Perspective, Perhaps

Last week, according to some real news, Earth got a wave hello from far away, from some-3-billion-year-old vibrations that were set off when two black holes smashed into each other. (Really? There’s not room for both of you up there?) According to the New York Times, the collision—reported by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which felt the signal—resulted in […]

Redux: Giving History the Finger

At a thousand words, this picture would be way undervalued. But there it was, waiting to be taken (the picture, that is, not the object). So I took, during a visit to Florence, and I wrote, in 2014, and I redux, here, because some images you just can’t get out of your head. The middle […]

Reading Sci-Fi with Astrobioloigist David Grinspoon

David Grinspoon is a comparative planetologist and an astrobiologist. He’s also a big book nerd, and his love for both fiction and nonfiction are proudly on display in his own new book, Earth In Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future. Grinspoon’s book uses insight from the study of the other planets in our solar system […]

Rosetta and Philae: Plucky siblings for life

On September 30, the Rosetta orbiter will make a controlled collision with Comet 67P/C-G. It is not designed for landing, so this is the last we will hear from it. This date also marks an end to a happy period for my family that started in 2013 when my son was just four years old […]

What We Talk About When We Talk About Intelligent Life

Two weeks ago, while sitting on the floor building a puzzle with my toddler, I heard a window-rattling thud. I figured it was the neighbor’s soccer ball hitting the glass door again, so I got up feeling somewhat ticked. When I looked out the window, the first thing I saw was an absolutely apoplectic male […]

A Concatenation of Extraterrestrials

The past few days have been a cosmic convergence of opinions about extraterrestrial life.  First, I’ve been interviewing scientists and engineers who think that funding searches for planets that might support life isn’t unreasonable.  Second, a neighbor told me he’d read in the New York Times that extraterrestrial life almost certainly had evolved somewhere, some […]

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 […]

“The Martian” and Ice Age Astronauts

Two nights ago I sat in a theater watching the film “The Martian.” I loved seeing a viable spacecraft making gravitational slingshots around planets while a stranded, potato-growing astronaut claimed himself the first colonist on Mars. What’s there not to love? Meanwhile, in my coat pocket I carried an object from an entirely different age […]