Mrs. Whitcher and the Renegade Numbers

In 1938 a wallet manufacturer called the E.H. Ferree company had a genius idea: to show people just how well cards would fit in the wallet, by using a placeholder. This was before credit cards and before many drivers licenses were small enough to fit into wallets. So the thing they used to showcase the […]

Where is here; here is where

Isaiah grins at me across the dining room table and more than 1,000 miles. In my nephew’s small, pale hand is an outsized Crayola marker, to match the pencil in my more gnarled fingers. We both lean over rectangles of paper—his in Colorado, mine in Oregon, now occupying the same virtual space, thanks to a […]

My Liver’s Bloody Buddy

Periodically, I get an MRI to confirm that all is well with my internal organs. It’s because at one point some years ago all was not well. As a result of my bodily dysfunction, I now have no spleen, a tailless pancreas, plus ulcerative colitis and weird chronic pain and the beginnings of arthritis in […]

The Quaking Giant

On the western edge of the Colorado Plateau, in the mountains of central Utah, is a tree that weighs an estimated 13 million pounds—as much as three giant sequoias, or 55 blue whales, or 10,000 grizzly bears. (Hey, I just thought you might like to imagine a pile of 10,000 bears.) This tree is the […]

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 […]

Cicada On My Window

I’ve written before about how much I like seeing a bug on a window. Usually I see those bugs on the outside. This is a story about a bug that I saw on the inside. It was a chilly morning in November. I was in a hotel in Tatopani, a Nepali town along the Kali […]

My Latest Bad Business Idea: 3D Printed Custom Menstrual Cups

Friends of mine know that I’m full of weird, mostly bad business ideas. There was the science tattoo consultant service, to help fact check your tattoo before you put the wrong DNA sequence on your body. There was the Brooklyn dog running company, that would go for runs with your dog. There was the proposal […]