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, […]

A Case of J-Shame

I’ve been working on a couple of essays over the last week, knowing I had to fill this space. But when the time came to post one of them, I couldn’t do it. The subject was too irrelevant, too glib in the shadow of yet another sick fuck shooting innocent people. It didn’t belong. This […]

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 […]

The Story I Never Wrote

Last year, I abandoned a story. It happens, journalists don’t write every story they think they might. But this one I still think about. It started innocuously enough. A paper caught my eye about looting and archaeology. The premise was somewhat counterintuitive: the author argued that in places where the economic situation was particularly dire, […]