Blog Profile / Achenblog


URL :http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/achenblog
Filed Under:News / Independent News
Posts on Regator:556
Posts / Week:2.7
Archived Since:April 20, 2011

Blog Post Archive

Mystic Mountain: Is this the Hubble Space Telescope’s greatest image?

The Hubble is about to turn 25. That’s an awesome milestone for a piece of hardware that’s vastly exceeded expectations. We’re doing a story that will run between now and the anniversary of the launch next Friday. See also Rachel Feltman’s Speaking of Science blog for coverage. Here’s a verbatim email exchange I had the […]

How to write a political profile of Rand Paul when Rand Paul won’t talk to you

Today we’re publishing my “Make or Break” piece on Rand Paul, a story that identifies a key characteristic — his “libertarianish” philosophy — that can distinguish him from the pack of GOP candidates but potentially put a ceiling on his support. I hope this story gives you a better idea of where RP is coming […]

Porch Season! At last.

I know it’s supposed to be relatively chilly today in DC, and so this declaration of the official and much-delayed start of the 2015 Porch Season might be misconstrued as an April Fool’s joke. We’ve never had to wait so long for Opening Day. Porch Season usually begins around March 10. I could conceivably wait […]

4/14: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

[My story on the Lincoln assassination published in our final special section on the Civil War. This last section tells of the war's end. We spent four and a half years on this project, publishing special sections every six months. The stories have now been told and have been packaged as an eBook.] By Joel […]

Why “The Great Gatsby” is the Great American Novel

Sure, I knew that F. Scott Fitzgerald had an up and down career and a bad drinking habit and wound up dying at a young age while working as a script doctor in Hollywood. But until I read Maureen Corrigan’s terrific book “So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why […]

A year later, BICEP2 astronomer is upbeat as he hunts for elusive Big Bang signal

Exactly one year ago today came stunning news out of Cambridge, Mass., at a news conference at Harvard: Astronomers had discovered gravitational waves emanated in an inflationary spasm at the dawn of time. It’s hard to overstate the stunning nature of this announcement. This was a direct detection of quantum gravity at work in the initial […]

Uplifting thoughts about Doomsday

[Cross-posted from the Post's new Inspire blog,  edited by my former Rough Draft editor Sydney Trent. Please note that there is not a single reference to Hillary Clinton's emails. Well, now there's one, I guess.] I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the end of the world. I’m on the catastrophe beat around […]

Why there’s no Silicon Valley in outer space

Back to aliens! It’s like going home. It’s a way of checking on old friends (scientists who think about aliens) and recalibrating one’s estimate of the abundance of intelligent civilizations in the universe (I’ve gone from “no idea” to “no freakin’ idea”). My hunch has always been that, given the vastness of the cosmos, we […]

‘Turing’s Cathedral’

We’re now completely immersed, entangled and confounded by the digital revolution, a wonderful thing except to the extent that it is infernal. Alan Turing is, of course, a pioneer of this new world. My story published Friday about Turing offers some, but certainly not all, of the backstory of “The Imitation Game.” The movie focuses […]

Mega-droughts, geoengineering, alien contact: Notes from AAAS

The big question this morning is whether to tell my friends in New England that we’re paralyzed here in DC by several inches of snow. Another decision point: Should I attack the sidewalk with a shovel, or will a broom suffice? They’ve shut the federal government in response to this calamity. Many of us responded […]

Pondering solutions to global warming in snowy Cambridge

Everyone needs a mission. I hope it doesn’t come off as immodest when I say that my professional mission in life is to save the world from superstition, madness and despair. It’s a heavy burden. There are times when, overcome with a sense of humility, I tell myself, “Although you are clearly the best person […]

Planck flings dust at BICEP2: No discovery of gravitational waves from the big bang

There’s bad news for the BICEP2 team: A new analysis reveals that the much-hyped discovery of “gravitational waves” from the big bang does not hold up to closer scrutiny.  That’s the result of a joint analysis of data from the ESA’s Planck satellite and BICEP2. The “signal” may have been entirely generated by dust within […]

Science’s war on two fronts

Science, writ large, has an ongoing challenge in communicating its ideas and conclusions to the general public. Separately, it has an internal, rearguard problem with irreproducible results. These are distinct battles, and shouldn’t be conflated. Show More Summary

Welcome to Science Tuesday Mid-Afternoon: Should we be worried about synthetic organisms cooked up in laboratories?

[Cross-posted from our new Energy and Environment blog.] One of the strange things about being human beings is that we are highly conscious of our surroundings, yet are oblivious to the molecular machinations within our own bodies. Sure, we monitor ourselves – we’re hungry, we’re tired, we’re squirrelly, we’ve got the sewing-machine leg, we shoulda […]

The world we make: Don’t leave it to the engineers

You might not be able to tell from my latest story, on “planetary boundaries,” but I tend to be cautiously optimistic about the future of human civilization. In some quarters this is considered insane, a sign of willful obliviousness to our certain doom. In other ideological precincts, the “cautiously” part is considered weak and whimpering, […]

The presidency: What it takes

This morning President Obama is being slammed for not attending Sunday’s huge Paris rally in response to last week’s terrorism. The White House has suggested that security issues made the participation of the president and vice president impractical (the ambassador represented the U.S.). In any case: When you’re Obama the one thing you can count […]

The good life, in theory

In the new Ian McEwan novel, “The Children Act,” the author briefly summarizes (via the mind of his protagonist, a family law judge) what’s necessary for the good life: “She listed some relevant ingredients, goals toward which a child might grow. Economic and moral freedom, virtue, compassion and altruism, satisfying work through engagement with demanding […]

The Post-Christmas Purge

[An unabridged version of a short essay that ran Dec. 26] In my house, Christmas is a secular holiday built around gifting, followed immediately on the 26th by another secular holiday built around regret. It’s the day everyone returns stuff to the store, particularly the presents that I, the Dad, bought at the last minute […]

No more Charlie Brown trees

When I was a child, we would go into the woods to find a tree that bore some resemblance to a Christmas tree, or that at the very least had the crucial characteristic of being green. This was in North Florida, where anyone looking for a green tree will invariably settle upon a pine. There […]

Methane on Mars! Maybe.

There may not actually be life on mars, but “life on Mars” is an apparently immortal concept. Every time you think you’ve killed it off, it comes springing back into your face, cackling like a lunatic. We all remember when astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli first saw those “canali” through his telescope. He meant “channels,” but we […]

Copyright © 2015 Regator, LLC