Redux: the Springtime of Robins

The robins are BACK, they don’t intend for you to miss them, flying like bats out of hell, tearing up the mulch, yelling at everybody and stalking around, sticking their tummies out. Wherever they’re going, they need to get there fast so they take a shortcut through my porch.  I was out one morning trying […]

The Junk-Bond Salesmen of Science: A Tribute

In honor of the posts of Michelle Nijhuis and Christie Aschwanden, too many posts to link to, about the detection, prevention, and treatment of bullshit. I hate being lied to.  I purely hate it.  I hate it with a cold, hard hate.  I understand that “lying” means different things to different people, anything from exaggeration […]

Honest to God, DARPA & Jet Belts

Dear Reader:  the above is a sketch of an Individual Mobility System (IMS) proposed by a very special agency in the Department of Defense. The sketch was unearthed by my friend and much-admired colleague, Sharon Weinberger, who generously shared it on Twitter.  You could call this an IMS.  Or you could call it a jet […]

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 […]

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 […]