Science Metaphors (cont.): Decompensation

I suspect this isn’t really a science metaphor, but I got caught up in the word. I had a friend who’s married to a hospital doctor, and he brought home many work-related words of interest:  “mother-of-record,” for instance, meant that he wasn’t going to be the one taking cupcakes to their kid’s class in the […]

Another Brick in the Anti-Copernican Wall

The Hubble Fellows are — forgive me — young stars: young PhD astronomers granted the money to go to whatever astronomy-doing place they want to go to and do whatever astronomy they want to do.  And once a year, the Hubble Fellows give public talks about what they’re up to, so any astronomy writer with […]

Flabbergasted By the Real World

I grew up on a small farm and among other creatures, we raised chickens. Every day they had to be fed and watered and their eggs, warm from their bodies, had to be gathered. When the chickens got old enough to stop laying regularly, we’d turn them into stew: we’d kill them and dress them, […]

The Last Word

February 2 – 6 Ann gave us a posthumous profile of Charles Hard Townes, whom you can thank for astronomers being able to peer inside the centre of the Milky Way, and for conscientious physicists advising the US Defense Department without being muzzled. Fancy a moth in maroon velvet? Grotesque ripple-lines? Giddy exclamation points and […]

Charles Hard Townes Made Things Happen

Charles Hard Townes died a week ago, aged 99.  He was a physicist at Berkeley who came up with the principle of the laser; at age 98, he’d stopped coming into the office every day. His obituaries are thorough and their praise is justified.  I’d met him for reasons the obituaries don’t mention.  He helped […]

Ask Your Doctor, Much Good It Will Do You

Q:  Oh, you’re a doctor!  Oh good!  I need a doctor.  I had the flu shot but I’ve got the flu anyway.  I feel like roadkill looks. A:  You do know, don’t you, that since this year’s flu shot is only 23% effective, you had an 89% chance of getting the flu. Q:  Is that […]

Marvin Goldberger, Always Called “Murph”: Part 2

Part 1 is here. While Murph was still at Princeton, in his first years there, he was spending summers consulting, sometimes for defense contractors, sometimes for the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  (A lot of physicists did this: academic scientists’ salaries run for nine months; they needed summer money.)  Then a little later, during the post-Sputnik years, […]

Marvin Goldberger, Always Called “Murph”: Part I

The day before Thanksgiving, Murph Goldberger died.  He was old, he’d been born in 1922; and in those nine decades, he’d collected an extraordinary amount of life.  He was drafted right out of college into the Manhattan Project’s brilliant and very young Special Engineering Detachment, where he met his wife, Mildred; and ever after if […]