A contributor since 1982, Conniff earned Smithsonian a National Magazine Award in 1997 for his articles on moths, giant squid and dragonflies. He’s the author of seven books about human and animal behavior. In this issue, he encounters the microscopic organisms that live on and inside us (“The Body Eclectic”). “I wrote a book called The Species Seekers about the great age of discovery of animal species, from kangaroos to gorillas,” he says. “Working on this story, I realized that we are in a new age of species discovery—but on an entirely different scale.”
“I loved math as a kid, but never got beyond calculus,” admits Adler, whose “X and the City” examines researchers applying mathematics to modern cities. “Now I wish I had taken a little bit more of it.” Formerly Newsweek’s science writer, Adler is the author of two books, including High Rise, about a skyscraper.
Royte is the author of three books, most recently Bottlemania: Big Business, Local Springs, and the Battle Over America’s Drinking Water. In "The Printed World,” she examines our new obsession with 3-D printing. “People are entranced by the notion that their ideas can be made concrete with the press of a button,” she says.
A contributor to Wired and the New York Times Magazine, Thompson has written about all sorts of revolutionary technologies, from supercomputers to Instagram. In “The Paper Chase,” he considers an older one: the pocket paperback. “I loved them as a kid,” he says. “Their size meant I could read my Robert Harbin origami books."
While writing Reluctant Genius, a biography of Alexander Graham Bell, Gray searched in vain for the rumored wax recordings of Bell’s voice made in the 1880s. Then they were rediscovered by Smithsonian researchers and played for the first time (“Clear as a Bell”). “Listening to Bell’s voice was an extraordinary sensation,” says Gray, the author of eight non- fiction books. “I felt the passage of time between his life and mine shrink to nothing.”
A co-founder of Egypt’s Nobel Peace Prize-nominated April 6 Youth Movement, Rashed played a crucial role in the 2011 protests that led to Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. He used social media to spread details about the protests, but says another innovative communication method has been overlooked (“The Writing’s on the Wall”). “Wall art has been an effective tool for the revolution because it’s new in Egypt,” he says. “When people see it, they stop and take notice.”
A photographer renowned for her still-life portraits, Rubin took the photos for “The Printed World” and realized the technology’s creative potential. “I think 3-D printing is going to become a very cool tool for artists and designers in particular,” she says. “We’ll see them apply it in all sorts of unexpected ways.”
For Smithsonian’s Future issue, we took still photos of our contributors, then 3-D printed their heads using gypsum powder. Each one is two inches tall.