Garwin: the Movie (UPDATED)

Garwin: the Movie opens with an old, steady, precise hand on a computer keyboard, scrolling through now-declassified* documents.  Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower make announcements, and newspapers flash headlines about our splendid new hydrogen bomb.  Then the blossom of a mushroom cloud unfolds; and John F. Kennedy talks about Russian missiles in Cuba; and the […]

Kepler on the Moon, Part (Who Knew?) 3

Kepler strikes again! A couple of weeks ago, in a two-part essay, I wrote about a 1608 book by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler that scholars consider the first work of science fiction: Somnium—Latin for The Dream. This past week, I got to thinking about Kepler’s book again, after the discovery of dwarf planet 2012 VP113 (which the discoverers have nicknamed […]

Kepler on the Moon, Part 2

(Part 2 of 2; Part 1 appeared yesterday.) Harry’s utterance “Damn damn Kepler on the Moon damn damn” immediately entered the lexicon of our little messenger world. I then introduced it to my non-work friends, who likewise adopted it as an absurdist catch-all. For years afterward my only knowledge of Kepler was as a punch […]

Kepler on the Moon, Part 1

My first job, post-paper route, was as a messenger in the advertising department of the Chicago Tribune. As a 15-year-old aspiring journalist (and, yes, underage hire), I thought the experience might be a career path to Woodward and Bernstein heights. By coincidence, the day I started—May 1, 1974—was Watergate Wednesday, the day that the Tribune was the only newspaper […]

Total Immersion

How could it happen? Was it the wrath of God or the malice of Poland? Was the crew drunk or was the Vasa wrongly built? The town was alive with rumours. I’ll bet it was. On August 10, 1628, the warship Vasa—the pride of Sweden, the talk of Stockholm—set sail on its maiden voyage. It didn’t […]

Abstruse Goose: Piss ‘Em Off

AG here, based on his examples, seems to mean that the best science undercuts peoples’ faith in their beliefs, thereby annoying them deeply.  I’m sure that’s true but I haven’t noticed it myself.  What I notice is when, for example, some observer tells some theorist that no, in fact the universe isn’t coasting along slowly, […]

Guest Post: The Importance of Being Peculiar

Halton Arp — “Chip” to his friends — died in Munich on December 28, 2013, and with him a cosmological banner has fallen to the ground. It’s a banner that younger astronomers may choose to take up. If they do, however, they should be cautious: it could mean the end of their careers. As a […]