“Did they ever meet?” I got the question all the time. People would ask what I was working on, and I would say a book about Einstein and Freud, and then would come the question. Same thing with my next book. People would ask what I was working on, and I would say a book […]

Matter In the Universe, At Present

This is the universe at present.  You’re seeing not the light but the dark — you knew that most of the universe’s matter is dark, right? — and its motions.  Not until the far right end are you seeing the light.  Go ahead and clickety click all over this; zoom it in and out, drag it around. […]

Is That Guy Really, Really Smart?

A friend I run into regularly says, “Hey, Ann.  Do you know that guy from around here who won that Nobel whatever?”  He means Adam Riess, and yes, I know Riess.  I’ve interviewed him, I say hello, he says hello back.  “I have a question for you,” says my friend. “Is your Nobel guy really, […]

What’s in a Name

The best thing that ever happened to the Big Bang is its name. For scientists, the acceptance of a scientific concept depends on its explanation of existing data, its prediction of observable phenomena, the observation of those phenomena, and the duplication of those results. But for non-scientists—well, for scientists, too—the popularity of a concept can come […]

Sez Who?

In 1992 I wrote an article for the New York Times on body doubles—the performers in movies who substitute for stars who aren’t quite buff enough for close-ups or brave enough for nudity. I cited several examples of stars who have used body doubles, including Kim Basinger in My Stepmother Is An Alien and Julia […]

The Long Hello

On April 4, the physics department at Columbia University held an unblinding party. For 100.9 days between January 13 and June 8, 2010, a detector 4,500 feet underground at the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, in central Italy, had been collecting data. Following the protocol of a “blind” analysis, the data had instantly disappeared into […]

Bad Actors + Science Metaphor (cont)

I’ve kept an eye on neutrinos ever since I heard, back in the mid-1980’s, that not enough of them were coming out of the sun; this sounded serious.  It turned out that the sun was behaving itself but the neutrinos weren’t.  On its way out of the sun, any given neutrino was changing into three […]

Stop the Presses. Please.

The subject line in the e-mail was, “Congratulations, I think….”  The message itself said, “Just read about Dark Matter finally outing itself.” “Huh?” I wrote back. “Haven’t you heard??? Dark Matter has been telescopically (is that a word?) observed!” The message came from a graduate student of mine during holiday break this past December. He […]