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John Donovan

Contributing Writer

John is a freelance writer based in the suburbs of Atlanta. A longtime sports scribe with too much time covering college sports, the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball, he now writes on science, health, history, current events and whatever other weird non-sports stories that he and the editors at HowStuffWorks dream up. He has a journalism degree from Arizona State, a wife, a son, a dog that sheds too much and a bad case of eyestrain.

Recent Contributions

Searching for the Lost Horizon of Shangri-La

A fictional paradise created by British author James Hilton in the 1933 novel "Lost Horizon," the mystical Tibetan paradise of Shangri-La remains largely mythical, despite the Chinese effort to make it a "real" place.

NASA's Chief Sniffer's Job Is to Keep 'Stinky' Situations Out of Space

Nobody's nose knows better than NASA's George Aldrich. He's the longest-serving member of the space agency's odor panel, which basically sniffs and smells everything that goes up into space.

The Defense Production Act Was Designed for Emergencies Like Coronavirus

President Harry Truman signed it into law in 1950 and it's been invoked many times ever since. Should President Donald Trump be using it more to help health care workers?

Why Xenophobia Thrives in Troubled Times

Xenophobia, or the fear of immigrants and strangers, has a long, unsettling history in the U.S. and across the globe. What makes this prejudice so prominent during hard times throughout history?

Chairman Mao Zedong Used Death and Destruction to Create a New China

Chairman Mao is one of history's worst despots, having murdered millions of Chinese during his communist reign. So why is he also still revered by many in that country?

How King Tut Became a Pharaonic Rock Star Only After Death

Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun didn't make much of an impression in his time on Earth, even while he was king. But in the afterlife King Tut rules.

Hades, Greek God of the Underworld, Had a Pretty Good Gig

In comparison to his brothers, Zeus and Poseidon, Hades ended up with a mixed bag, ruling over both the dead and everything under the earth, including seeds, grains, gold and silver. But it's not as though the Greek god got the short straw.

How the U.S. Capitol's Design Was Chosen By Public Competition

The U.S. Capitol is one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in the world. And how its design was chosen is quite a story.

How the Panama Canal Makes Water Flow Uphill

The Panama Canal has been one of the world's biggest engineering feats since it was built nearly by hand in the 1900s.

How Cesar Chavez United Thousands of Farmworkers and Became a Civil Rights Icon

Cesar Chavez was able to do something nobody before him could — organize abused farmworkers through nonviolent resistance. His work transformed their lives forever.

Why John Adams Despised Being Vice President

John Adams was the first vice president of the United States, a role he thought was contrived and insignificant. But the function of the VP has changed, and Adams played a huge part in that.

7 Atrocities Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin Committed

Joseph Stalin ruled over the Soviet Union through force, fear mongering and absolute tyranny. His acts of cruelty made him one of the 20th century's worst dictators.

Fight for Equal Rights Amendment Enters a New Era

The ERA just got a big boost from the state of Virginia. Is now finally the time that the ERA will become the 28th Amendment?

The Story of Eric Rudolph, the Real 1996 Olympic Park Bomber

Eric Robert Rudolph evaded the FBI and police from 1996 until 2003, after a series of bombings in Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama. But what drove him to kill?

Why Libertarians Have a Love-hate Relationship With the 10th Amendment

The 10th Amendment says any power not delegated to the U.S. by the Constitution is reserved to the states. But the Constitution is never that simple ... and that's why Libertarians are so at odds with it.

9 Little-known Nuggets About Honest Abe

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and is known for many accomplishments, including ending the Civil War and slavery, and his famous speech at Gettysburg.

Deaf, Blind and Determined: How Helen Keller Learned to Communicate

Deaf and blind from a fever as a baby, Helen Keller overcame her limitations to lead a life of inspiration and courage. How was she able to learn to communicate?

How the Boston Massacre Fanned the Flames of a Revolution

The Boston Massacre didn't start the American Revolution. But the events that unfolded on March 5, 1770, helped cement the idea that the relationship between England and its colonies was permanently broken.

Money, Drugs and Madness: The Life and Death of Pablo Escobar

The brutal Colombian drug lord was a millionaire in his 20s but died in a hail of gunfire the day after his 44th birthday.

20 Memorable Moments of the 21st Century So Far

The world has come a long way since we were prepping for Y2K to potentially crash computers and the economy as we know it. We've witnessed some major moments since then. Here are 20 of the biggest.

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