Travels with the Pasha (On Memorial Day in America)

by Leanne Ogasawara 1. The year was 1683. And the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, Kara Mustafa Pasha, was leading one of the most organized war machines the world had ever seen, westward– toward Vienna. We know that his campaign would end in failure. The Pasha himself held ultimately responsible, he would be made to suffer the…

Do Octopuses Have Souls? (On the Nature of Animal Consciousness)

by Leanne Ogasawara Anyone who has ever found themselves caught in a staring contest with an octopus –those soulful cat-eyes returning your gaze through the thick glass of an aquarium tank– can attest to the uncanny power these creatures exert over our human imagination. They certainly look alien. With three hearts pumping blue, copper-infused blood,…

Translating Descartes

by Leanne Ogasawara 1. The philosopher and the translator It was probably the most interesting translation job I ever had. Hired directly by the philosopher himself, my task was to translate into English a series of talks and papers he would be delivering in the US and Europe in the coming year. Philosophy being what…

A Symphony of Vanishing Sounds (The Insect Apocalypse)

by Leanne Ogasawara I’d been living in Tokyo about ten years, when a friend’s father decided to perform a little experiment on me. Arriving one cool autumn evening at their home in suburban Mejirodai, he waved my friend away, telling her: “I want to have a little chat with Leanne.” Sitting down on the sofa…

On the Trail of Leonardo– Confusion, Collusion, and Connoisseurship

by Leanne Ogasawara It was mid-summer 2011 when the news broke that a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting had been found. Apparently, a New York City art dealer noticed the picture at an estate sale in Louisiana and purchased it for around $10,000. This occurred back in 2005, and the following six years were spent…

Report from Salzburg

by Leanne Ogasawara “Someday, I’d like to visit Salzburg when the Summer Festival’s not going on. That way, I can see if the place is real; for I just can’t help wondering if Salzburg is not some kind of enchanted fairy world, which only comes into being when the music is playing…” “Nonsense” said our…

Feynman at Caltech

 by Leanne Ogasawara On May 11th, to mark the 100th anniversary of Richard Feynman’s birth, Caltech put on a truly dazzling evening of public talks. I heard that tickets sold-out online in four minutes; and this event was so popular that attendees started queueing up to enter the auditorium an hour before the program began.…

Einstein’s Brain

by Leanne Ogasawara Einstein was adamant. He did not want a large public funeral. He wanted to be immediately cremated with his ashes scattered before anyone had time to make a fuss. Fair enough, right? Einstein biographer Walter Isaacson reminds us of the 1727 funeral of Sir Isaac Newton. Like Einstein, Newton was a superstar…

Dreaming in Latin

by Leanne Ogasawara I wrote about Piero della Francesca's the Flagellation of Christ in my post about my botched Piero Pilgrimage of 2015. A woman of many mangled pilgrimages, this one continues to haunt me. Perhaps Piero's most famous picture, there are numerous explanations for what is being depicted. The conventional understanding of the left…