I once drove deep into Kentucky with a man who had a unique ability.
He sold the big diesel engines that power big trucks, and he could tell me who had made an engine by its sound alone. He didn't have to see the truck. He called engines "iron," and whenever a truck started gaining on us and moved over to pass, without looking at it he'd say, "That's Cummins iron," or, "That's Ford iron." He was invariably right.
One of the great benefits of the work we do at the magazine is the conversations we get to have with people who possess deep knowledge, sometimes of the most arcane subjects. I've spent hours talking to a woman who knows how my brain recognizes the view out my window as something I've seen before, and a man who knows by heart the timpani parts of every major symphony ever written, and a woman who knows that if a competitive swimmer stops rolling her shoulders by a fraction of an inch, she will pick up .2 seconds per lap in the pool. Then there was the mathematician who was the world's expert on… I never did understand that one.
In this issue of the magazine, we bring you an alumnus who can determine in seconds if a historical signature has been forged, an international affairs expert who knows just about all there is to know about how Germany reconciled with its enemies after the Second World War, ethicists with a deep understanding of the moral quandaries faced by nurses every day, and a historian who probably knows more about the black market for tobacco and calico in 18th-century France than the shady characters who sold the illicit goods.
Our specialized knowledge, what we know how to do here, is tell their stories. Enjoy.
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