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When Is a Piano Not a Piano?


When the piano was invented some 300 years ago, it was a technological marvel. The harpsichord could produce sound plucked at a single volume level, but the piano allowed for the kind of nuance you might expect from a viola or bassoon.

Are the New Sanctions on Russia Really Working?


The EU and the U.S. announced new sanctions against Russia this week, with Europe banning a laundry list of activities and exports—no more pulsed electron accelerators or live Marburg viruses allowed—that the U.S.

Dolley Madison Risked Her Life for a Portrait of Washington—With a Typo


You’ve seen it: the iconic portrait of the first President, one hand clutching a sword, the other arm outstretched over an ornate table that is artfully mussed.

Just How Likely Is Another World War?


A century ago this month, Europeans stood on the brink of a war so devastating that it forced historians to create a new category: “World War.” None of the leaders at the time could imagine the wasteland they would inhabit four years later.

Can the Female Condom Go Mainstream?


To understand the plight of the female condom, says sociologist Amy Kaler, it’s helpful to look at the old story of the blind men and the elephant.

America's Boring Economy


The last few years of the U.S. economy have been like one of any dozen CBS procedural dramas, where despite several mid-episode twists and the occasional cliff-hanger, the broader plot development is minimal and the resolutions are rather predictable.

21 Emails From the Democratic Party About Impeachment


By almost every indication, President Obama is not going to be impeached. Sure, there are rabble-rousers like Sarah Palin calling for it, but her influence in the GOP has been waning for years.

The USPS's Hail-Mary Idea: Embrace 3-D Printing


Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it would begin to sell and ship out customizable, 3-D-printed products—some of which are in truth just slightly customizable, and most of which are fairly costly. The appeal of what seems to be the initiative’s flagship product—a $30, made-to-order bobblehead that can take 10 days to reach your doorstep—stems primarily from the fact that it came from a 3-D printer.

Who Wins in the Name Game?


I was at a party for Bastille Day in Paris a few years back, and we were leaning over the balcony to watch the fireworks.

How Athletes Ensure Immortality


It’s getting tougher and tougher to become immortal. The National Baseball Hall of Fame last weekend announced stricter voting rules for recently retired players, reducing the maximum time they can stay on the ballot from 15 to 10 years.

Driving the Highway Trust Fund Into the Ground


The incipient deal between Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders and his House counterpart Jeff Miller on a VA-reform bill to deal with the terrible backlogs of medical treatment is the first encouraging sign that the last stages of the 113th Congress will not be a total, embarrassing failure.

Is Silicon Valley the New Wall Street?


A few years ago, key leaders in the technology industry, led by Apple's Steve Jobs, colluded to hold down their employees' wages.

The Right-Wing Delusion That Obama Is an Israel-Hating Dove


Among some right-leaning hawks, there is a persistent delusion that President Obama is a non-interventionist dove who rejects American exceptionalism and hegemony, all the while harboring a unique, possibly anti-Semitic distaste for Israel.

Satanists Troll Hobby Lobby


Sometimes American religious liberty gets weird. An Amish person can be sent to prison for shearing the beard of another Amish person.

A Wild Vacation in the Pacific Northwest


Kapitalism, With Kim Kardashian


What is it like to be Kim Kardashian? What is it like to live her life, and know her mind, and walk a mile in her rhinestone-studded stilettos?

Paul Ryan's Obsolete Thinking About Poverty


Among the most attractive virtues of the new Paul Ryan anti-poverty discussion paper is its modesty. The paper does not claim to be the last word, but only a first draft.

Could Silicon Valley Become the Next Camden?


When I moved to Camden, New Jersey, I expected to find a city struggling with poverty, unemployment, and crime.

The Challenges of Having Sex as a Little Person


Dr. Marylou Naccarato was an agent for the Internal Revenue Service for decades before she became a sex therapist.


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