Of Ants and Men (part 3)

A Paris Review-style interview with E.O. Wilson (Read Part I and Part II.) A score of books. Two Pulitzers. Papers that defined entire fields. So why did biologist Edward O. Wilson bother writing a novel? Because people need stories, he says. Wilson hopes his fictional debut from earlier this year, Anthill—about a young man from…

Of Ants and Men (part 2)

A Paris Review-style interview with E.O. Wilson (read Part I here) A score of books. Two Pulitzers. Papers that defined entire fields. So why did biologist Edward O. Wilson bother writing a novel? Because people need stories, he says. Wilson hopes his fictional debut from earlier this year, Anthill—about a young man from the South,…

Of Ants and Men (part 1)

A Paris Review-style interview with E.O. Wilson A score of books. Two Pulitzers. Papers that defined entire fields. So why did biologist Edward O. Wilson bother writing a novel? Because people need stories, he says. Wilson hopes his fictional debut from earlier this year, Anthill—about a young man from the South, militant ants, and the…

Cadmium

When I set out to write a book on all the great and hidden stories on the periodic table, I figured I’d have to delve into some strange and uncomfortable history. There was the inevitable brush with the alchemists, and humankind’s almost instinctual lust for gold and silver. I even ended up mapping out the…

Dying Most Securely

In the middle of last month, a colleague of mine, a writer, was run over by a five-ton military truck on a public street in Washington, D.C. Patrons at a restaurant nearby—it was dinner time, about 6 p.m., a nice day to dine outside—said the sound of her getting crushed beneath the wheels was stomach-sickening.…

A Plato’s-Republic-Like Sketch of Higher Education: Or, should scientists go to college?

by Sam Kean For those of us that like drastic solutions and saltational mutations, one way to fix the perpetual crises (existential, and otherwise) that colleges and universities seem to find themselves in would be this: get out the axe. Axe the business school, axe all the engineering programs, axe the professional programs, axe even…

Rumination on the Life, Death, and Particularly the Legacy of a Man Barely Necessary to Introduce to Y’All, Beyond Mentioning (1) His Initials, D, F, and W, and (2) The Fact That This Very Headline Owes Him, Obviously, Everything

Watching the legions of Michael Jackson fans make pilgrimages to and build cairns of flowers and stuffed toys at the Neverland Ranch in southern California, I can’t say I shared their sorrow exactly. I did sympathize: Boy, had I been there. When David Foster Wallace hanged himself at his own southern California home on September…

Who John Galt Isn’t

It was the “o” what did it, three swirling red crests with the vertiginous rabbit-hole center fading into white that hypnotized my attention and coaxed my bike tire left so that I nearly grazed the back wheel of a BMW. It was an encounter I would have lost, surely, and it surely would have been…

What’s Wrong with “Dixie”

One day back when I was living in Minneapolis, an ice-cream truck came trolling down our tree-lined street. Despite the dearth of children in the neighborhood, the squat beige van came not infrequently, usually tooting something innocuous like “Pop Goes the Weasel” to rally a small crowd. One blistering afternoon it started whistling a different…

The Specter of Souter

It was my fault. I’d been traveling abroad and didn’t want the real world invading my vacation bubble, so I was checking e-mail and world headlines superficially. Bea Arthur’s death and swine flu penetrated my consciousness to about the same depth. Sometime during those lazy days I followed a link or two and saw a…