Natural Magic

A medieval-style painting of two nude figures, one facing forward and one facing backward, circled by an oval-shaped zodiac calendar.

Modern medicine is magic. Do we mean that literally or metaphorically? Well, yes and yes. For example, a key ingredient in some chemotherapy formulas for cancer—yew—was also an ingredient in the witches’ brew described in Shakespeare’s Macbeth along with “eye of newt and toe of frog.” Yew’s potent and unusual properties have been known to healers and wizards for centuries. Writing professor and author Ellen Wayland-Smith explores the medicine/magic connection more deeply while discussing her own cancer treatment in this March 2021 essay from American Scholar.

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The “Great Resignation” Is Finally Getting Companies to Take Burnout Seriously. Is It Enough?

An illustration of a man sitting at a desk looking at a computer monitor surrounded by tally marks.

They’re calling it the Great Resignation, and it’s all over the news these days. So many people quitting their jobs! What’s going on?! Pundits and analysts are looking from every angle, trying to get a handle on what may (or may not) be a huge trend here in the US at the end of 2021. In this October 2021 article, Time Magazine’s health correspondent Jamie Ducharme analyzes the situation, focusing on worker burnout, and offers suggestions for workers and their employers.

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Why Are So Many Americans Quitting Their Jobs?

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Has the pandemic changed you? What a silly question! Of course it has. Ahhh, but how deeply? In what ways? That question can’t be answered yet, and we may not be able to know for a very long time. In this October 2021 report, writer and journalist Greg Rosalsky, who covers a variety of financial topics for NPR’s Planet Money, investigates some of the reasons for the long arc of pandemic consequences, including the current phenomenon known as the Great Resignation.

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Why Is Blue So Rare in Nature?

A blue 3D computer generation of a feline.

Why are there no blue tigers? Come to think of it, there are no blue rabbits or squirrels, either. You’ve probably never lost any sleep pondering these questions, but in case you’re just curious, we’ve got some answers for you! Molecular biologist and science writer Joe Hanson made this 2018 video as an episode in his series It’s Okay To Be Smart, a project of PBS Digital Studios.

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How We Tell Stories in Texas

Shape of Texas on a red background, superimposed with various historical documents related to the state.

What do you remember learning in school about the history of your town or state? Did it give you a sense of pride? Now that you’re older and wiser, have you discovered anything that was left out (but probably shouldn’t have been)? In this July 2021 essay in Bitter Southerner, freelance writer and Texas native Sarah Enelow-Snyder writes about her exciting seventh grade field trip to the Alamo in San Antonio along with her critique of the ways that history is (and isn’t) taught in school.

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Making Gender-Neutral Emojis Is More Complicated Than You Think

Picture this: a teacher and a farmer are playfully chatting at a party. You got the image? OK, now here’s a question: in the mental picture you just created, does the farmer have a gender? Does the teacher? English doesn’t require gender marking on those two words the way that many other languages do. Still, all of us who are adults today have been deeply socialized to automatically apply a gender to any other human we encounter, even imaginary ones. That socialization is changing, of course, but while we’re in the midst of the changes, life can get a little complicated. Even emojis can have a hard time; in this November 2020 Wired report, freelance journalist Shira Telushkin explains the complications.

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The Science behind Social Media’s Hold on Our Mental Health

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We’ve been hearing for a while now that social media can have damaging effects on users’ mental health and sense of well-being. If we’re being honest, we probably have noticed some effects on our own selves that are not so desirable. What’s happening to cause that? Has all of humanity, and especially young people, just gone bonkers for social media? That’s not a very satisfying possibility, is it? Brittney McNamara, Teen Vogue’s features director, offers a better explanation in this November 2021 report.

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