When the government shut down for the first half of October, numerous “nonessential” programs and services, which are ordinarily facilitated by the 800,000 workers who were summarily furloughed, closed for business. Schools were unable to take field trips to the Smithsonian, and the beloved Panda Cam, a live feed on the National Zoo’s website, went dark. But the government agency hit hardest by the shutdown was NASA. On October 1st—ironically, the 55th anniversary of NASA becoming operational—97 percent of its employees were put on unpaid leave.

The civil war in Syria has developed into the bloodiest and longest running of all the protests that began in 2011 with the Arab Spring uprisings. The Syrian crisis has disturbed the conscience of people worldwide and rocked the balance of power between Russia and the U.S., old Cold War enemies. Discussion of the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians in August dominated the recent United Nations General Assembly meeting, with French President François Hollande arguing for military action if Syria doesn’t comply with an agreement to hand over its chemical arms and claiming that 120,000 had died in the conflict to date.

As a writer of CultureMaps, I’ve found that you often have to search long and hard for the one magical connection that will constellate a coherent picture. This was not the case with my map about plagiarism, as every one of its topics was guilty of the same crime. Early on in my research, the idea of “cryptomnesia” seemed like a joke—the cousin of homework-eating dogs and malfunctioning alarm clocks.