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A resident of the 6th floor of an apartment block gazes at the damage after the balcony fell from his 13 year old apartment in Shenyang, China. Photo by Stringer/Reuters

Essay/
Making
Chabuduo! Close enough …

Your balcony fell off? Chabuduo. Vaccines are overheated? Chabuduo. How China became the land of disastrous corner-cutting

James Palmer

At a café in Turin, Italy. Photo by Martin Parr/Magnum

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Food and drink
Joy in the task

Even the finest restaurants are serving coffee made with capsules. Have we lost faith in the human touch?

Julian Baggini

Illustration by Matt Murphy

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Stories and literature
Future reading

Digital books stagnate in closed, dull systems, while printed books are shareable, lovely and enduring. What comes next?

Craig Mod

Photo by Gallery Stock

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Language and linguistics
See through words

The metaphor designer isn’t trying to make something beautiful. She wants to change your view on things. Here’s how

Michael Erard

Lauren Bowker and her studio THE UNSEEN have come up with a revolutionary fabric that changes color with the wind. Photo courtesy The Unseen/Jonny Lee Photography

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Design and fashion
Losing the thread

Older than bronze and as new as nanowires, textiles are technology — and they have remade our world time and again

Virginia Postrel

Millions of Zimbabwean Dollars. By 2009, hyperinflation had rendered the currency worthless. Photo by Robin Hammond/Panos

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Anthropology
Riches beyond belief

If you want to know what money is, don’t ask a banker. Take a leap of faith and start your own currency

Brett Scott

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket/Getty

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Art
Is it OK to make art?

If you express your creativity while other people go hungry, you’re probably not making the world a better place

Rhys Southan

From the Automata of al-Jaziri or the Book of Knowledge of Mechanical Devices. Photo by Werner Forman/Getty Images

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Automation and robotics
Preternatural machines

Robots came to Europe before the dawn of the mechanical age. To a medieval world, they were indistinguishable from magic

E R Truitt

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Ethics
The art of butchery

How we lost touch with animals, life and death, and learned to find butchery repulsive while eating more meat than ever

Amanda Giracca

At work in the workshop of a blacksmith in Klitten, Germany, 2018. Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images

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Making
Material intelligence

The chasm between producers and consumers leaves many of us estranged from beauty and a vital part of an ethical life

Glenn Adamson

Macbook x ray. Photo courtesy Jason De Villa

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Computing and artificial intelligence
Get under the hood

Our laptops are sleek and polished. Our operating systems are fluid and intuitive. Computing is easy and that’s a problem

Samuel Arbesman

Illustration by Richard Wilkinson

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Food and drink
Sacrament

Wine is an elixir, a miracle-worker and shapeshifter – no wonder even the most secular of us hold it sacred still

Ross Andersen

Photo by Marshall Johnson/Gallerystock

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Art
Making good

Repairing things is about more than thrift. It is about creating something bold and original

Philip Ball

Aerial view of the Apollo 9 space vehicle on the way from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center. 3 January 1969. By 1966, NASA directly employed a staff of 36,000, with another 400,000 people working for 20,000 contractors and 200 universities in 80 countries. Photo courtesy NASA

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The future
Where did the grandeur go?

Superlative things were done in the past century by marshalling thousands of people in the service of a vision of the future

Martin Parker

Detail from Beer Club by Georges Lilanga, 2000. Photo courtesy Contemporary African Art Collection Ltd/Corbis

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Consciousness and altered states
The bitter truth

Today’s bitter craft beers are dominated by hoppy preservatives. How did they taste back when brewers were shamans?

William Bostwick

General Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars Episode 1; The Phantom Menace. Photo courtesy Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox

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Automation and robotics
Numbing the imagination

CGI has become wearingly dull and cliched. Can its deep weirdness be recovered and filmgoers’ minds stretched again?

Jonathan Romney

A wall in the studio of artist Ellsworth Kelly. Photo by Alex Majoli and Daria Birang/Magnum

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Art
Sparks will fly

Infatuated by celebrity, stuck in dreary work, addicted to consumerism. Only a creator culture can save us

Damien Walter

Impressive hardware at Pacific Biosciences, a genome sequencing company. Photo by Gregg Segal/Gallery Stock

Essay/
Engineering
Machine envy

Giant instruments are giving us a sea of data. Can science find its way without any big ideas at the helm?

Philip Ball

Feelings are Facts, an installation by Olafur Eliasson and Ma Yansong. Photo by Feng Li/Getty

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Art
The arts electric

Digital art and culture mustn’t get caught up in the tools of its making or it will never transport us somewhere new

Tom Uglow