Impact Lab


Subscribe Now to Our Free Email Newsletter

» Currently browsing: Historical Perspectives


Researchers reveal a much richer picture of the past with new DNA recovery technique

September 17th, 2020 at 11:35 am » Comments Off

A shot of the Klondike region in the Yukon, where the permafrost samples containing sediment DNA, were collected. Researchers at McMaster University have developed a new technique to tease ancient DNA from soil, pulling the genomes of hundreds of animals and thousands of plants—many of them long extinct—from less than a gram of sediment. The […]



Dozens of scientific journals have vanished from the internet, and no one preserved them

September 16th, 2020 at 3:12 pm » Comments Off

Most open-access journals lack the technical means and plans to preserve their articles, despite a mandate from some funders that they do so. Eighty-four online-only, open-access (OA) journals in the sciences, and nearly 100 more in the social sciences and humanities, have disappeared from the internet over the past 2 decades as publishers stopped maintaining […]



How far back in time could a modern English speaker go and still communicate?

July 16th, 2020 at 11:33 am » Comments Off

  The transition from Old English to Modern English was a process, not an event Changes in language don’t occur overnight, though slang terms come in and out of use relatively quickly and new words are invented while others fall into disuse. The rules of grammar you learned in school are the same ones your […]



How Epidemics of the past changed the way Americans lived

April 11th, 2020 at 12:19 pm » Comments Off

  Past public health crises inspired innovations in infrastructure, education, fundraising and civic debate At the end of the 19th century, one in seven people around the world had died of tuberculosis, and the disease ranked as the third leading cause of death in the United States. While physicians had begun to accept German physician […]



The coronavirus isn’t alive. That’s why it’s so hard to kill.

March 28th, 2020 at 10:06 am » Comments Off

This novel coronavirus is a sneaky variety similar to those that have been responsible for the most destructive outbreaks of the last 100 years. Viruses have spent billions of years perfecting the art of surviving without living – a frighteningly effective strategy that makes them a potent threat in today’s world. That’s especially true of […]



The year women became eligible to vote in each country

February 14th, 2020 at 12:01 pm » Comments Off

SUFFRAGE HAPPENED in 1920 in the United States, three years behind Russia and Canada but 91 years ahead of Saudi Arabia, as noted by this map depicting the year women became eligible to vote in each country. Countries began joining the fray en masse by the mid-twentieth century, but the leader of the pack comes […]



50 years ago today, the internet was born in Room 3420

November 9th, 2019 at 3:28 am » Comments Off

50 years ago today, the internet was born in Room 3420  Here’s the story of the creation of ARPANET, the groundbreaking precursor to the internet—as told by the people who were there. When I visited UCLA’s Boelter Hall last Wednesday, I took the stairs to the third floor, looking for Room 3420. And then I […]



Why the Fourth Industrial Revolution could spell more jobs – not fewer

October 4th, 2019 at 12:30 am » Comments Off

Automated packaging at an Italian factory. If automation drives down prices, the result could be a net increase in jobs. Ever since Homo erectus carved a piece of stone into a tool, the welfare of humanity has been on the increase. This technological breakthrough led first to the hand axe, and eventually to the iPhone. […]



A fire lookout on what’s lost in a transition to technology

September 25th, 2019 at 12:33 pm » Comments Off

  A single tree burns in southwest New Mexico after a lightning strike. For more than 100 years, the U.S. Forest Service has been posting men and women atop mountains and trees, and in other hard-to-reach places, to wait and watch for smoke. Can you see it? The fire in the photo above? A single […]



What makes Silicon Valley different?

September 20th, 2019 at 9:30 am » Comments Off

The home in Menlo Park, California, where Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google in 1998. Paul Sakuma/AP Like Detroit with automobiles or Pittsburgh with steel, Silicon Valley is synonymous with technology. In her new book The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America, Margaret O’Mara casts a historian’s eye on the contradictions of […]



The new servant class

August 25th, 2019 at 10:52 am » Comments Off

“Wealth work” is one of America’s fastest-growing industries. That’s not entirely a good thing. In an age of persistently high inequality, work in high-cost metros catering to the whims of the wealthy—grooming them, stretching them, feeding them, driving them—has become one of the fastest-growing industries. The MIT economist David Autor calls it “wealth work.” Low-skill, […]



How mosquitoes changed everything

August 19th, 2019 at 2:13 pm » Comments Off

They slaughtered our ancestors and derailed our history. And they’re not finished with us yet. The insects are estimated to have killed more people than any other single cause. In 1698, five ships set sail from Scotland, carrying a cargo of fine trade goods, including wigs, woollen socks and blankets, mother-of-pearl combs, Bibles, and twenty-five […]



Should we gamify citizenship?