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Past Newsletter Stories

Jan 19 2019

So Crazy, It Just Might Work

A coat grown out of mushrooms, body odor as ID, a breakthrough in human-dolphin communication, and more from the wild edge of scientific research.

Jan 14 2019

West World

A photographer’s obsession with a familiar yet otherworldly landscape.

Jan 12 2019

Salt, Space, Acid, Heat

A survival guide for a ruined planet, with inspiration from some of the toughest (and tiniest) creatures on earth.

Jan 03 2019

Failure to Launch

Experts have been anticipating commercial space travel since the late 1970s. What would it take to get this insanely priced industry off the ground?

Dec 22 2018

What It Means to Be a Man

Five trans men open up about the surprising, and challenging, things they learned when they transitioned.

Dec 15 2018

The Many Lives of Lucky Charms

What do John Lennon, Barack Obama, and Queen Victoria have in common? They all relied on lucky charms to get them through the day.

Dec 08 2018

Dove Actually

The radiant white homing pigeons who get rented out for weddings and funerals alike, and the man who loves them.

Nov 24 2018

The Two Faces of Lummie Jenkins

The Alabama sheriff who is remembered as a saint—by everyone who isn’t black.

Nov 20 2018

The Real Sartorialist Is a New York City Cabbie

A day in the wardrobe of the cab-driving, fashion-loving star of Topic’s new documentary series, American Hero.

Nov 17 2018

When Hollywood Went to Toontown

A visual history of the unholy union between live actors and animation.

Nov 10 2018

The City That Will Never Let You Sleep

How hostile architecture keeps New Yorkers moving along.

Nov 02 2018

The Former Coal Miner Whose Viral Video Might Send a Guy to Congress

West Virginia Democrat Richard Ojeda’s secret weapon is a self-taught filmmaker named J. D. Belcher.

Oct 27 2018

Making Friends With the Ghoul Next Door

With vampires, ghosts, and cheerleading tryouts, young adult horror novels made teen angst into an epic struggle against the forces of darkness.

Oct 20 2018

It Had to Be Snakes

Military veterans head into the Everglades to confront two terrifying beasts: Burmese pythons and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Oct 12 2018

Mold Eats World

Toxic mold seems to be everywhere, as unavoidable as air. But is a fungal explosion really something to be afraid of?

Oct 06 2018

Meet the Female Nightcrawlers of Manila

Racing between murder scenes with the journalists covering Duterte’s bloody drug war.

Sep 28 2018

The BabyLand Diaries

Labor and childbirth are still mysteries to science, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to come up with our own explanations.

Sep 27 2018

When Women Demanded Pay for Housework

The women of the Wages for Housework movement didn’t want to split the burden of housework with men—they wanted to get money for it.

Sep 22 2018

The Real Cost of Working in the House of Mouse

How the world’s most famous theme park became a distinctly unmagical place to make a living.

Sep 15 2018

An Interview With “Crime + Punishment” Director Stephen Maing

Telling the story of the NYPD 12.

Sep 15 2018

All in the Family

When the family business is sex toys, there may be some awkward moments. But that hasn’t stopped these sibling and parent teams from dominating the industry.

Sep 08 2018

‘When I Say I’m Complicit, This Is What I Mean’

What happens when your job makes you an accomplice to the Trump administration’s war on immigrants and refugees.

Aug 28 2018

The Secret Garden

A near-unexplored wilderness was found on top of a mountain in Mozambique, and a dream team of scientists scaled the rock face to study it.

Aug 18 2018

The Fire at Eagle Creek

Last fall, a massive blaze ripped through Columbia River Gorge. One year later, it still haunts locals’ dreams.

Aug 11 2018

The Business of Blending In

For soldiers in the field, becoming one with the environment is a matter of life or death.

Aug 04 2018

The Ice Patrol

Since the sinking of the Titanic, the patrol has been on the lookout for rogue skyscrapers of ice. It’s a job that’s as boring as it is dangerous, and these men and women wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jul 28 2018

This Is My Nerf Blaster, This Is My Gun

A soldier-turned-war-reporter on how child’s play is starting to look more like real combat—and vice versa.

Jul 21 2018

If I Was a Gamer, I’d Join the Army!

