The Last Word

February 27 – March 3, 2017 In uncertain times, Michelle turns to crime novels, the one certain world in which reasoning is logical, evidence is crucial, mysteries are solved, and the good guys win. Jennifer calls her Aunt Judy (famed commenter on LWON), asks how she’s doing.  “Terrible,” she says.  So Jennifer calls her dad, […]

The Problem with Good People

Writing about people who are a normal mixture of good and bad is already hard.  Writing about good people is close to impossible. I wrote a profile once about a doctor who was just plain good.  He wasn’t a do-gooder – “I’m not a missionary,” he’d say; he was just a man who needed to […]

Conversation: Mike Lemonick & the Perpetual Now

I’ve known Mike Lemonick for several thousand years, ever since he assigned me to write a news story.  And I was then, as I still am, congenitally unable to write news stories.  All I remember is that I blew the news story and Mike had to completely rewrite it. I don’t remember the story, I […]

The Last Word

January 27 – February 3, 2017 Helen, who also sings and writes, set out on a mission to draw every day in hopes that she’d get better.  After a year of this, she reports on the state of her art.  I personally think she should leave a couple things for the rest of us to […]

Redux: Love Song for the Capital Weather Gang

That’s a screen shot of the Capital Weather Gang’s excited tweet. I’d just finished explaining to our own Erik Vance what a derecho was — he said it meant “straight ahead” and was a dumb name for a weather phenomenon — and that the mid-Atlantic, which he was then visiting, wouldn’t be getting the derecho […]

Truth + Beauty

A couple of Harvard astronomers just wrote an essay in a new journal called Nature Astronomy.  That’s not the most riveting opening sentence you’ve ever read; I apologize. But the essay was odd, a kind of rumination-with-examples about how things in astronomy on vastly different scales nevertheless have similar structures.  That is, electrons orbit atomic […]

Just Have Lunch

I wish I could remember – but I can’t  – the woman who told me a story about how she and other women in her profession had regular lunches, casually, unofficially, no agenda.  Was she a lawyer? A writer? An astronomer?  Just don’t remember.  The thing I’m sure about is that the point was not […]

Redux: Storia

If you know a non-English European language, you probably know that “history” and “story” are often the same word.  I don’t know how this happened but it seems deeply wrong.  I was outraged. At the least, it seems to undermine the authority and credibility that history claims, as opposed to the making-shit-up that stories do. […]