From the Editors Our December issue was “out of this world,” one reader said, riffing on the title of our story about Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the historic New Horizons mission to Pluto. Stern was one of 12 profile subjects, all of whom received 2015 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Awards. On Facebook, readers pined for tickets to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit Hamilton. “Lin is a genius,” wrote Elizabeth Stumper. “He basically made liking history cool.” (Wait, isn’t that our job?) Lilianna Zyszkowski, a 15-year-old inventor, also got rounds of applause. “You are an inspiration to your peers,” Deb Maddalena commented on Facebook.
Hope Against Alzheimer’s
It makes me very hopeful seeing improvements in the Alzheimer’s research field [“Memory Keepers,” about researchers Rudolph Tanzi and Doo Yeon Kim]. I watched my grandfather suffer with the disease and it was the hardest thing I have ever seen and dealt with. I cannot imagine watching someone else I love go through that, and I hope that my children will never have to feel the kind of pain I did, seeing someone they love fading away right before their eyes.
Doriana Duxbury, Facebook
When I was growing up in Chicago in the ’50s and ’60s, I suffered from attention-deficit disorder. At that time there was no diagnosis for my lack of concentration and inability to retain information, so I simply suffered through the educational system trying to obtain a passing grade. The one thing that spurred my interest in reading was my brother’s collection of Classics Illustrated comic books.
With their help I was able to complete assignments. Françoise Mouly’s Toon Books [“Comic Book Hero”] is a fantastic idea.
Elizabeth Jacob, Los Alamos, New Mexico
I love that one cannot distinguish the race, nationality, religion, political party, class, level of education or ethnic background in this picture [“Mother & Child”]. They are simply human.
Karen Kuchar Karsten, Facebook
Remembering Rosa Parks
Nine months prior to Rosa Park’s actions, Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old, refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama, bus. Claudette was arrested for this, and at the time she was very clear that she was protecting her constitutional rights. Claudette Colvin deserves to be remembered every bit as much as Rosa Parks.
Louisa Sparkles, Facebook
I met Ms. Parks when the then-new middle school I was attending in Montgomery County, Maryland, was named after her. She signed her book for me, and I remember her saying for us all to work hard, that a lot of people sacrificed a lot of things in order for us to enjoy things freely and with abandon. It was a wonderful day and one I think about often.
Lisa Almagro, Facebook
In November’s Ask Smithsonian, Valerie Neal of the Air & Space Museum correctly explained that astronauts aboard the International Space Station seem to float because they’re orbiting the Earth in constant free fall. We were imprecise in describing how the ISS remains in orbit. It is pulled by Earth’s gravity, but because of its velocity—17,500 mph—the curve of its fall matches the curve of Earth.
In November’s Small Talk, the historian Mary Beard was misquoted. She actually spoke of Cicero’s execution of Catiline’s conspirators, not Catiline himself. He died in battle.
In December’s “The Maestro,” we suggested that Alexander Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers to “swing the debate at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.” In fact, Hamilton wrote his political essays after the convention to influence debates at state conventions to ratify the Constitution.