What Should We Do About Comments?

I have a policy: never read the comments. This rule applies to most of the publications where my work appears online, such as FiveThirtyEight, Slate and The Washington Post. (LWON is the exception. Comments left here require approval before they’re posted, and I read them all.) It might seem unfriendly to ignore people who are […]

The Othering of Tom Hayden

I need you to know this: I had my name before he was famous. And though my family moved from Detroit to Saskatoon during the Vietnam War years that made him so, I need you to understand that my father was never a draft dodger. I have no quarrel with the decisions, to flee conscription […]

The Eternal Toil of the Motor Protein

A few days ago, I stumbled across this particularly arresting GIF while scrolling through my Facebook feed. The animation shows a stringy figure with huge feet lugging a rippling green sphere along a ribbed beam. “Look at that little guy plodding along,” I thought. “That looks like hard work.” Here’s the thing: That “little guy” is a […]

Guest Post: Fact-Checking: the Polar Bear Test

Everyone has an embarrassing moment on social media. For me, the most memorable started with an adorable photo of a baby polar bear. The bear had gleaming white fur, big brown eyes, and a sweet expression. It floated into my line of vision one morning two summers ago, as I consumed Twitter while consuming my […]

Conversation: James Gleick in the Fourth Dimension

May I introduce James Gleick?  He’s been on staff at the New York Times, and has written seven books, including Chaos and Genius (a biography of Richard Feynman), for which he’s won impressive prizes.  And he’s just published Time Travel, which Joyce Carol Oates called “another of [his] superb, unclassifiable books.”  It’s a compendium of […]

The Financially Damaging Myth of No Effort

A few weeks ago now I went to something called XOXO, a festival for independent artists. There are lots of recaps of this conference on the internet so I won’t try to add to that pile. But I did want to tie together two things I heard that I think are intrinsically related, and that […]

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, […]