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 […]

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. […]

Sid Drell, 1926 – 2016, Whom We Still Needed

Last Wednesday, December 21, Sidney Drell died.  I can’t imagine anyone called him anything except “Sid.”  He was 90.  He was a particle physicist who for a while was deputy director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator.  He had a persistent South Jersey accent which somehow seemed to go with his attitude that nothing was too […]