The Last Word

June 13-17, 2016 Christie thought she was from nowhere–until an internet quiz put her in her place. The novel Frankenstein, Michelle writes, “can be read a warning of the perils of human hubris and a brilliantly imaginative response to a global disaster.” Will we take its lessons and inspiration to heart in the face of our own monstrous creation, climate change? J-Shame: “It hits when your […]

On Getting From “Wow!” to “[yawn]”: Yes!!!

A few weeks ago I was talking to one of the founders of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the collaboration that last September made the first detection of gravitational waves. Even if you’re not science-savvy, you will almost certainly recall the worldwide breathless news coverage following the February announcement of that detection. Now Rainer Weiss, MIT […]

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. […]

The Last Word

April 13-17 Ann on a recent Nature study linking dragons and climate change: “The authors recommend the obvious — increasing research in consumer-friendly fire-resistent clothing — and further suggest that monarchs desist from running around conferring knighthoods.” A sharp-eyed commenter notes publication date. Michelle on a disease affecting couples living in tipis and other small, off-the-grid […]

There Goes the Sun

During a total eclipse of the sun, the landscape darkens. But you knew that. What you might not know—what I didn’t know, anyway, when I observed a total solar eclipse on August 11, 1999—is that the experience comes with a lot of other sensory overload. I found myself thinking about that total eclipse while reading about the one […]

Redux: The Beginning of the End of Science

Some things never change. And sometimes the things that never change still somehow change for the worse. This post originally ran on January 5, 2011—an anti-science era that now seems almost quaint. Those were the days! I blame David Letterman. Less than a month before the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, one of the guests on his show was the governor of Texas, George W. Bush. […]