Handy Andy Junior Chemistry Lab, 1955.

Handy Andy Junior Chemistry Lab, 1955.

What We’re Talking About

Science History Institute staff recommends articles and blog posts from around the web to add to your binge lists.

Science History Institute staffers are a diverse bunch: we’re historians, museum professionals, photographers, writers, rare books specialists, editors, librarians, podcasters, and archivists. We’re also parents, science-fiction nerds, marathon runners, tea aficionados, foodies, and of course, readers. Each month Distillations asks a few of these varied experts to share the articles and content from around the web that have them the most excited. Here are some of their responses to make your must-read (or listen) list just a little bit longer.

Director of the Center for Applied History Britt Dahlberg is excited to be reading Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet. The book challenges our ideas of human biology. We often think of ourselves as individual humans with boundaries, but this book examines the many complex organisms that live within humans and the relationships we have with them.

A lot has been written about the rise of facial-recognition technology and mass surveillance, and managing editor of Distillations Clay Cansler recommends this recent New Yorker article for anyone interested in the topic. Facial-recognition technology has remarkable potential, but the article looks at the lack of regulations for how authorities can use it.

Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and digital engagement manager Ashley Bowen will read almost anything about illness and haunting. She recommends this piece for Narratively, an account of living with Lyme disease and going on a paranormal investigation. The author probes how you can trust your own experience and what it means when the pain of an illness lingers in unpredictable ways.

It turns out that an analysis of ancient tooth tartar can tell us a lot about medieval book production. Collections photographer Jay Muhlin recommends this article from the Atlantic that describes the fascinating story of ultramarine pigments preserved in 1,000-year-old dental tartar. The teeth belonged to a woman buried at an ancient monastery in Germany and provide clues about the role of female artists in ancient bookmaking.

Development data processor Kelly Smith wonders how our parents survived childhood after reading this Mental Floss piece about dangerous items that used to be part of chemistry kits. It’s hard to imagine giving a blowtorch to a youngster, but that’s just one of the objects that made this list.

Zackary Biro

is a program associate in the Institute’s Center for Applied History.