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 […]

Cosmopomorphism

I’ve just finished a story about gas and galaxies.  You’re bored already, aren’t  you.  After I’d sent the editor a query about it, he took months to respond and then wanted several rewrites of the query; I think he was bored too.  If gas and galaxies are so boring, why did I want so much […]

The Last Word: November 3-7, 2014

As with the four previous, we kicked off the week with Colin Norman’s tale of undergoing heart surgery. He’s feeling good but has turned his thoughts to the genetic nature of heart disease. He perused his family album in his mind and fretted for his daughters’ future. Then Erik made several connections between the institutional capacity […]

Inputting Narratives

You’ve probably done this already or if you haven’t, you will: you sit in your doctor’s office and look at your doctor, your doctor sits at a desk and types on a computer.  Your doctor apologizes for the lack of eye contact and explains something about health records now being electronic and tied to reimbursement.  […]

Conversation with Sharon & Geoff: Starship Fusion

Last week, Lockheed announced it had a small team working on what it calls a Compact Fusion Reactor.  Fusion is the opposite of fission that’s used in nuclear plants today; it can produce enormous amounts of energy; the fuel for  itis cheap and plentiful; a small fusion engine would solve the world’s energy problems. I […]

Weapons-Grade Private Enterprise

Over the years, I’ve met a number of physicists who had direct or indirect connections with the Manhattan Project and who then spent the rest of their lives trying to get the nuclear weapons genie back into the bottle and the bottle corked.  I think of these physicists as the old arms-controllers. They’re impressive people. […]