feeds and iPhones and Teslas and Netflix Originals and kimchi quesadillas.
This place inspires awe.
If I close my eyes I can see silhouettes of Joshua trees against a desert sunrise; seals playing in La Jolla’s craggy coves of sun-spangled, emerald seawater; fog rolling over the rugged Sonoma County coast at sunset into primeval groves of redwoods that John Steinbeck called “ambassadors from another time.”
This landscape is bejeweled with engineering feats: the California Aqueduct; the Golden Gate Bridge; and the ribbon of Pacific Coast Highway that stretches south of Monterey, clings to the cliffs of Big Sur, and descends the kelp-strewn Central Coast, where William Hearst built his Xanadu on a hillside where his zebras still graze.
No dreamscape better inspires dreamers. Millions still immigrate to my beloved home to improve both their prospects and ours.
Yet I fear for California’s future. The generations that reaped the benefits of the postwar era in what was the most dynamic place in the world should be striving to ensure that future generations can pursue happiness as they did. Instead, they are poised to take the California Dream to their graves by betraying a promise the state has offered from the start.
Editor’s Note: Read more, see link below for original item…