Illustration: Alexis Jamet

Elemental Light Week

In the absence of light, how do your body and mind behave?

This story is a part of Elemental Light Week, a five-day series on what light does for your body, brain, and well-being.

In 1962, French geologist Michel Siffre started going underground. He conducted a series of experiments that involved sending human subjects — including himself — into dark caves alone, for months, without any clocks or calendars or contact with the outside world, aside from daily check-ins with his research team above. The subjects lived in total darkness except for a lightbulb that would turn on when they awoke and off when they went to sleep.

Siffre’s goal was to…


The Elemental Guide to Water

Everything you need to know about bubbly water and your body

This story is part of The Elemental Guide to Water, a five-part special report on the health benefits of water, the science behind seltzer, the truth about fancy H2O, the safety of tap water, and how much water you really need to drink.

Sparkling mineral water, seltzer, club soda — whatever you call it, carbonated water has permeated the market to the point of canned cocktails and anti-aging face wash. But how does it match up to regular water? Is it healthy for your body (or your skin)? Can you drink too much of it?

Health experts, for their part…


On platforms like Reddit, people are seeking opinions on anything from skin conditions to syphilis

Credit: EyeEm/Getty Images

From Baltimore to Beverly Hills, cases of the most commonly reported STDs have reached an all-time high. And in bathrooms and bedrooms across America, people are responding by dropping their pants, sliding a smartphone down there, and uploading photos of their private parts to the internet.

“Is this herpes?” asked one user on Reddit’s STD forum, including a photo of a rash on her bikini line.

“Just want to know what this is,” pled another, alongside several close-up photos of small bumps on and around his penis and scrotum.

Welcome to the world of online crowd-diagnosing, where communities like r/STD…


Plant-based patties are great for the environment. But what about for your body?

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A few years ago, chef Paul Canales was curious about the new and mysteriously meaty meatless burgers that were creeping onto the food scene. Products like the Impossible Burger were harder to get back then, but Canales managed to secure 20 pounds to play with at Duende, the Spanish restaurant he runs in Oakland, California.

“I wasn’t happy with it as a burger, so I came up with this idea of making a meatball,” Canales recalls. He added cumin, garlic, and parsley and fried the “meat” into something resembling Spanish-style meatballs, calling his creation albondigas improbables (improbable meatballs).

“People loved…


Illustration: George Greaves

The Elemental Guide to Napping

Who is allowed to rest in American society? Activists and “nap ministers” are embracing sleep as a political act

The Elemental Guide to Napping is a three-part special report. Read here about the science of napping and how to take the perfect nap.

It’s a chilly Sunday morning at an art gallery on Atlanta’s north west side. The stark room is dark except for the light thrown off by a few dozen flickering candles. Twenty strangers lay motionless on the cement floor. Devotional piano music trickles out from a speaker in the center of the room. Finally, Tricia Hersey strides in. …


Illustration: George Greaves

The Elemental Guide to Napping

Emerging evidence suggests a daytime snooze has powerful health benefits

The Elemental Guide to Napping is a three-part special report. Read here about how to take the perfect nap and how people are napping as a form of resistance.

As long as there’s been civilization, there’s been disagreement about the value of a nap. Plato viewed sleep as anti-social, writing that “a sleeper is of no more use than one who is dead.” Rabbis debated the topic in the Talmud, concluding that napping should be avoided most of the time. “It is forbidden for a man to sleep by day more than the sleep of a horse,” commentators wrote. “And…


Illustration: George Greaves

The Elemental Guide to Napping

10 science-backed tips for more productive shut-eye

The Elemental Guide to Napping is a three-part special report. Read about the science of napping and why napping should be more egalitarian.

My life to this point is marked off in two epochs: Before Nap and After Nap. From birth until about age 30, I had no patience for napping; naps left me groggy, hungry, cold, and disoriented, or feeling as if I was missing out on something much more interesting in the world. And that’s if I could fall asleep at all, which was almost never.

Seven years ago, that all changed when I moved to Spain on…


For over 100 years, the bubbly beverage has gone in and out of vogue as a wellness tonic

Illustration: Jaedoo Lee

“Three or four or five years ago, a man looked more or less ashamed of himself when he ordered ginger ale, lemon soda, or seltzer,” a bartender noted. “Nowadays, however, everything is changed. [Soft] beverages are the taste of the day.”

It’s a pretty astute summary of today’s craze for fizzy drinks, right? Except this observation was made not in 2019, but in 1885.

The quote comes from author Barry Joseph’s 2018 book Seltzertopia: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary Drink, which underlines the enduring popularity of seltzer in America, far beyond the surprise 21st-century resurgence of La Croix.

“Seltzer…


Is she crazy? Or crazy like a fox? A financial illiterate investigates.

Illustration: Nicole Ginelli

The envelope arrived in my mailbox on a Tuesday. I recognized the block-lettered handwriting on the front as my mother’s. Inside was a typewritten missive addressed to my sister and me. Two short but alarming paragraphs informed us that our mother had withdrawn a not-insignificant portion of our inheritance and buried it — literally — in the ground.

At the bottom of the page were instructions on how to locate the interred treasure, consisting of paper bills and gold and silver coins, in the event of a global financial meltdown.

My phone rang a few hours later.

“Dude,” my sister’s…


Reasonable Doubt

Studies show that “nine-enders” are prone to do more ambitious and extreme things. Does the same hold for countries?

Illustration: David Jien

There’s something different about the number nine. We know this intuitively, right? It’s why everything on late-night infomercials is priced at $999.99 instead of a cool thou, and why a dress marked up to $39 sells better than the same dress sells at $34. It’s like there’s an urgency associated with being pushed right up against a big round number — something that makes us want to act before the ticker rolls over to zero.

Maybe I’m thinking about this because I’m facing a big birthday this year — the one that used to mean someone would buy you a…

Maya Kroth

Itinerant journo, ex @fulbrightprgrm Spain & @sipiapa_oficial in Mex, interested in siesta, travel, food, journalism, bicycles & bourbon.

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