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?  […]

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, […]

Freezeproof a Fairy—With Science!

Tom Painter, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, studies snow hydrology in mountains around the world. He’s also a leading expert on the thermodynamics of fairies and princesses. Painter started his fairy-princess sideline a few years ago, when he was asked to lend his expertise to Tinkerbell: Secret of the Wings. In the movie—bear with […]

Repeat After Us

I was reading the end-of-semester student essays in the Science as Narrative course I teach when one phrase stopped me. Stopped me as in, I didn’t go on: “Darwin was happy to be tasked with telling a fire by its ashes.” Was it an actual thing, I wondered, this “telling a fire by its ashes”? I […]

Giant Stack of Spacecraft

On Saturday I went to the visitor’s center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, showed my driver’s license, and got a yellow paper badge to hang around my neck. The occasion: the friends and family day for MMS, the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission. MMS isn’t one of NASA’s better-known missions. When I googled […]

Garwin: the Movie (UPDATED)

Garwin: the Movie opens with an old, steady, precise hand on a computer keyboard, scrolling through now-declassified* documents.  Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower make announcements, and newspapers flash headlines about our splendid new hydrogen bomb.  Then the blossom of a mushroom cloud unfolds; and John F. Kennedy talks about Russian missiles in Cuba; and the […]

Kepler on the Moon, Part (Who Knew?) 3

Kepler strikes again! A couple of weeks ago, in a two-part essay, I wrote about a 1608 book by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler that scholars consider the first work of science fiction: Somnium—Latin for The Dream. This past week, I got to thinking about Kepler’s book again, after the discovery of dwarf planet 2012 VP113 (which the discoverers have nicknamed […]