MY FIRST NAME COMES from the children’s books about Thomas the Tank Engine, The Railway Series. My eldest brother had been reading the books, and Oliver the Western Engine was one of his favorites. My mother thought the name was beautiful, and so I was named after a train.
The name also served a poetic purpose: I was born an identical twin, which placed me onto a set of parallel tracks with my brother, Ethan. If you’ve known twins, you’ve heard a version of this story before. We were dressed in matching outfits, our hair cut into identical shiny black bowls. We looked the same and were treated the same, always together.
As we grew, Ethan and I were eager to establish separate identities. We made different friends, wore different clothes. In high school we often avoided talking to each other. Then we chose different colleges and were living apart for the first time in our lives.
This was exciting to me: life without a twin, without people mixing me up with someone else, without this invisible force holding us together. But the change also terrified me. Even when I had pushed Ethan away, it was comforting knowing he was there. And he was always there. Alone at college, I felt like I had lost something.
I often think about that moment of separation now, since normal life has been upended and people everywhere have been forced apart by the unseen peril of COVID-19. Suddenly the physical proximity in our day-to-day lives, which many of us took for granted, has been ripped away. I wonder what this will mean for my future, for the future in general, and for the future of my generation.
I’M STUDYING PHILOSOPHY, and in one of my first courses I came across a thought experiment, devised by philosopher Frank Jackson, that’s widely known as Mary’s Room. The premise is that Mary, a brilliant scientist, has lived her whole life in a colorless room where her only sensory input is through a black-and-white television screen.
Mary has access to tons of information and knows everything about color perception; she’s just never experienced it. Then one day, let’s say she walks out of the room—sees the blue sky, feels the bark of a tree. Jackson’s question is: Does she learn anything new? Does experiencing the world tell us something that we couldn’t have learned by reading up on it?
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A YEAR ON THE EDGE
A DEADLY VIRUS. LIVES IN LOCKDOWN. PASSIONATE CALLS FOR JUSTICE. THE IMAGES OF 2020 CAPTURED THE HUMANITY OF A TURBULENT TIME.
Celebrating in the Pandemic
WE’RE MISSING HOLIDAY CLOSENESS JUST WHEN WE NEED IT MOST. BUT EVEN GRIM, UNCERTAIN TIMES HOLD SPARKS OF LOVE AND LIGHT.
PUTTING ARTIFICIAL LIGHT IN A NATURAL ENVIRONMENT ADDS AN ILLUMINATING KIND OF AWE.
ERIKA CUÉLLAR SOTO
She helps Indigenous people protect the ‘magic’ of their lands. When Bolivian conservation biologist Erika Cuéllar Soto saw the sunrise over the Gran Chaco for the first time, in 1997, she knew she was somewhere special.
The Celebrity At The Zoo
Almost everybody loves Pandas. After a year documenting a newborn cub, a photographer remembers when she did too.
The Cost Of Harming Nature
The pandemic proves it: By damaging the planet, we have sapped nature’s power to protect us from diseases.
Meet The Machines In Our Future
Humankind has a complicated relationship with robots. On one hand, we appreciate how they can do dangerous, repetitive work so we don’t have to.
When Virtual Life Turns Into Quarantine
MY GENERATION THRIVES IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD. BUT WHEN COVID-19 CUT US OFF FROM THE PHYSICAL WORLD, SOMETHING WAS LOST
What We Don't Learn From History
IT’S APPARENTLY humankind’s fate never to stop writing the history of pandemics. No matter how often they occur—and they do occur with great frequency—we collectively refuse to think about them until circumstances demand it.
WATER EVERYWHERE AND NOWHERE
A 2,400-MILE TREK ACROSS INDIA REVEALS THE MYSTICAL LURE OF ITS SACRED RIVERS—ANDA CRISIS THAT THREATENS A WAY OF LIFE.
DOGECOIN: THE NEW BITCOIN IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW
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IN ‘MOFFIE,' BRUTAL INTOLERANCE IN '80S SOUTH AFRICA
The main character of Oliver Hermanus’ shattering “Moffie,” set in 1981 South Africa, is a handsome, white 18-year-old. In the country’s system of apartheid, he is a member of the ruling class, but he’s no insider.
The Boy I Raised
Is anything greater than a mother’s sorrow?
JADED JANICE TRASHES JULIE & TOP MODELS
CRANKY ex-catwalker Janice Dickinson has her claws out, shredding Mary Poppins legend Julie Andrews as a rude witch and ripping today’s top models for being boring and bland.
FLAMES OF HATE!
Ex-police chief torched for twisted midnight arson rampage
GERMAN AUTOMAKER BMW RAMPS UP ELECTRIC VEHICLE OFFERINGS
German automaker BMW said this week it intends to speed the rollout of new electric cars, vowing to bring battery-powered models to 50% of global sales by 2030. The company underlined the point by unveiling a new allelectric model three months ahead of plan.
LAST SCREAM OF THE JIMMY
In 1954, when Oliver needed a powerful diesel to one-up their competitors, they went to General Motors.
The Little State That Could
Delaware becomes a worthy destination——and not just because of Joe Biden.
Whats's on your mind?
THE ALT-CURRENCY MARTYR
BEFORE THE FEDS FEARED BITCOIN, THEY FEARED E-GOLD.