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, […]

Abstruse Goose: Game of Thrones = Dragons + War of the Roses

When I can’t sleep, my brain thinks it’s fun to enumerate all the things I’m afraid might happen.  I’ve taken to thinking about the derivations from the same Latin root — application, complication, explication, implication, replication — but sometimes get hung up on not knowing what “plicare” means.  I do think the Yorks and the […]

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 […]

Confessions of an Artifact Hunter

I once found a beautiful pot, an ancient red seed jar tucked beneath a boulder in the desert. By ancient, I mean pre-Columbian, probably 800 years old. It was hidden along the rubble-choked slope of a canyon in Southeast Utah. The way it was placed, seated in shade and red blow-sand next to a once […]

Gold Stars

Go ahead and celebrate today’s holiday with a grill and a swill or a trip to some big box store to buy discounted appliances. Unless you’re part of the other one percent — the tiny fraction of Americans who served in the military during the long wars fought since September 11, 2001 — Memorial Day […]

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 […]

TGIPF: Look! International Symbol!

“Look!” our guide said, and he pointed to a frieze at the top of a nearby building. We looked. The figures were inscrutable at first, but then the guide explained: The building had been a shop belonging to a wine merchant. We ahhh’d, not so much at the fact that the shop had belonged to a […]

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 […]