(Dis)placing the Year of the Elephant: Saudi Arabia’s Journey to National Opening

Less than a third of the way into the animated film al-Rihla (The Journey), our protagonist Aws confronts a ghost from his criminal past: Zurara. They had once been friends, of a sort, if such a thing could be said of two children who had met as orphans and were conscripted by bandits; when they finally hatched an escape plan, only Aws got away. He eventually found refuge with an adoptive family in Mecca. Now, on the eve of an imminent invasion of the city, Aws discovers Zurara is one among many...

Christopher Nolan's Haunted Humanism

Interstellar is often read as a direct expression of Christopher Nolan’s theology of exclusive humanism, which always locates the transcendent in the immanent. Perhaps Brett McCracken summarized this interpretation of Nolan’s “secular faith” best when he argued that the director’s films evoke a sense of “immanent wonder” that “feels religious in nature but is explainable within the laws of physics or the horizons of human endeavor.” This is Nolan’s key filmic magic trick...

ELBENNI: Identifying Islam

On Oct. 16, 1989, the News finally published an article on Muslims rather than Islam. Here’s how it begins: “When Eman Qawiyy ’92 unfolded her prayer rug, students asked her if it flew.” This article has been rewritten many times since — in 1994, “Religious students face conflict in life at Yale,” in 2005, “For Allah, for Country, for Yale,” and in 2016, “The Divide,” by yours truly. These latter renditions are more sophisticated in their analysis, but the underlying narrative structure is the same...

An Interview with Kip Thorne, Theoretical Physicist and 2017 Nobel Prize Recipient

"We simply don’t know whether backward time travel is possible. The answer, as best I can tell, is controlled by laws of quantum gravity, laws that come from combining general relativity with quantum physics. Only when we understand those laws of quantum gravity far better than we do today will we be able, theoretically, to answer the question of whether you can go backward in time. That’s probably a few decades away. I’m a little pessimistic about it, but I regard it as a very open question."

Our Story in Real Time

I begin in September 1999. Within minutes, the expedition has become a tour with one stop too many: a law professor denouncing “measurism,” EgyptAir permitting an FBI investigation, robots joining the Yale soccer team. It is there, near the end of November, that I take a break. My right hand stings from the strain of turning hundreds of pages. The harsh white-hot lights mounted on either side of the door beat down on my hunchbacked form. Involuntarily, I breathe in more oxidized cellulose and lignin, the musty fumes of history seeping through my lung’s canals.
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