Stephen Davies tackles one of the biggest of big questions: How did the world we live in — the modern world — so radically and rapidly diverge from the world of our pre-modern ancestors? A review of The Great Cities in History. A look at how lice thwarted Napoleon's invasion of Russia. What historians don't study says volumes; a case in point is widespread acceptance of the thesis that slaves did not rebel during the Civil War. Tall tales from the past: Meet the "JK Rowling of history textbooks". A soap dish that changed history: Lars Brownworth on the enduring yet seldom-appreciated significance of a seventh-century emperor's bath. The first chapter from Hysteria Complicated by Ecstasy: The Case of Nanette Leroux by Jan Goldstein. A review of Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath by Carlo Ginzburg. The writing life: Gordon Wood on defending the academicians. Mysteries of the ancient world: Smithsonian reports on Stonehenge, Alexandria, Hatshepsut, the Parthenon, the Vikings, ancient Ithaca, and Easter Island. Historians despair at the thought of finding anything new about the second world war. Us and them: Human history, perhaps, was shaped mostly by walls. The first chapter from Secular Cycles by Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov. A review of Blood, Iron and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World by Christian Wolmar. A review of Paul Johnson's Churchill (and more and more and more). A lost European culture, pulled from obscurity: A little-known people existing before ancient Egypt and Greece’s glory worked with metal and had an evolved visual language (and more and more). A look at the 7 most badass last stands in the history of battle.

A new issue of Lost is out. From n+1, a review of Cristina Nehring's A Vindication of Love: Reinventing Romance for the 21st Century and Julie Metz's Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal (and a response). Cornel West was in The Matrix, but cultural politics isn't a video game; Scott McLemee responds to the continuing discussion. The key to decoding the Bible is understanding its poetry: A review of A Literary Bible by David Rosenberg. A review of Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici. From CJR, Michael Massing on David Ignatius’s Helicopter Journalism: What a delight it must be to be a columnist for a major American newspaper. Christopher Hayes reviews Interesting Times: Writing from a Turbulent Decade by George Packer (and more). Days of the undead: Our fascination with horror films reflects the anxiety of the middle classes — caught between proletariat zombies and vampire toffs. Ron Rosenbaum on the dangerous mysteries of consciousness: We still need answers. Tinker, tailor, soldier, illusionist: When the CIA tried its hand at magic (and more). Still sexually confused (but not gay) ex-megapastor Ted Haggard is preaching again and his old friends, James Dobson among them, are not happy about it — forgiveness only goes so far, apparently. Death to smiley: Mary Elizabeth Williams on why emoticons need to die. The world may be getting smaller, but it's also getting a whole lot faster: A review of Time by Eva Hoffman. A review of Deconstructing Developmental Psychology by Erica Burman. Why do we make artificial snow? Uh, because we can.

From High Country News, the idea of a "nation's park" was first conceived by artist and ethnographer George Catlin; and socialism and the West: This region was built on government subsidies and aid. Preserving America and a few secrets: The John Birch Society is passionate about following the Constitution, but not so much about divulging information. A review of Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing by Arnie Bernstein. From Tradition, Family, and Property, a look at the cult of ugliness in America. The militarization of America: William Polk on how the Pentagon came to run Washington. Who were the Anasazi? The Navajo stake a controversial claim to an ancient legacy. What after all do Americans mean when they say they love "liberty"? A review of Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor by Tad Friend. A review of The Death of "Why?": The Decline of Questioning and the Future of Democracy by Andrea Batista Schlesinger. Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins on 5 myths about our land of opportunity. For many people "rural" is synonymous with low incomes, limited economic opportunity, and poor schools; however, a recent study found that much of rural America is actually prosperous. Green acres is the place to be: The recession is inspiring more young families and singles to head back to the country. There’s no place like hme: Fewer Americans are relocating than at any time since 1962 — that's good news for families, communities and even the environment. From Vermont Commons, a look at how with secession timing is everything (and it's all about money).

