In Essence

Photo of simit by Ming-yen Hsu via Flickr

Simit, the street food standby, is under threat.

Photo of pills making an "@" sign by via Flickr

Swallow at your own risk.

Photo of psychologist Daniel Kahneman by LSE in Pictures via Flickr

Does hearing words such as “wrinkles” and “Florida” make you walk like an old person?

Aerial photo of the Amazon Rainforest by Neil Palmer (CIAT) via Flickr

The folly of neo-environmentalism.

Photo of the 11th Edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica by Stewart Butterfield via Flickr

Print encyclopedias once occupied a privileged cultural position—even if owners seldom consulted them.

On the unlikely origins of the slide guitar.

In this 15th-century German print, rabbis read from the Haggadah, the tale of the Exodus that Jews consult at the beginning of Passover. Thanks to an early theological shift that required all Jewish males to study the central texts called the Torah, literacy spread among Jews long before it did among Christians and Muslims. Photo via The Granger Collection, NYC.

The secret to early Jewish success: literacy.

Photo of Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago by gmilldrum via flickr

Moving poor people to better neighborhoods has a surprising effect.

Photo of graduating George Washington University students by Glyn Lowe via Flickr

Kids tend to let their grades slip when parents pay their college tuition bills.

Did genetic diversity play a decisive role in determining which lands would hit the economic jackpot?