EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Astronomers have discovered nearly 6,000 planets in the last 20 years. And Neanderthals had red hair and freckles.

We are living in a great age of natural science.

In “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer,” John Keats described the wonder he felt on reading the translations of The Iliad and the Odyssey published in 1616 by Shakespeare’s contemporary George Chapman (1559-1634):

	Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
		When a new planet swims into his ken;
	Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
		He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
	Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
		Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

It was Balboa, not Cortes, who was the first Spanish explorer to see the Pacific from Central America (Keats was corrected but let the line stand). The “watcher of the skies” who delights “when a new planet swims into his ken” was the astronomer William Herschel, who discovered Uranus in 1781.
More… “Our Silver Age of Natural Science”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

The day K. came in and said, “I don’t care anymore,” was a revelation. By then, the communal living space/art collective housing 17 artists and hangers-on that was my home had been battling bedbugs for three months. Only four of the 17 rooms (mine not included) were actually infested, but communal living as it is, we all had to share in the initial bedbug cleansing procedures familiar to anyone who has had or read about bedbugs — the thorough packing all personal items in plastic, the taping of holes and cracks in walls and furniture, the wrapping of each bed in a plastic sack not unlike those used to wrap corpses at homicide scenes. We tried not to let hysteria get the best of us as we emptied our rooms of every doodad, every picture, and watched the mountain of 17 people’s-worth of belongings mushroom in the gallery space. We… More…

 

Look at enough dinosaur displays and you begin to ask questions beyond the scope of the exhibit. What would a sleeping dinosaur look like? How do you clean one of these things? Where’s the cafeteria?

It’s not that the dinosaurs themselves are uninteresting — the danger they suggest infuses museum halls with a sense of potential energy. Instead, it’s the fact that once you’ve seen one T. Rex, all other T. Rexes start to look alike.

And there are a lot of them out there. Indeed, dinosaur mounts have become so fundamental to our idea of what makes a natural history museum that it can be difficult to imagine the institutions ever existing without them. Yet the “fearfully great lizards” made a relatively late appearance in the tradition of collecting and displaying the Earth’s artifacts. The Egyptians were collecting exotic wildlife as early as 1400 B.C., and… More…