Benedict XVI, a noted liturgist himself who is no fan of the past 40 years of change, has slowly reversed the innovations of his predecessors, and says the journey toward union with the Orthodox must continue despite those who are blocking the Holy Spirit. Pope Benedict XVI and the Anglican outreach: Is Pope Benedict a closet liberal? Frank Cocozzelli on the politics of schism in the Catholic Church. A review of The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church by John L. Allen Jr. More on A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch. A review of Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades by Jonathan Phillips. A review of The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam by Jonathan Riley-Smith. Tu Quoque: Ibn Warraq on Islam and the Crusades. From Homiletic & Pastoral Review, James V. Schall on the ambiguity of Islam. A review of The Theology of Tariq Ramadan: A Catholic Perspective by Gregory Baum. Islam’s Darwin problem: In the Muslim world, creationism is on the rise. Images of the Prophet Muhammad: Are they really prohibited in Islam? A review of From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy by Kenan Malik. A review of Dying for Heaven: Holy Pleasure and Suicide Bombers — Why the Best Qualities of Religion Are Also its Most Dangerous by Ariel Glucklich. Religions' moral potential: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Nathan the Wise is probably the most significant parable about tolerance between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. A review of books on Jewish fundamentalism. The introduction to Covenantal Rights: A Study in Jewish Political Theory by David Novak.

An interview with Marcus Chown on books about cosmology. Splitting time from space, toppling Einstein's spacetime: Buzz about a quantum gravity theory that sends space and time back to their Newtonian roots. A review of Cracking the Einstein Code: Relativity and the Birth of Black Hole Physics by Fulvio Melia. Stephen Hawking, the master of time, space, and black holes, steps back into the spotlight to secure his scientific legacy, and to explain the greatest mystery in physics: the origin of the universe (and more). Black hole caught zapping galaxy into existence? New observations of galactic clusters have revealed a controversial phenomenon called “dark flow” which could be a sign of parallel universes (and more). Exploring the multiverse: Do quantum computers offer proof of parallel universes, and where does that leave philosophers? A review of In Search of the Multiverse by John Gribbin. If we live in a multiverse, it's reasonable to ask how many other distinguishable universes we may share it with — now physicists have an answer. Why does the universe look the way it does? Sean Carroll investigates. Will physicists destroy the world?: Lloyd Lueptow on the Large Hadron Collider and the threats of catastrophe (and a response by Lawrence Krauss). Without destroying the Earth, the LHC might help humans explore the cosmos. Let’s Get Metaphysical: George Dvorsky on the LHC and how our ongoing existence could appear increasingly absurd. Here are seven questions that keep physicists up at night.

From The New Yorker, the health-care bill has no master plan for curbing costs — is that a bad thing? You think a tiny band of verbose old folks couldn’t stand in the way of a nation of 300 million? Meet the U.S. Senate. German Lessons: Should progressives frustrated with our democracy pine for a parliamentary system? Who are the Blue Dogs? Michael Tomasky investigates. The right's myth about Obama's cabinet: Conservatives claim a lack of private sector experience in the administration, based on faulty numbers. A look at why every one of us should be guaranteed a job. Christina Romer on putting Americans back to work. Michael Maiello on a Marshall Plan for America: The jobs crisis demands drastic government action. Should public-sector jobs come first?: There's "Room for Debate" at the Times. Federalism and Its Discontents: The states are drowning — the best life-preserver that Washington can throw at them is to take over Medicaid. Meet Ron Bloom, the proletarian schlub who might just save American industry. Steven Pearlstein on how Obama's Stimulus 2.0 acknowledges government's limitations. Why Obama can't create jobs: The White House summit on employment was a sham — the only way to bring the jobs back is to get rid of Ben Bernanke. Here are 10 reasons Bernanke should be fired. John Judis on Bernanke's conservative message. Reining in, and reigning over, Wall Street: An interview with Elizabeth Warren, President Obama's point person for financial regulation. Why are good policies bad politics? Brad DeLong wants to know.

From New York, here's the Encyclopedia of Counterintuitive Thought: For pundits, Freakonomists, and Malcolm Gladwell, following the crowd meant going against the grain; and here's their 00’s Issue, in which they try to hash out the effects of a decade when the notion of authority was turned on its head. From Nerve, a look at the biggest disappointments of the ’00s. List-making for the end of the first decade of the 2000s is in full swing. Dead Men Walking: Niall Ferguson on why 2009's truly top thinkers are yesterday's news. The ghost of John C. Calhoun walks: To avoid being tagged as racist, professors retreat to the Abbeville Institute to study the virtues of secession, quietly. Love's bite is deeper, Tiger: A review of Eloge de l'Amour by Alain Badiou. What was the American public not paying attention to when Tiger Woods and the White House party crashers established control of the airwaves? Not much, unless you count Afghanistan, the Comcast-NBC merger, and the relentless march of Obama Care. Aristotle said appetite is the cause of all actions that appear pleasant, but also a source of moral badness — which explains mixed results with pot. Reminding Caesar of God’s existence: An interview with Robert George on the Manhattan Declaration. An interview with Cory Doctorow on how DIY technology will transform the world. The images dancing in David Gelernter's head: Sixteen years ago, a package blew apart his world — that's when he found his polymathic, political, artistic self. The XXX Factor: Here is an uncensored history of swearing on TV. That Old Sinatra Magic: Tony Bennett salutes Frank Sinatra, for showing the way.

