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Volume XV, Number 2 | winter 2024


Muscle Shoals, Alabama, site of a huge munitions plant during World War II, had a surplus of ammonium nitrate in 1946. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that the chemical, a primary ingredient in explosives, be used as fertilizer. Industrial production of the resulting synthetic fertilizer led to an explosion in corn yields in the 1950s. A Tennessee Valley Authority representative recounted that “as soon as the need for nitrate explosives fell off, we were ready to convert that to agricultural nitrate.” “We are eating the leftovers of the Second World War,” the environmental activist Vandana Shiva said in a 2005 speech.

The fundamental concept in social science is power, in the same sense in which energy is the fundamental concept in physics.

—Bertrand Russell, 1938

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The Colosseum, attributed to Robert Eaton, c. 1855.
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Monumental Mistakes


Fitness instructor carves his girlfriend’s name into the Colosseum.

c. 1850:

Thompson of Sunderland makes his mark on Pompey’s pillar.


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Lapham’s Quarterly Is on Hiatus

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