Why we shop and shop and shop

Like millions of Americans, I’m hopelessly addicted to buying things. So I turned to science to learn how our brains, technology, and capitalism are conspiring to empty our wallets.

Latest Ideas headlines


The Democratic presidential debate activity sheet

The first two debates happen this week, with 10 candidates each. So, here, something to enhance focus. Use coins (or antacids) as markers and play against a friend.


An open letter to my white MAGA-voting uncles on the occasion of my Italian-born great aunt’s funeral

We don’t talk about politics together. So I apologize for rupturing this truce, especially now, in our mutual moment of pain.


Who’s responsible for the border crisis? The United States

The United States government supported coups in Guatemala and Honduras. Now, we’re paying the price.

Tweets of the week: Google calendar down and Harvard rescinding Parkland student’s admission

A look back at the week in 280 characters.

Yvie Oddly.


Readers React: ‘Hey, dummy. Gender ain’t real!’

How empowering is drag?

Big Number

The safety of the measles vaccine, measured.


Innovation of the Week

A 3D facial model — built on memory.


Trump’s latest betrayal strengthens the case for impeachment

The president’s willingness to take campaign help from Russia in 2020 is another disturbing sign of his unfitness for office.


Tweets of the Week: Trump at the Olive Garden, #MeToo Advice, and Praise for Papi

A look back at the week in 280 characters.


Readers React: ‘This sounds nice, but it ignores a huge upcoming phenomenon: the “birth dearth”’

Can we really recruit more rural students to colleges and universities?


Big Number

That’s a lot of pictures.


50 Words

Breakfast on the beach.

Ideas | Peg Tyre

How to survive in an AI world

While American schools move away from a humanities-centered education — and embrace science and math — Japan is tacking in the opposite direction. Who’s right?

A rendering of Scape’s proposed development — small apartments at modest rents — in the Fenway.


Finally — the tiny apartments that millennials need

For years, I’ve been calling for the compact, affordable, amenity-rich apartments that could solve our housing crisis. Now, they could be on the way.

Yvie Oddly.

RuPaul, I owe you an amen

Historically, drag is entertainment by men for men, with queens coopting an exaggerated male view of femalehood to uproarious laughter. Was it okay to chuckle at an all-too-easy version of womanhood, one that denied the complexity of the female conundrum?


By the number: Put down the bottled water

If you are what you eat, then every single one of us is a little bit plastic.

Ideas | A.J.B. Lane

Godzilla takes on Fenway

The truth is, we have a history of falling for unstoppable titans of one kind or another.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao participates in a celebration of 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Joey Logano on the South Lawn of the White House April 30, 2019 in Washington, DC. Nicknamed 'Sliced Bread,

Ideas | Rachel Slade

Elaine Chao’s conflicts of interests could have major consequences

The zealously anti-regulation Trump administration may be open to undermining centuries-old maritime laws that have protected American industry and the country itself since this nation’s founding. And Elaine Chao, mired in conflicts of interest, may be helping to steer that ship.


Readers react: ‘His calling for Trump’s impeachment has brought him a great deal of press’

Is Justin Amash a profile in courage?

Ideas | Prabal Chakrabarti

Loss, grief, and redemption through adoption

We were in India to radically change a young boy’s life; I secretly hoped that this child — a complete stranger, someone who had come into this world with nothing — would save us, too.


By the number: 400,000

The secret funders of a popular women’s fertility app.


Tweets of the week: Mueller announcement, aliens, and Rocket Mansplaining

A look back at the week in 280 characters.

Ideas | Robert Tsai

Mueller was right to play it cool

If Robert Mueller struck an overtly oppositional stance against AG Barr, his superior, he would undermine his team’s two-year investigation by imperiling its integrity.

Ideas | Beth Wolfensberger Singer

Knitting hard facts into soft yarn

In a precarious time for truth, with a president who makes stuff up, and national leaders ignoring science, maybe knitting can help.

FILE - In this June 15, 2018 file photo, cash is fanned out from a wallet in North Andover, Mass. Only 33% of American adults follow a budget, according to an October 2017 survey of Americans from NerdWallet . The time and effort involved are often cited as the reasons, but trying and failing is also a barrier. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

opinion | malia lazu

Going corporate for a cause

Good banking also depends on recognizing the systems that have historically taken advantage of communities, and searching for new models that lead to investment in all neighborhoods.