A review of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler. Can compulsively searching, instead of merely surfing, lead to greater cognitive benefits for netizens? Short and tweet: There could be hidden benefits to our busy, distracted lives. From The Wilson Quarterly, Tyler Cowen on Three Tweets for the Web: Welcome the new world with open arms — and browsers. The Big Money's Twitter 12 is a list of the 12 companies that are using Twitter most efficiently (and here is TBM's Facebook 50). Getting political on social network sites: Exploring online political discourse on Facebook. Richard Rushfield was confident his new memoir of his college years was accurate, until old friends and enemies started contradicting and questioning his memories on their Facebook profiles. Facebook, the mean girls and me: At 34 years old, I finally feel like a popular seventh-grader — how sad is that? The dark side of "Webtribution": For much of human history, taking revenge on your enemies was too much of a hassle for most people to bother with — thanks to the Internet, it is easier, and nastier, than ever. The rise and fall of MySpace: News Corp’s purchase of the networking site earned Rupert Murdoch instant cache as an internet leader — but four years later, it has become more of a liability (and more). A look at how YouTube has become the People's University of the Internet. Flash flood: the (very short) story of YouTube. Take a look inside the random, and functional real-world offices of Google, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, YouTube and Tumblr.

From the Mises Institute, an essay on what libertarianism is; an article on the trouble with democracy; it started with Plato: The issue is whether in the game of life the government shall captain the national team or shall act as referee; a review of How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, From the Pilgrims to the Present by Thomas J. DiLorenzo; and why is capitalism so unpopular? From The New Individualist, a special section on self-ownership; and the 20th century brought sexual liberation, but it also brought anti-capitalism — so we now have the inverted situation in which sexual desire is fine and open, but the profit motive is the dirty secret: everyone does it but no one wants to say so. From Reason, "what you're left with is libertarianism": Greg Gutfeld on what guys like to read, what meth addicts do to toasters, and why liberals and conservatives are so annoying; and are property rights enough, or should libertarians care about cultural values? Richard Hoste on Ron Paul’s The Revolution and libertarianism’s fatal flaw. Do market libertarians believe their own hype?: Sticking to shareholder-value theories is nearly impossible. A review of The Libertarian Illusion: Ideology, Public Policy, and the Assault on the Common Good by William E. Hudson. Atlas Drugged: Her fans still find her intoxicating, but will the right ever truly embrace Ayn Rand, and are her new fans radical enough for capitalism? (and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more) Will everyone please stop freaking out over Ayn Rand?

Are we all mythtaken about Star Wars? Fans are mistaken about Return of the Jedi and Luke Skywalker (dismissing the Ewoks, and Skywalker is deemed a wuss); might they also be wrong about the prequel trilogy? How does one age within a style tribe?: Linda Grant writes that the mods and punks still look good, but pity the poor hippies. Can America afford the "vanity tax"? We're all paying the price for goods that are more about fashion than function. The art of the chart: How we fell in love with ranking the world. Albert Mobilio reviews Umberto Eco's The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay. Thomas P.M. Barnett on seven reasons to give thanks that the world didn't end this year. Wise Guys in Cambridge: What Cornel West and Larry Summers actually agree about. Alain De Botton on the Legend of the Human Resources Crypt: To rebel against the HR department is to misunderstand one's era and the deeper currents of history. Learning how to count to 350: Remembering people power in Seattle in 1999 and Berlin in 1989. Tattoos, dueling scars, and other rational acquisitions: More on Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate by Diego Gambetta. Upper-class eco-warriors: Distancing themselves from their ultra-wealthy backgrounds, a small band of people have set themselves the task of saving the world. From Scientific American, an in-depth report on the future of trains. From young Mozart to black holes, 350 years of the Royal Society go online. "Death of God Guy Dies": John T. Elson was a journalist best known for penning the story behind Time magazine’s wildly controversial cover "Is God Dead?"