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December 2012

Smithsonian December 2012


Opening Announcements, Cover and Contents, Contributions, From the Editor, Discussion, From the Castle



This month the theme is fire, from its evolutionary role in shaping the human mind to its beguilingly odd behavor in space.

The Gonzo Neurologist

Oliver Sacks explores the strange, often scary world of hallucinations.

By Ron Rosenbaum

The Father of Invention

"Super inventor" Dr. NakaMats claims more than 3,300 patents to his name.

By Franz Lidz

National Treasure   

Preston Tucker saw his futuristic 1948 car as a vehicle for change.

By Abigail Tucker

Fast Forward

Puente de vida

By Mark Strauss


2012 American Ingenuity Awards & Benh Zeitlin: Lights & Magic

Nine brilliant people who've harnessed what Abraham Lincoln called "the fire of genius" receive the new Oscar of innovation for their recent achievements.

The young indie director lets his imagination fly in an accalimed debut film.

By Franz Lidz

Pardis Sabeti: Natural Selection

Her work in genetics points toward new ways of treating infectious diseases.

By Seth Mnookin

New Life: Bryan Stevenson

His legal crusade has given juvenile prisoners a second chance at life.

By Chris Hedges

The Prodigy: Jack Andraka & Elon Musk: Rocket Science

The teenager has developed a new method that may detect a lethal cancer.

The entrepreneur hopes to launch a revolution with his spaceship and electric car.

By Abigail Tucker & Carl Hoffman

Esperanza Spalding: Beyond Jazz

The innovative bassist and singer is taking jazz to a whole new place.

By Dream Hampton

Jim Anderson: Solar Flair

Ozone depletion may get worse, the chemist has discovered.

By Sharon Begley

Anne Kelley Knowles: Mapping the Past

Using new mapping tools, the geographer is rewriting history.

By Tony Horwitz

Sebastian Thrun: Class Uprising

The artificial intelligence expert is transforming online learning.

By Tom Vanderbilt