From the Editors. Carl Hoffman’s investigation into the 1961 disappearance of Michael Rockefeller [“Journey Into the Kingdom of the Spirits”] revealed new evidence suggesting that the heir died at the hands of headhunters. But some readers continued to speculate about what might have fueled his ultimate demise. Perhaps, wrote Victoria Wurdinger, Rockefeller’s collecting of sacred objects triggered “ample resentment” among the native peoples.
It has all the elements of a great American novel: adventure, exoticism, wealth, patriarchal hubris, colonialism, church and state bureaucracy, innocence, vengeance, culture class and murder.
Michael Rockefeller most probably found a tragic death—a true loss for anthropology. I’ve seen some of his movies and one on India that gave me unforgettable images. We all owe a lot to the anthropologists’ enthusiasm and courage. What they recorded has already disappeared forever.
Evolution of the Vikings
The fact that this warring empire [“Revenge of the Vikings”] evolved into Scandinavia—the world’s number one champion for peace—should provide hope to people all over the world.
I remember very early one morning just after midnight, while at Mesa Verde, looking out at the Milky Way from the deck of my rented cabin. The sky was crystal clear and black—it was absolutely awe-inspiring. Sagan’s voice echoed in my thoughts with his “billions and billions” [“Star Power”]. I think it was the first time the size and distance of it all sunk in—an epiphany moment.
My son is one of what I call the Sagan astronomers. I’m sure there are many of them who were inspired by Carl Sagan when they were quite young. So his work goes on.
Upping His Game
I believe what Kasparov said [“Kasparov’s Gambit”] about the younger generation is true to a certain extent. When I was in Russia a few years ago, younger people with means were planning on emigrating to Europe, particularly Germany, all because of Putin. Others, however, were happy that they could buy American goods and eat sushi for dinner. I fear that those who care enough to change the country will no longer be in it.
In February’s Ask Smithsonian column, we should have explained how the orientation and length of a lightning strike influence the duration of a thunderclap. Different parts of a strike, whether it’s cloud-to-cloud or cloud-to-ground, generate sound waves that reach the listener over a period of time.