Looking Up

About seven years ago, a good friend of mine experienced an unthinkable tragedy. Her 38-year-old cousin—to whom she was extremely close—and the woman’s two young daughters were walking hand in hand to school when a driver, having passed out due to an illness, swerved into them. They were dragged to their deaths. Ever since, my friend […]

Of Cops and Shots

The room is plain and cloaked in shadow, save the single pool of light draped over a hardened criminal. Facing the her is a meaty lug of a detective with a ketchup-stained tie and hairy knuckles. “This doesn’t have to go bad for you, Jenny,” the larger man growls. “You work with us and I can […]

Strange Times in Washington

The first I knew of it was about 11:00 Monday night. The Capital Weather Gang, a brilliant blog that was snapped up by the Washington Post a few years ago, posted on Facebook: “Have seen some reports of a fireball (large meteor) in DC area around 8:25 pm. Anyone see it?” Comments came in. A […]

Election Hangover

Hello world. Yesterday was election day in America. One guy won and another guy lost. But the race was hard fought, and our already divided country remains as polarized as ever. Did you listen to the last episode of This American Life? We don’t just disagree, we barely see each other as human beings. And […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): Sub-Grid Physics

Science, so useful to our lives in so many ways, also usefully supplies metaphors from which we may find comfort or edification. An astronomer told me that the galaxy we live in, the Milky Way, was surrounded by a tenuous halo of hot gas.  “How can gas stay hot, out there in space?”  I asked.  […]

This Is Not About Climate Change

I read a nice essay saying that scientists make their advice to politicians too simple.  What scientists over-simplify, said the essay’s author, is their uncertainties.  I thought the author might be right: surely politicians don’t believe flat statements like, say, “climate change is making the world warmer and we’re all going to die.”  Not that […]

Is Organized Crime Cashing In at Pompeii?

The Italian press recently had a field day in its coverage of the sad decline of one of Italy’s greatest tourist draws: Pompeii. In early October, a prominent Italian newspaper ran a front-page editorial on the subject, calling the crumbling Roman ruins a “symbol of all the sloppiness and inefficiencies of a country that has lost […]