Mar 16

March 16, 2017

William Thomas Horton, illustration in The Savoy No. 7, 1896

As Night Recedes

For most of us today, artificial light keeps the night at bay, and the darkness of winter is avoidable, lightbulbs blazing.

Posted in Science, Sociology

Mar 11

March 11, 2017

McConnel's whiskey ad

What Whiskey, Angels, and Ecology Share

In the world of whiskey distilling, after adolescent whiskey has been sealed in its oak cask to mature about 2% of the whiskey has vanished by the time it’s reopened. The truth that every whiskey maker knows is this: you must accept the loss of some quantity in order to gain in quality.

Posted in Sociology

May 18

May 18, 2015

The explanatory diagram on the Voyager 1's Golden Record, launched by NASA in 1977.

Voyager 1 and the Golden Records

Images of celestial marvels are as common as cat videos, and play the backdrop on millions of computer screens. And while the photographs streaming in from space are still marvelous, it’s harder to get us to marvel.

Posted in Sociology

May 6

May 6, 2015

Snow goose, Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, Quebec, taken by Simon Pierre Barrette, 2010.

The Berkeley Pit: Murders Most Fowl

In all the annals of tragedy, the demise of one migrating flock of snow geese may seem of not much consequence, but our story exemplifies this universal truth: there is no waste, only a changing of form.

Posted in Science

May 1

May 1, 2015

Morning in a Pine Forest, Ivan Shishkin, 1889.

A-Z Modern Bestiary: Bears in the Balance

Bears are individuals with great curiosity and keen faculties, and they act for all sorts of reasons that we can only guess at. Ultimately, in the words of notable bear behaviorist Else Poulsen, “bears do things for bear reasons.”

Posted in Modern Bestiary

Nov 18

November 18, 2014

Pumpkin, Flore des Serres et des Jardins de l'Europe, Vol XIV, Louis Van Houtte, 1861.

Dispelling the Myth of the Passive Plant

For a human, it’s impossible to grasp the reality of life lived as a plant, and many of us have been guilty of removing all possibilities of awareness and responsiveness from the flora family. We pluck a flower for its beauty and never dream that the plant is aware of our theft and sending out a chemical chorus through its whole being to assess the situation.

Posted in Science

Oct 1

October 1, 2014

Cropped version of Der Vivisektor (The Vivisector), Gabriel von Max, 1883.

The Heart: Earthly and Emotive

We literally feel our hearts, how they react to what we love or fear or lose. And this is where the separate lines representing the physical heart (the hollow muscle expanding and collapsing in our chests) and the metaphorical heart (the emotional and spiritual associations) begin to waver and weave…

Posted in Psychology

Sep 18

September 18, 2014

Two views of an ox's heart, Da Vinci, 1513. This was the first anatomically accurate illustration of a heart.

The Heart: A Flesh and Blood Examination

The palpable, bloody, muscular mass of our carnal heart is wondrous in its own right: from the epic journey our blood travels, to the electrical currents that conduct our heart beat, to the tale of the first heart transplant.

Posted in Science

Sep 15

September 15, 2014

Catching hearts, Petit Livre d'Amour, Pierre Sala, 16th century

The Heart: An Appropriately Irrational Examination

Right now in your chest there is a muscular fist of tissue beating away, contracting and expanding, singing a pulsing song, producing its deep drum beat, which you are probably rarely aware of. This post will, at least momentarily, remedy that.

Posted in Myths & Folktales, Sociology

Aug 13

August 13, 2014

The Angry Sea, James McNeill Whistler, 1884.

In Praise of the Pacific

Staring out into the endless blue water of the Pacific can be both alluring and frightening, especially when I remember that humankind descended from ancient creatures who managed to survive and evolve in that salty, fluxing, fierce, and deep expanse.

Posted in Psychology, Science

Jul 9

July 9, 2014

Dung beetles, from Fabre's Book of Insects, Mrs. Rodolph Stawell, 1921.

Delving into Dirt: From Stardust to Soil

Dust, soil, earth, grime, silt, loam, muck, mud, gunk, filth, grit. The synonyms for dirt are many, and few carry a positive meaning. If something is dirty, it is in need of cleaning. If you’re dishing the dirt, then someone’s dark secrets are being aired. If you’re having dirty thoughts, please, keep them to yourself. But dusty, dirty, mucky material creates structure and contains nourishment, allowing life to flourish…

Posted in Science

Jun 21

June 21, 2014

Stonehenge, near Salisbury, England. Photograph taken between circa 1890 and 1900.

The Summer Solstice: Nope, Not Just for Pagans

Today’s the summer solstice, and if you have no idea what that means or instantly think of a circle of flower-bedecked pagans chanting together around a bonfire, you’re not alone. Our modern society has a very tenuous connection to the ancient festivals that marked the changing of the seasons. Now the summer passes by without any great cultural celebration to mark our gratitude for this season of fertility, beauty, plenty, and joy.

Posted in Sociology