Giving History the Finger

The middle finger of Galileo’s right hand is a satisfying sight. Not because the resemblance to an obscene gesture is unmistakable (though that’s pretty amusing). And not because such a gesture might suggest that in the end a scientist who suffered persecution for the sin of being correct had gotten the last word—well, two words (though that would be amusing, […]

Anti-Copernican Shock

[NOW WITH NEW VISUALIZATION:  see below] Planets around other stars, exoplanets, have given me a long-running case of boredom – how long can you sustain OMG LOOKIT THAT PLANET HAS TWO SUNS? not long.  I keep writing about them anyway.  I do it because 1) sometimes somebody pays me to; and 2) the planets may […]

The Secret Lives of Animals

A bear broke into my wife’s old teardrop trailer in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado. It must have been yearling by the bite marks in bean cans, and the smallness of its hips where it busted out the door-window and dragged itself inside. The bear didn’t find much, leaving […]

Freezeproof a Fairy—With Science!

Tom Painter, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, studies snow hydrology in mountains around the world. He’s also a leading expert on the thermodynamics of fairies and princesses. Painter started his fairy-princess sideline a few years ago, when he was asked to lend his expertise to Tinkerbell: Secret of the Wings. In the movie—bear with […]

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods

Allow me to introduce you to the hugag, a moose-like creature native to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and eastern Canada. “Its head and neck are leathery and hairless; its strangely corrugated ears flop downward,” wrote William Cox, the first state forester of Minnesota. “Its four-toed feet, long bushy tail, shaggy coat and general make-up give the beast […]

Redux: The Knowledge

 This first ran on Nov. 18, 2011, before Sally took indefinite leave.  We just know you’re missing her so here’s the next best, the redux Sally. A transatlantic phone call ended badly the other day. “You can just turn left at the next light,” I heard my friend tell the New York cab driver over […]

From the Edge of Beringia

In the Cold War, a U.S. Air Force telecommunications network was erected in Western Alaska, a series of gray metal radio-towers like obelisks on a hilltop over the town of Nome. Each points a different direction, meant to bounce tropospheric messages from the Russian border to the US. Last used in 1985, the network has […]