Redux: Giving History the Finger

At a thousand words, this picture would be way undervalued. But there it was, waiting to be taken (the picture, that is, not the object). So I took, during a visit to Florence, and I wrote, in 2014, and I redux, here, because some images you just can’t get out of your head. The middle […]

On Getting From “Wow!” to “[yawn]”: Yes!!!

A few weeks ago I was talking to one of the founders of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the collaboration that last September made the first detection of gravitational waves. Even if you’re not science-savvy, you will almost certainly recall the worldwide breathless news coverage following the February announcement of that detection. Now Rainer Weiss, MIT […]

You call that science?

Last week I invited readers to participate in a little experiment. I’d had what I thought might be a big idea: a possible correlation between rate of reading speed and facility with learning foreign languages. My younger son and I are slow in both categories. My older son and my wife are quick in both categories. I […]

Parle français? Read English? ¿Una palabra a la vez? Oy.

Inspired by guest Veronique Greenwood‘s three-part series (part 1, part 2, part 3) about learning a foreign language, some of the contributors to LWON volunteered for a week’s worth of essays about their own encounters with the challenges of linguistics. When my younger son was in high school, my wife and I realized we would need to hire a tutor for his French class. […]

There Goes the Sun

During a total eclipse of the sun, the landscape darkens. But you knew that. What you might not know—what I didn’t know, anyway, when I observed a total solar eclipse on August 11, 1999—is that the experience comes with a lot of other sensory overload. I found myself thinking about that total eclipse while reading about the one […]

Redux: The Beginning of the End of Science

Some things never change. And sometimes the things that never change still somehow change for the worse. This post originally ran on January 5, 2011—an anti-science era that now seems almost quaint. Those were the days! I blame David Letterman. Less than a month before the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, one of the guests on his show was the governor of Texas, George W. Bush. […]

Bad Science Poet

Time for a further sampling from the journals of Bad Science Poet. Remember: “It’s not the science that’s bad—it’s the poetry!”™ ODE TO AN ANTARCTIC FRIEND Penguin, oh penguin, you’re so black and white. Your colors remind me of both day and night. For six months a year you live without light, Like butter inside a fridge that’s […]