The Writings on the Wall

    You’d think a wall panel in the Galileo gallery in the Galileo wing of the Galileo Museum would be a good place to get an accurate context for Galileo’s historical significance. You’d be wrong: “These astronomical discoveries heralded a revolution destined to demolish an image of the universe that had lasted for two thousand […]

Weapons-Grade Private Enterprise

Over the years, I’ve met a number of physicists who had direct or indirect connections with the Manhattan Project and who then spent the rest of their lives trying to get the nuclear weapons genie back into the bottle and the bottle corked.  I think of these physicists as the old arms-controllers. They’re impressive people. […]

13 Years Later and Still Bracing

When I realized that I was scheduled to post on the 13th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, I decided I should write something about the legacy of that day. I want so badly to find a kernel of hope, but current events leave me with nothing but pessimism. Violence has begotten more violence. Since September 11, 2001, […]

Bad Science Poet

Please join LWON today in welcoming a new occasional contributor, Bad Science Poet. (Motto: “It’s not the science that’s bad—it’s the poetry!”™) MAYBE, MAYBE NOT Is that uncertainty I see? Its position known to only me? Is that uncertainty I hear? Echoing (or not) from ear to ear? Said Heisenberg, “Yes.” Niels Bohr said, “One guess.” And Einstein?  […]

The Berger Inquiry

The normal course of action would have been to collect reports from biologists, anthropologists and sociologists – all hired by the gas company – to assess the environmental, economic and social impacts of the pipeline. But this was to be the largest project ever undertaken anywhere by private enterprise, in the history of the world. […]

Guest Post: Writing a Relationship

About a year ago I sat in the Members’ Room at the Royal Society as Professor Judith Howard FRS, once a doctoral student of Dorothy Hodgkin’s, explained how crystallographers worked in the early days. She showed me how Dorothy would begin by calibrating the black circles in an X-ray diffraction pattern by eye, to begin […]

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, […]