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Blog Profile / Achenblog

Filed Under:News / Independent News
Posts on Regator:538
Posts / Week:2.8
Archived Since:April 20, 2011

Blog Post Archive

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 […]

Protocols of friendship

One of the under-appreciated challenges in life is friend management, which we’re all supposed to be intuitively capable of, but which requires techniques and tricks and specialized maneuvers, and organizational skills, and the savvy use of friendship triage. This is getting more challenging over time, because technology has given us more friends than ever. In […]

NASA has a spaceship, but where will it go?

Nothing demonstrates the extreme inertia of space technology more vividly than the Orion space capsule, which NASA has been working on since 2006 and which, as my colleague Chris Davenport reports, will finally have its first test flight Thursday morning if all goes as planned. The capsule has cost something like $9 billion so far […]

Why nothing is as special as it used to be

I was staying in the French Quarter this weekend and every morning at sunrise popped down to Café du Monde for my chicory-enhanced cup of coffee. Some mornings I drank it on the levee – muddy coffee meets Big Muddy. But yesterday I sat in the café itself, which at 7 a.m. had only a […]

The world on fire again

Last night we were back in 1968, or so it seemed if you were watching the news from Ferguson. I mostly followed CNN’s coverage of the case, including the prosecutor’s drawn-out explanation for why he wasn’t going to prosecute anyone, Obama’s flat-affect commentary with the split-screen image of street protests and “tear gas” (much discussion […]

The fundamental problem with “Interstellar”

[Warning: Spoilers.] I keep meaning to blog about “Interstellar,” but it feels like I’m launching a dandelion seed in a hurricane. One’s own platform, the little digital squirt gun, seems unequal to the Death Star that is the Hollywood publicity machinery. Cover of TIME magazine, that kind of thing. Matthew McConaughey is on all the […]

John McPhee, master craftsman and Professor for Life

[Here's an essay in the Princeton Alumni Weekly about John McPhee, who has been teaching at the university for nearly 40 years. I've had a lot of lucky breaks over the years, and getting in that class is definitely on the list. The regulars here may recall the story of McPhee reading a letter from […]

Election Day 2014! But is this really all about Obama?

The day we’ve all been waiting for! Except those of us who did early voting. And those of us who do not care. And those of us who care but forgot to pay attention. And those of us distracted by Ebola. And those of us who think paying attention to politics and performing one’s civic […]

World Series still not over, scientists discover

Yesterday I went for a great hike on the Appalachian Trail, ascending the spine of South Mountain to reach a rocky promontory. Behold the ancient crumpled landscape, the hardwoods rapidly skewing toward the gold and the red, and the river below sparkling as it sliced through the ridges to reach the Piedmont. What I enjoyed […]

Ebola and the BP oil spill

Life is busy on the Ebola beat. We start at dawn and go to midnight, and fortunately there are people to pick up the slack during the hours when we grab some sleep. The Ebola story reminds me of the BP oil spill. Remember this: Allen has at various times referred to the oil spill […]

Ebola fears spread faster than the virus

Worried about Ebola? Take a deep breath. This is a terrible crisis in West Africa, but it is exceedingly unlikely that it will become a medical crisis here in the United States. Dallas has seen one tragic case. So far there have been no confirmed additional cases (cross your fingers). Our story today on the […]

Paul Farmer on Ebola: “This isn’t a natural disaster, this is the terrorism of poverty”

Africa’s Ebola problem is now America’s Ebola problem. The best way for the United States to free itself of the terror of this virus is to ensure that it is wiped out at the source, where the epidemic is currently out of control. That will happen only through a coordinated effort to provide the kind […]

The Charmin Dome over the White House

Every day my colleague Carol Leonnig has another amazing story about the tissue-thin defensive perimeter around the White House, where apparently you can jump the fence, run across the lawn, barrel through the unlocked front door and scamper around with wild abandon — doing what tourists have always dreamed of doing, like checking out the […]

Planck satellite shows BICEP2 telescope may have seen dust, not the big bang

We’ve all been waiting for this: the Planck dust map. It does not appear at first glance to be good news for the BICEP2 team. I’ll seek comment to add perspective, but it appears that Planck has detected dust at levels that could explain the entirety of the BICEP2 signal — something that the BICEP2 […]

Taxi to orbit: NASA goes with Old Space and New Space (with a cameo by Jeff Bezos)

Big news at NASA: The agency has chosen Boeing and SpaceX to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. So reports my colleague Chris Davenport. This keeps competition in the “commercial crew” program. It’s also a major achievement for Elon Musk and the several thousand employees of SpaceX who have turned a start-up company into […]

I shall wear my trousers rolled

One of my least favorite sayings is, “Getting old is not for wimps,” because, if true, I’m doomed. The slightest physical hardship serves as an excuse for protracted whining and self-pity. My philosophy is, never waste an opportunity to complain bitterly about a hangnail. If I get “the sniffles” that’s going straight on Facebook for […]

“It is an issue which can only be tried by war and decided by victory”

Just a quick note … I’m on holiday (as they say) in New England, completely removed from the warp and woof of Washington life, but I’ve been checking the sports scores and, with trepidation, the foreign news, and what’s going on at the White House, and it appears that we’re going to war again. One […]

Lincoln, the blind memorandum, and politics by other means

Everyone’s giving the president advice, telling him he’s screwing up, that he needs to change strategies, that he’s weak and too much of a compromiser, that he’s stubborn, that he’s facing political disaster in the upcoming election, and that these are the worst of times. President Lincoln, I’m talking about. Somehow I’ve got lost in […]

Kennewick Man and the Dorsets

It’s the  most beautiful morning ever here in Washington, but I’ve got Greenland on the brain, and the High Arctic, and permafrost, and seal meat. If you lived in the frozen north back in the day, you hunted seals, maybe lurking around the airholes so that when one popped up for a breath you could […]

The Burning of Washington (and excellent spin afterward)

Here’s my yarn on the burning of Washington 200 years ago Sunday. Great photos by Matt McClain, one of our extremely creative shooters, given an almost impossible assignment. My job was easy, I just wrote what Steve Vogel told me to write.   Excerpt: 7 a.m. Aug. 24, 1814 The day began like so many […]

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