Sensory Underload

Three years ago on about this day in early June I was stuck in a whiteout. Camped in an icebound mountain range in south-central Alaska, my buddies and I found ourselves pinned down for two days in near-zero visibility on an icefield. A heavy, snow-laden sky had come down and smothered us. As mountaineers say, it […]

You call that science?

Last week I invited readers to participate in a little experiment. I’d had what I thought might be a big idea: a possible correlation between rate of reading speed and facility with learning foreign languages. My younger son and I are slow in both categories. My older son and my wife are quick in both categories. I […]

Parle français? Read English? ¿Una palabra a la vez? Oy.

Inspired by guest Veronique Greenwood‘s three-part series (part 1, part 2, part 3) about learning a foreign language, some of the contributors to LWON volunteered for a week’s worth of essays about their own encounters with the challenges of linguistics. When my younger son was in high school, my wife and I realized we would need to hire a tutor for his French class. […]

Coming of Age

  A few years ago, I joined a group of families on a backcountry kayaking trip in Alaska’s Prince William sound. A kid named Will was just about to turn 13, and I was there to watch him come of age. I’d known him as a strong little wild-haired monkey, but on this trip he […]

Outmoded Diseases: Neurasthenia

Have you ever read a book where someone had pleurisy, or gout, or hysteria, and wondered…how come I never hear about anybody getting that anymore? Well, you’re in luck: It’s Outmoded Diseases Week at LWON, and we’re going to tell you. About some of them, anyway.  We’re starting off with neurasthenia, a disease suffered by […]

The Placebo President

As I have occasionally mentioned on this blog, I am currently working on a book on the many ways that our own brains can deceive ourselves. Placebos, hucksters, healers, hypnotists, and con men – it’s all in there. It’s a fascinating subject and one that constantly reminds me to be careful about what I think I […]

Homeopathy Part Two: The Secret Placebo Experiment

If you suffer from low blood pressure or an inability to get bent out of shape, I recommend an evening of fine dining and finding yourself backed into a serious conversation about homeopathy. Difficulty: you’ve been instructed by your spouse to “keep your science in your pants” because it’s a social occasion with extended family, […]