Children playing in the remains of King Henry’s Sans-Souci Palace in Milot, Haiti, 8 September 2017. Photo by Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

Essay/
Nations and empires
The king of Haiti’s dream

How a utopian vision of Black freedom and self-government was undone in a world still in thrall to slavery and racism

Marlene L Daut

A facsimile of the Carta marina (1539) by Olaus Magnus. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Essay/
Astronomy
Here be black holes

Like sea monsters on premodern maps, deep-space images are science’s fanciful means to chart the edges of the known world

Surekha Davies

Scientists near the Daneborg research station in Greenland, July/August 2014. Photo by Jean Gaumy/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of science
The necessity of awe

In awe we hold fast to nature’s strangeness and open up to the unknown. No wonder it’s central to the scientific imagination

Helen De Cruz

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An Indian worker shows a European man a sample of opium taken from one of the large clay pots in the foreground. Photo by Bourne and Shepherd/British Library

Essay/
Global history
From vice to crime

European empires were addicted to opium smoking. Then their own agents launched a moral crusade to prohibit it

Diana S Kim

A Catholic nun and a young Hispanic immigrant in Central Park, New York, 1976. Photo by Richard Kalvar/Magnum

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Laughter is vital

For philosopher Henri Bergson, laughter solves a serious human conundrum: how to keep our minds and social lives elastic

Emily Herring

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An Ashokan pillar at Vaishali, India. Photo by Rajeez Kumar/Wikipedia

Essay/
The ancient world
Ashoka’s moral empire

Being good is hard. How an ancient Indian emperor, horrified by the cruelty of war, created an infrastructure of goodness

Sonam Kachru

A view of Singapore’s central business district from a hotel along Beach Road. Much of Singapore’s recent development has been built upon land reclaimed from the sea. Photo by Sim Chi Yin/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Politics and government
The ungoverned globe

The end of the liberal order would unleash chaos; its continuance means unconstrained economic suffering. What to do?

Benjamin Studebaker

Joan Miller in labour. Chicago, 19 September 1946. Photo by Wayne Miller/Magnum

Essay/
Pleasure and pain
The hysteria accusation

Women’s pain is often medically overlooked and undertreated. But the answer is not as simple as ‘believing all women’

Elizabeth Barnes

A section of the Andromeda galaxy M31, from the largest and most detailed image ever taken with the Hubble telescope. The full image shows more than 100 million stars stretching across more than 40,000 light years. Photo courtesy NASA, ESA, J Dalcanton, B F Williams, L C Johnson (University of Washington), the PHAT team and R Gendler

Essay/
Astronomy
Does dark matter exist?

Dark matter is the most ubiquitous thing physicists have never found: it’s time to consider alternative explanations

Ramin Skibba

Photo by Martin Roemers/Panos

Essay/
Mental health
Unboxing mental health

Our system for diagnosing mental disorders doesn’t work. The transdiagnostic model offers a humane, clinically sound alternative

Melissa Black

The cleaner wrasse (pictured here accompanying the larger black-and-white snapper) can seemingly recognise itself in a mirror. Photo by Ullstein Bild/Getty

Essay/
Biology
The face of the fish

They’re not cuddly, they don’t behave at all like us – yet they are sentient. Why fish belong in the moral community

Michael Woodruff

An Ashokan pillar at Vaishali, India. Photo by Rajeez Kumar/Wikipedia

Essay/
The ancient world
Ashoka’s moral empire

Being good is hard. How an ancient Indian emperor, horrified by the cruelty of war, created an infrastructure of goodness

Sonam Kachru

A group gather to watch another victim taken to a hospital during the 1956 polio epidemic in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Francis Miller/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

Essay/
Illness and disease
Stealth infections

From the Black Death to polio, the most dangerous pathogens have moved silently, transmitted by apparently healthy people

Wendy Orent

Detail from Beethoven Frieze, Hostile Forces (1902) by Gustav Klimt, on display at the Secession Building, Vienna. Courtesy Wikipedia

Essay/
Music
Vienna, city of paradox

How did the city of elegant classicism give birth to an explosive modernism, threatening to destroy its very traditions?

Alexander Carpenter

Joan Miller in labour. Chicago, 19 September 1946. Photo by Wayne Miller/Magnum

Essay/
Pleasure and pain
The hysteria accusation

Women’s pain is often medically overlooked and undertreated. But the answer is not as simple as ‘believing all women’

Elizabeth Barnes

A section of the Andromeda galaxy M31, from the largest and most detailed image ever taken with the Hubble telescope. The full image shows more than 100 million stars stretching across more than 40,000 light years. Photo courtesy NASA, ESA, J Dalcanton, B F Williams, L C Johnson (University of Washington), the PHAT team and R Gendler

Essay/
Astronomy
Does dark matter exist?

Dark matter is the most ubiquitous thing physicists have never found: it’s time to consider alternative explanations

Ramin Skibba

Václav Havel wrote: ‘all at once, I seemed to rise above the coordinates of my momentary existence in the world into a kind of state outside time …’ Photo by Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Peak ellipsis

Does philosophy reside in the unsayable or should it care only for precision? Carnap, Heidegger and the great divergence

Sam Dresser

A guard in the ‘segregation block’ at the Adelanto Detention Center, the latest Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in California and managed by the private GEO Group. ICE detains an average of 33,000 undocumented migrants. Photo by John Moore/Getty

Essay/
Human rights and justice
Private gain, public loss

Putting public services in private hands is bad economics. Worse, it undermines our bonds as a political community

Alon Harel