The US Army was looking for a new kind of recruit—someone with dexterity, skill, and patience. So it released a video game.

Jul 14 2018

A Few Good Mutants

A father and his sons melt, smoosh, carve, and reshape little green army men into “Super Soldiers.”

Jul 07 2018

It Takes a Fake Military Village

Deep in the Mojave Desert, the US military lets tourists play soldier in a camouflage Disneyland.

Jun 29 2018

Japan’s Vegetable-Eating Men

A nation of suit-wearing salarymen educates its first generation of stay-at-home dads.

Jun 22 2018

Dad Material

After choosing a sperm donor instead of a partner, a mother discovers a new kind of genetic family.

Jun 17 2018

Father’s Days

After her child is born, a mother learns that equal parenting means giving dad a chance.

Jun 12 2018

The Snip Trip

Rob and Marcos are friends who share everything, including getting a vasectomy.

Jun 07 2018

Who’s Your Daddy?

How televised paternity tests became a racialized American spectacle.

Jun 03 2018

The Penguin That Loved Too Much

When a Humboldt penguin living in a Japanese zoo bonded with a cardboard cutout, his obsession became an internet sensation.

May 31 2018

The Penis Poster That Rubbed People the Wrong Way

In the late 1980s, an ad selling a poster of the “Penises of the Animal Kingdom” started appearing in magazines. It promised to educate, but where did it come from?

May 24 2018

Valley of the Ragdolls

They’re floppy, relaxed, and they come when you call them. Is the Ragdoll a genetic miracle, or just one very cool cat?

May 17 2018

American Eagle Outfitter

How Challenger the bald eagle became the most in-demand bird in America.

May 10 2018

Hooked on the Taste of Freedom!

They perform daring escapes from slaughterhouses, zoos, and laboratories. But animals on the run are only as free as we want them to be.

May 03 2018

The Dognapping of Kid Boots Ace

A champion Boston terrier disappeared during a victory lap at a Chicago dog show in 1934. Then came the phone call demanding money.

Apr 24 2018

Where Spring Breaks Eternal

Five days at the Lani Kai, a resort in Fort Myers, Florida where spring break has been going strong for over two decades.

Apr 17 2018

They Don’t Do Sadness

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, the teenage cast of Spring Awakening prepares to take the stage.

Apr 12 2018

Born Again

“Rebirth therapy” was meant to help a troubled girl start over, but it ended her life instead.

Apr 04 2018

Fit to Be Tied

From swipe to submission, or how I learned to stop worrying and go to a dom.

Mar 29 2018

When a Woman Falls From the Sky

In the 1950s, the male-dominated sport of skydiving found itself upended by a group of flamboyant, female daredevils.

Mar 22 2018

Tales of Glory from the 2018 Paralympics

After the Winter Olympics, a new set of elite athletes take to the playing fields of ice and snow.

Mar 15 2018

I Want My ChessTV

Welcome to fast-playing, trash-talking, chair-throwing, high-stakes world of online chess.

Mar 08 2018

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Engage in Class Warfare

Inside the world of socially-conscious board games.

Mar 01 2018

Notes on Being Very Tall

The plagues and pleasures of an unusual identity.

Feb 26 2018

The 75-Year (and Counting) Christian Interracial Farm Experiment

Inside the fascinating Koinonia Farm, whose fierce anti-racist past feels even more relevant today.

Feb 15 2018

The Forgotten Zine of 1960s Asian-American Radicals

In the late ‘60s, California university campuses were teeming with new ideas. This group of UCLA students put them in a magazine called Gidra.

Feb 09 2018

The Punk Rock Church That Could Be a Cult

A radical pastor and a very disgruntled flock.

Feb 01 2018

The Surprising Success of America’s Oldest Living Magazine

In a world beset by extreme weather, accurate climate prediction is paramount. So, why are almanacs not just surviving—but thriving?

Jan 25 2018

How NASA Protects the Universe from Earthlings

Inside the laboratories that are making the universe safe from human exploration.

Jan 19 2018

Can You Arrest People Before They Commit Crimes?

How the fantasy of preventing criminal acts before they happen is becoming a reality?

Jan 12 2018

The Limits of Empathy

Virtual reality was supposed to open up the range of human emotions. But does it work?