A long queue of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest.

Ideas | Casey Lyons

The fatal Mount Everest obsession

On Everest this year, it’s the things that went right that paved the way to calamity.

particles of charcoal splatted on white background

Ideas | Katherine Eban

These pills could kill you

In the US, 90 percent of drugs are generics and nearly all are manufactured abroad. Many of them aren’t what they claim to be.


By the numbers: From dust to dirt

Now there’s a more environmentally friendly way to say goodbye to your loved ones.

Ideas | A.J.B. Lane

Are you okay?

A.J.B. Lane envisions the downfall of beloved symbols.

Protesters held signs at the entrance to the Fore River Bridge, in Weymouth.

Ideas | Aimee Ortiz

In Weymouth, echoes of Flint

Four undeveloped acres on a peninsula in the northern part of Weymouth have become a battlefield, pitting environmental activists against a massive energy company.

Stephen Mattin (left) and his grandson, Ronan Mattin, 9. (Courtesy of Stephen Mattin)

Ideas | Anthony Rudel

Hope for the future of classical music performance

The classical music business needs to break down the rules and make concert-going a more contemporary experience.

Ideas | S.I. Rosenbaum

The case for legalizing sex work

The best way to fight human trafficking is bring professional sex work into the daylight.

Ideas | Darci Marriott

Sex work by the numbers

When sex work is criminalized, those who choose to work in the industry put themselves at risk.


Tweets of the Week: Troops to the Middle East and taxing the rich

A look back at the week in 280 characters.

Ideas | Sage Stossel

Visting President Trump’s Washington, D.C.

It was a disconcerting time to be introducing a kid to America’s seat of government.

Ideas | Bruce Cannon Gibney

The modern presidency enables tyranny

Over the past century, American presidents from both parties have grabbed power and kept it, concentrating tremendous authority in the office, so much so that it threatens democratic principles.

Ideas | Beth Wolfensberger Singer

The Mother’s Day cards you really need

This Mother’s Day, make sure you give your mom thanks for the important things in life.


By the numbers: How many solo moms in the US?

Nearly a quarter of American mothers, or about one in four, are solo moms, according to Pew Research Center.

policy, crisis and collapse concept - american flag on cracked ground background

Ideas | David C. Barker and Morgan Marietta

The roots of America’s divergent views go much deeper

Can a country move ahead when its citizens hold dueling facts?

Ideas | Julie Suratt

The death of the school dance

The school dance was a melting pot of social cliques — nerds, jocks, artists, stoners, musicians, theater geeks. You never knew who you might see there, and that made it fun.

KYANGWALI, UGANDA - APRIL 06: A baby girl from Uganda suffering with cholera lies in a ward in the Kasonga Cholera Treatment Unit in the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement on April 6, 2018 in Kyangwali, Uganda. According to the UNHCR almost 70,000 people have arrived in Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo since the beginning of 2018 as they escape violence in the Ituri province. The majority of refugees are arriving by boat across Lake Albert, which lies between the two countries. With refugee settlements in Uganda almost at maximum capacity there are plans for new settlements to be built to deal with the continuing influx of people. A cholera outbreak in the settlements has left at least 42 dead and many hundreds severely affected. The World Food Programme anticipates providing food and nutrition for up to 1.6 million refugees this year. Fighting in DRC between the Hema and Lendu communities has seen villages being burnt and dozens killed in the fresh outbreak of violence. (Photo by )

Ideas | Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

A world-changing forum at MIT

MIT’s Solvers are collaborating to tackle the planet’s most difficult problems.

Ideas | Darci Marriott

How much is your flight harming the planet?

As we enter the travel season, millions of Americans will be taking the air. What’s the damage?

Ideas | Sage Stossel

This month’s forecast: cloudy with a chance of bad news

What to expect from May.

Ideas | Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Lost someone to Fox News? Science says they may be addicted to anger

We are angrier than ever before. Is there a scientific explanation for why fury is so intoxicating?

Ideas | Julie Scelfo

Will black women save us . . . again?

The heart and soul of the Democratic Party is the country’s 23 million black women, and any candidate of any complexion who ignores their power does so at his or her own peril.