Science Metaphors (cont.): Scale Mismatch

Dear readers, dear friends, As I write this, on the afternoon of November 9, 2016, the future looks very dark. If you respect reason and truth, if you care about the planet we depend on, if you believe that biology is just biology, not destiny, then I expect the future looks dark to you, too. I […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): The Anthropocene

On Monday, at an international meeting of geologists in Cape Town, South Africa, the 35 members of the Anthropocene Working Group summarized their seven years of work. Chief among their preliminary findings is that the current human-dominated chapter in our planet’s history, informally known as the Anthropocene, is geologically real. That’s “real” as in “recorded in the earth’s rock layers.” The report is the latest […]

Guest Post: A Litany of Posts Not Written

As of tomorrow, May 20, LWON will have been alive for five years. LWON is a little surprised at this and entirely pleased with itself.  In celebration, two of our brilliant alumni have agreed to write guest posts listing the Top Five Things They Want to List the Top Five Of.  We are, and always […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): Decompensation

I suspect this isn’t really a science metaphor, but I got caught up in the word. I had a friend who’s married to a hospital doctor, and he brought home many work-related words of interest:  “mother-of-record,” for instance, meant that he wasn’t going to be the one taking cupcakes to their kid’s class in the […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): Tidally Locked

I’ll go home tonight, I’ll open the front door, I’ll yell, “Hey sweetie, hi!”  Then Sweetie will yell, “Hello, young Ann.” I’ll look at the mail, then I’ll yell again, “Did you pick up the salmon?” And he’ll say, “Yep, it’s in the refrigerator.”  And then I’ll look over the mail and start to throw […]

Ignorance: The Elevator Speech

Ever since I reviewed Ignorance: How it Drives Science, a charming new book by the Columbia neuroscientist Stuart Firestein, I’ve been thinking about ignorance. And I tell you, it’s been a bit of a headache. Firestein teaches a popular science class at Columbia, also called Ignorance, in which he invites scientists from different disciplines to talk […]

An Instrument in the Shape of a Woman

There are poems about science. There are poems about scientists. But I know of only two poems about women scientists — about women doing science, that is — and both were written by the same person: the brilliant, defiant, influential poet Adrienne Rich, who died last week at the age of 82. From “Power“: Today […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): Degeneracy

I was helping an astronomer write a sentence.  It was about disentangling the color a supernova has intrinsically, from the reddening in its color caused by cosmic dust.  He wrote he wanted to “break the degeneracy” between the colors.  Break the degeneracy.  I got so excited.  I’d always thought degenerates were people who didn’t, for […]