Patrick Kiger

Patrick J. Kiger has written for HowStuffWorks since 2008 covering a wide array of topics, from history and politics to pop culture and technology. He worked as a newspaper reporter for the Pittsburgh Press, and the Orange County Register in California, where he covered one of the biggest serial murder cases in U.S. history, and also as a staff writer at Baltimore Magazine. As a freelancer, Patrick has written for print publications such as GQ, Mother Jones and the Los Angeles Times, and on the web for National Geographic Channel, Discovery News, Science Channel and Fast Company, among others. In recent years, he's become increasingly interested in how technological advances are altering urban life and the design of cities, and has written extensively on that subject for Urban Land magazine. In his spare time, Patrick is a longtime martial arts student and a fan of crime fiction, punk rock and classic Hollywood films.

Recent Contributions

John Wilkes Booth Didn't Act Alone: The Conspiracy to Kill Lincoln

Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth takes the blame in the history books, but he was part of a larger cast of characters that hoped to decapitate the Union government after the South lost the Civil War.

Why Did Hundreds of Americans 'Drink the Kool-Aid' at Jonestown?

In 1978, hundreds of followers of Reverend Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple died in Guyana, after being either coerced into suicide by their charismatic leader or actually murdered.

Is Voice of America's Mission of Objectivity In Danger?

Voice of America, the U.S. government-controlled media network, has long had a reputation for being a source of unbiased news in contrast to the government-controlled media in countries it reaches. But will that continue?

NASA's Perseverance Rover to Search for Signs of Ancient Martian Life

The Perseverance rover will explore Mars' Jezero Crater, gathering rock samples which may prove that life once existed on the red planet.

What Are the Three Branches of U.S. Government and How Do They Work Together?

America's founders devised a structure in which the three branches of government would co-exist in a system of checks and balances designed to prevent each branch from gaining too much power. But does it still work?

How Pirate Radio Rocked the 1960s Airwaves and Still Exists Today

When British radio wouldn't play 1960s rock 'n' roll, a station on a ship moored off the coast of England would. For many years, pirate stations have dodged government regulators to bring outlaw radio to the world at large. 

Why Isn't Washington, D.C. Already a State?

The residents of the U.S. capital pay taxes, serve in the armed forces and contribute to the economic strength of the U.S. but have no voting representation in Congress.

What Exactly Is Antifa and How Does It Work?

Antifa is a loosely organized movement that doesn't have leaders or advocate government policies. Instead, the movement's goal is to oppose fascism wherever it appears around the world.

Aaron Burr: Yes, He Killed Hamilton, But What Else Did He Do?

Aaron Burr is perhaps best known as the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, but he also served as an aide to George Washington, vice president to Thomas Jefferson and as U.S. senator from New York.

What Does Defund the Police Actually Mean?

Amid the furor over George Floyd's death while in custody, there have been increasing calls to cities to divert funding away from police departments to other means of solving social problem. But how does that work?

What Are Ghost Guns and Why Are They So Dangerous?

Ghost guns are guns assembled by the purchaser from parts, including unfinished frames or receivers. This makes the guns untraceable and lets buyers skip background checks.

Kernza: The Environment-friendly Wheat Crop that Wants to Feed the World

Kernza is a wheat-like grain that doesn't have to be replanted each year, making it the ideal crop to aid in the fight against climate change and help to feed the world.

Can the U.S. President Ever Declare Martial Law?

The U.S. has declared martial law in the past, but only sparingly and in dire situations. So, what would it take for the president to use it now?

Freeports: Warehouses Filled With Art the Public Never Gets to See

It's hard to imagine, but much of the world's most beautiful art sits, rarely seen by anyone, in tax-free warehouses called freeports.

How Old Is Earth and How Did Scientists Figure It Out?

In 1953, CalTech geochemist Clair Patterson came up with an estimate for Earth's age that still holds today.

5 Things to Know Before You Shoot Video of a Possible Crime

Recording a video that could potentially become evidence in a criminal case can make your life very complicated. So what do you need to consider before you pull out your phone?

Owning an Old House: Charming Love Affair or Expensive Money Pit?

Old houses have an undeniable charm, but there are inherent issues that can turn an older property into an emotional and financial nightmare for an owner. Knowing what to watch for can be the key.

What Happened to the KGB When the Soviet Union Folded?

The KGB, the Soviet Union's vast secret police and espionage apparatus, technically was dismantled decades ago. But it still actually exists under a new name.

Supply Chain 101: What Happens When Our Food Supply Is Disrupted by a Pandemic?

The U.S. food supply chain has been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, but so far, it's still functioning. How long will that last?

How Viruses Work

Influenza, Ebola and COVID-19 are all viruses. Find out what a virus does to your body and how to decrease your chance of exposure.