DEEP DIVES

The best reporting of 2015 on Quartz

In 2015, Quartz’s third full year, we finally got to spend a little more time on feature stories. Several focus on technology and China, just as you’d expect from a news organization tracking trends in the global economy. But the pieces that made us proudest also run the gamut from global epidemics to gay rights, from Maine lobsters to management theory, and from spacesuit fashion to fetish couture. Enjoy.

The geological treasure hunt that set off a new oil craze

China National Offshore Oil Corporation's (CNOOC) oil rig in China's Bohai Sea is seen in this October 21, 2003 file photo. Chinese oil firm CNOOC Ltd. considers its $18.5 billion offer for Unocal "fully negotiated," a person familiar with the situation said on Tuesday, as executives prepared for questioning before a U.S. Congressional panel on Friday. CHINA OUT NTRES REUTERS/China Newsphoto/Files  SUN/dh - RTRI20C
(Reuters/China Newsphoto)

Steve LeVine recounts how experts in the arcane field of paleogeology painstakingly reconstructed the evolution of continents to find new shale oil deposits off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Also by LeVine, whose book on the future of battery technology was published this year: An investigation of the real story of Sakti3, one of the most over-hyped battery startups of the decade; and an exclusive profile of Yet-Ming Chiang, founder of the revolutionary battery-maker 24M.

America’s enigmatic lobster boom

lobsterboomandbust
(Fanqiao Wang for Quartz)

Gwynn Guilford dives deep into the lobster-fishing industry to explain the source of a sixfold surge in Maine lobster catches over the last three decades—and why the bounty may be about to end.

Also by Guilford: Globalization turned dengue fever from a rare tropical disease into a global menace, but one company plans to eradicate it with genetically modified mosquitoes. And Singapore’s ruling dynasty tried to crush a lone blogger who asked tough questions about missing billions in the national pension scheme.

Your next spacesuit is being designed in Brooklyn

FOR USE AS DESIRED, YEAR END PHOTOS - FILE - An employee of the Russian Space Training Center hangs out space suits to dry of Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, NASA's U.S. flight engineer Kathleen Rubins and Japanese space agency's flight engineer Takuya Onishi after their undergoing training near in Noginsk, 60 km (38 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 2, 2014. The training was intended to simulate the capsule landing on water.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

Tim Fernholz visits a spacesuit atelier to learn how fashion and technology will coming together to clothe space tourists in the future.

Also by Fernholz: As US-Cuba relations thaw after a 54-year freeze, a visit to the island reveals an economy already in transition, in often unexpected ways.

The people who pay the price for cheap bacon

It is cheaper for hog producers like WH Group to raise hogs in the United States and ship them back to China.
(Reuters/John Gress)

China’s surging demand for pork has caused a boom in pig farming in North Carolina’s “hog country.” As Lily Kuo finds on a trip to the region, it’s the predominantly black, rural poor who suffer the effects—air thick with noxious smells and waste-contaiminated water.

Also by Kuo: a report on 77 Chinese held in Kenya on charges of spying, which highlights the delicate relationship between China and Africa.

“Ghost workers” in the clothing industry

qz_homeworkers
(Giada Fiorindi for Quartz)

Marc Bain and Shelly Walia peer into the shadowy world of millions of people who work out of their own homes, often for even less pay and in worse conditions than in factories, to make clothes for fashion’s biggest brands.

Holacracy: The future of management, or a social experiment gone awry?

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh
(Flickr/Malone & Company Photography)

Aimee Groth hangs out in Las Vegas with Tony Hsieh and his team at online retailer Zappos, as they attempt to build a closely-watched “entrepreneurial utopia.” It’s a bumpy ride.

Why GE killed the performance review

GE Crotonville
(General Electric)

Max Nisen looks at the massive cultural shift taking place inside the company most identified with the hated “stack ranking” system, as a new generation of employees comes in with different ideas about the workplace.

Monsanto’s plans for global vegetable domination

A sign outside Monsanto headquarters
(AP Photo/James A. Finley)

Everyone should love the food giant’s new super-broccoli: It’s healthier, tastier, and not genetically modified. But Deena Shanker argues that it’s part of a move by Monsanto to gain even more clout in global food production—and that may not be a good thing.

How NASA won the internet

NASA space selfie
(NASA)

Adam Epstein shows how the US space agency learned to give personality to satellites, use the power of crowdsourcing, and make “space selfies” go viral—blazing a trail in social media strategy that others have scrambled to emulate.

The story behind one of China’s greatest investment scams

Protesters holding papers gather outside the Shanghai Banking Regulatory Bureau to protest against the Fanya Metal Exchange, in Shanghai, China, September 25, 2015. Hundreds of investors gathered outside the headquarters of China's securities watchdog to protest against a metals exchange in a southwest province they accuse of defrauding them of billions of yuan. The Chinese characters on the shirts read, "A plea to the government to stand judge for the people." REUTERS/Aly Song
(Reuters/Aly Song)

In April, Fanya Metal Exchange, an investment vehicle that promised remarkably high returns, suddenly stopped trading, leaving some $6 billion in assets frozen. In a series of articles, Zheping Huang investigates Fanya’s demise and the Chinese government’s curious reluctance to help 220,000 small investors who lost their life savings.

Also by Huang: A report on China’s “homowives,” the spouses of closeted gay men who have become the country’s unlikely gay-rights advocates.

Economic secrets of the “dark web”

Middle Earth drug marketplace
(Middle Earth)

Allison Schrager brings an economist’s eye to the shadowy world of online contraband, explaining how sites like Silk Road have transformed the drug trade—and, surprisingly, made it safer for both buyers and sellers.

The little leather shop where kink meets couture

fetish, fashion, berlin
(Jennifer Osborne for Quartz.)

In Berlin’s fetish-wear store Butcherei Lindinger, Jenni Avins finds an unexpected throwback to a bygone era of high fashion, and explores the history of power and sexuality in Berlin that makes it possible.

Can IBM’s moonshots save the company?

ibm yorktown korab 2
(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Balthazar Korab Archive at the Library of Congress, [LC-DIG-krb-00528])

Mike Murphy tours the flying-saucer-shaped building where scientists experiment with quantum computers, carbon nanotubes, and brain-like networks, and asks whether the cutting-edge research that has always defined IBM can survive its current doldrums.

Can Hong Kong’s stock exchange cope with modernity?

Stock trading in Hong Kong in the 1970s, believed to be at the old Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
(HKEx Group, used with permission)

Listings and trading volumes on the territory’s bourse have exploded as it opens up more ties to mainland China—but as Heather Timmons discovers, its regulatory powers have not kept pace, and investors could be the losers.

The Facebook users who don’t know they’re on the internet

Indonesian traditional dancers using mobile phones
(Reuters/Jason Lee)

Facebook is trying to make itself the chief—or only—online portal for millions of people. As Leo Mirani finds, it’s working: Some of the social network’s users don’t even know they’re on the internet, which gives Facebook an unnerving level of control over their online lives.

Exploding hoverboards: The moral for global manufacturing

hoverboard legs
(Flickr/Ben Larcey)

The must-have Christmas toy of 2015 has also been upsettingly prone to catching fire. Josh Horwitz traces the problem to China’s highly efficient—but unscrupulous—manufacturing base and weak regulation of consumer goods.

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