Experiment Regarding a Garage

I’ve been reading a history book, this one on a subject with so little documentation it needs to rely on eyewitnesses remembering what happened 10, 30, 50 years before.  Which, honest to God, why would you even bother? Science insists over and over and over, eyewitness testimony isn’t reliable – it’s influenced by stress, it […]

Stranger in a Foreign Land

I know this guy. He’s a good guy – hard working, wants to do right by his wife and kid – but somehow he’s found himself in an unusual position in the debate over US/Mexico immigration. This fellow adores his home country but also has a healthy sense of wanderlust. Yes he loves his countrymen and his family […]

Anastomosing Rabbit Holes

I’m having trouble with a story.  First I went down one rabbit hole (the effects, on both sides of the Atlantic, of the Irish Potato Famine) until it branched into two (now-dead towns, one in Maryland, one in Ireland), and then I went down both.  You can picture me heading down one, scrambling back up, […]

On Getting From “Wow!” to “[yawn]”: Yes!!!

A few weeks ago I was talking to one of the founders of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the collaboration that last September made the first detection of gravitational waves. Even if you’re not science-savvy, you will almost certainly recall the worldwide breathless news coverage following the February announcement of that detection. Now Rainer Weiss, MIT […]

A Pilgrimage for the Soul

On Friday, May 13, group of road bikers got together for the 44th annual Pacific Coast Century Ride. I guess that’s its name. Honestly, I have no idea what to call it. Ever since I was a kid, we just called it “The Ride.” It started back in the 70s with a guy named George Andrews, […]

H.G. Wells’ Advice on Science Writing

H.G. Wells is remembered today for his science fiction, but he had a solid foundation — and an enduring interest — in science fact. As a university student in London in the 1880s, he was deeply influenced by a course with Thomas Henry Huxley, a biologist so fiercely committed to evolutionary theory that he was known […]

Damage Patterns

The other night I was in the midst of writing about the Ice Age when I strayed to the internet. Up came the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography that went this year to New York Times photographers Mauricio Lima, Sergey Ponomarev, Tyler Hicks and Daniel Etter for their coverage of the European refugee crises. Fresh from writing a […]

Redux: What Luis Alvarez Did

This post originally ran on November 11, 2013. I rerun it now partly because I liked it and mostly because it’s a conversation with Hope Jahren and Ben Lillie. Hope has a new book out, written with her usual brilliant, nail-gun verve; Ben runs an on-going travelling theatrical anthology that’s like nothing else I’ve heard of. […]