Dec 28 2017

The 62-Year-Old Child Genius

The adult life of a very smart kid.

Dec 27 2017

Where Big Bows Come From

One company dominates the market.

Dec 20 2017

On Being ‘Young, Gifted, and Black’

The twisting journey of an iconic phrase through 20th century America.

Dec 06 2017

‘Their Spirits Were Trapped in Those Masks’

No one wants these faces of Native American POWs—not the Smithsonian, not Harvard—because of how they were made.

Nov 29 2017

The Mesmerizing World of Homemade Weapons

Get in the proverbial ring for Death Matches, where people compete with some of the most insane (and creative) weapons imaginable.

Nov 22 2017

Holiday Food Through History, Explained

Holiday food has always been special but how did we get our specific ideas about eating turkey at Thanksgiving or ham at Christmas?

Nov 16 2017

What Happened to Putin’s Face?

Vladimir Putin and the growing field of male plastic surgery.

Nov 08 2017

The Twisting History of Blood on Film

The surprisingly fascinating question of what, exactly, is movie blood.

Nov 02 2017

Faces of Death (And Larry David)

If you find a wax head in the closet, you might be in a funeral director's house. All about the art and science of facial reconstruction.

Oct 26 2017

The True, Twisted Story of Amityville Horror

The true story behind the “true story” of the notorious Long Island home, the site of a terrible murder and then the basis of scores of books and movies.

Oct 18 2017

The True Crime Story Behind a 1970 Cult Feminist Film Classic

The only film that Barbara Loden ever made, Wanda, is now considered to be a masterpiece. Here is the true story behind the fiction.

Oct 04 2017

The Story Behind the Chicago Newspaper That Bought a Bar

The oral history of how a determined Chicago reporter convinced her boss to do something that hadn’t been done before—to create a fake business with a real location.

Sep 28 2017

An Extremely Close Reading of Pop Song Duets

Ever listen to a song and think, does that even make sense? We took a magnifying glass to some of the world’s most popular he-said-she-said duets.

Sep 21 2017

Panic at Penn Station

This past spring, a panicked crowd streamed out of Penn Station because of a terrorist threat. Except there was no terrorist.

Sep 13 2017

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Watch

An artist goes deep, in all directions, on the where, what, when, how and why of a free watch.

Sep 06 2017

‘Rashomon’ and the Problem with Truth

We use the title of a 1950 Japanese classic as a shorthand for the difficulty with objective reality. But are we misunderstanding the film?

Aug 31 2017

The Girl Detectives

A crime club at the University of Pittsburgh takes its investigations seriously—and so do the police.

Aug 24 2017

Female Bank Robbers

A peak into a mysterious Instagram full of women (allegedly) robbing banks.

Aug 17 2017

The Female Condition

Being a woman in 2017 is incredibly confusing. To get insight into the experience, we asked a collection of interesting women what their gender means to them.

Aug 08 2017

The Magic of Animal Menopause

Scientists have been puzzling for years about why only three species in the animal kingdom are known to go through menopause. New research might hold the answer.

Aug 03 2017

There Were So Many Women Who Paved the Way

America was built in part by truckers, the people who move goods and products from place to place. Writer Mary Pilon explores the history of women whose contributions to the trucking industry are often overlooked.

Jul 20 2017

How to Get Away with Spying for the Enemy

The wild story of one lawyer, two men and some very unlikely defenses for espionage against America.

Jul 07 2017

Notes on Detention Camp

Office parks, island nations, private prisons—all immigrant detention centers. Here are six examples of how American government officials have been both metaphorically and literally hiding these bureaucratic nightmares from view.

Jun 28 2017

Conduct Yourself

Why do subway conductors point? It’s a whole secret language underground.

Jun 23 2017

Letter From the Editor

Welcome to Topic.

Jun 14 2017

Trump and the Dove

The story of how this now-infamous photo is fascinating. And we’re not even talking about what the bird is doing in the picture.

Jun 06 2017

The Inheritance Tax

What do our parents give us? In this essay, writer Namwali Serpell tackles the particular legacy of her white father.

May 30 2017

Baby Boy Trump’s First 100 Days: A Scrapbook

What a beautiful, bouncing boy!