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

When Krakatoa Blew: How the 1883 Eruption Changed the World

The 1883 Krakatoa eruption was gigantic and deadly, but the advent of modern communications and mass media helped to make it one of the earliest and best-known modern natural catastrophes.

Why Did Napoleon Lose the Battle of Waterloo?

Lots of things contributed to Napoleon's loss at Waterloo — including bad weather, superior British defense tactics and perhaps a bad case of hemorrhoids.

Leonid Meteor Shower: What You Need to Know

The annual Leonid meteor shower is back, and peaks in the early-morning hours of November 17. It's made up of tiny bits of debris from the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Here's how to see it.

Why Is an Asteroid Worth $10,000,000,000,000,000,000?

A distant asteroid made mostly of iron is potentially worth $10,000 quadrillion, making it many times more valuable than the global economy.

How Do Geiger Counters Work?

First developed in the 1920s, Geiger counters still use the same basic technology to detect radiation, but today can be the size of a smartphone.

What Is Transcendentalism and How Did It Change America?

Transcendentalism was a 19th century philosophical movement with adherents like Thoreau, Emerson and Fuller, based on principles of freedom, feminism, abolition and the idea that people had divine truth within them.

How the U.S. Department of Justice Works

The Department of Justice claims to be the world's biggest law office, but it does everything from operating prisons to conducting counterespionage operations.

The Orionid Meteor Shower Is Back — Here's What You Need to Know

Every autumn, Earth passes through a stream of debris left by Halley's comet, resulting in nighttime meteor showers in mid-October. Best time this year is Oct. 21-22.

How Did Benedict Arnold Become America's Most Infamous Traitor?

Revolutionary War turncoat Benedict Arnold is one of the most reviled figures in American history. But what did he do to deserve this ignominious fate?

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.