Blog Profile / Achenblog

Filed Under:News / Independent News
Posts on Regator:582
Posts / Week:2.4
Archived Since:April 20, 2011

Blog Post Archive

Einstein’s niftiest notion: General Relativity turns 100

It’s Einstein Tuesday! In honor of the 100th anniversary of General Relativity (which is, technically, Wednesday, because that’s the anniversary of the fourth in a series of lectures Einstein gave, and the one in which he finally got the dang thing right). Please trundle over to the Speaking of Science blog, where I have a […]

The Meaning of Life (hint: it’s not about your possessions)

[We interrupt our continuing coverage of terrorism, mayhem and rage — please see my story from Sunday on “soft targets” if you haven’t already — to bring you a blog item that asks a big question. This has been queued up for a couple of months, but I’ve been reluctant to publish it because it never quite […]

Ghosts of Glendalough

[This blog item is a work in progress.] Last week I dashed to Ireland for a conference and stuck around for a couple of days that could go in the ledger as “holiday,” and which involved renting a car and exploring the countryside, ancient ruins, seaside villages, friendly pubs never in a guidebook. I sat […]

Good writing is good technology

Today I reached a milestone: 25 years at The Washington Post. Wow! Can’t quite believe it. I’ve been truly blessed. Surrounded by amazing friends and colleagues. When I was a lad, I wanted to grow up and be a reporter for The Washington Post. Check that box! And to think it all began when [the […]

An epic quest for the ignition button, and other adventures on the road

My journey across the country did not go smoothly, but I shan’t complain. Out of respect for the explorers, the trappers and the forgotten tribes who dragged themselves across this vast continent, we must never whine about how long it took to fly to California. Still, when I got to San Francisco I felt a […]

What Trump (and the GOP) can’t do

“Govern.” It’s the loneliest verb in Washington. To attempt to govern is to run the risk of being called a sell-out. To govern — to pass laws, treaties, tax plans, budgets — almost invariably requires compromise in a country as polarized politically as the United States. But as my colleague Karen Tumulty (among others) reported […]

Can Mars, or any other planet, have just a little bit of life?

Is there life beyond Earth? I assume so, though there’s no solid data for it. What happened on Earth could happen elsewhere, one would think. NASA and most astrobiologists have been water chauvinists and carbon chauvinists, because, as I wrote yesterday on the SOS blog, water is so handy for biochemistry and carbon is terrific […]

This blog item will not be trending

Raw Story: Arnold Schwarzenegger to Take Over from Donald Trump on Celebrity Apprentice – lead item, Memeorandum, Sept. 14, 9:14 p.m.   A paradox of the Internet is that the more you know about what’s trending, the less you’ll know about what matters in life. I don’t mean this as a neo-Luddite rant. “Crowdsourcing,” in […]

Yellowstone’s three greatest virtues

You can’t walk 20 steps in Yellowstone without seeing the warning: “Be Bear Aware.” There are other signs instructing you to never hike alone or even in a pair but always with a least three people in the hiking party. You must make noise, such as by clapping or singing. You must always carry bear […]

A new metric for Old Faithful

I’m off to Yellowstone in a few days, and the Achenbro reminded me yesterday of our previous visit, many years ago, when we loitered at the outdoor bar of the Old Faithful Inn. Someone asked us how often Old Faithful erupted, and the Achenbro answered, authoritatively, “It goes off about every three and a half […]

At college drop-off weepfest, remember these three words

All across the U.S., people are weeping. They are sobbing, sputtering, sniveling and mewling because they are in the process of saying goodbye to their little baby boy or little baby girl who somehow has passed through the larval stage to emerge suddenly as this new creature called a college freshman. The parents have been […]

The three saddest words in the English language

“Back to school.” Opinions surely vary on this point. I hear people thinking: Get these grubby kids out of the house! And surely there are retailers who think those three words are awesome for sales. But I’m looking at the calendar, feeling the air, surveying the lawn, pondering the sad remnants of my annual farming […]

The world’s most dangerous predator is you

It’s Feel Bad About Humans Thursday! Behold a new creature on the planet: The “human super predator.” [I know: Photo’s a little much. But you know what they say: Over-the-top is the new even-keel. Hysterical is the new equanimity.] “We’re the worst,” reports my colleague Rachel Feltman, cutting right to the chase in her story on […]

Campaign 2016: Trump, Bernie and the Peasants with Pitchforks

I was there for the “peasants with pitchforks” speech. Pat Buchanan was holding forth in a crowded room at the Sheraton Hotel in Nashua, N.H., a couple of days before the 1996 GOP primary. The Republican Establishment’s favorite for the nomination was Bob Dole, but Dole, for all his solid credentials and admirable history as […]

How would Trump do on the Narcissistic Personality Quiz?

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking this item is going to be all about me just because I am beginning by mentioning that recently I took a narcissism quiz. I’d been talking to a psychologist about mass shooters (here’s the resulting article), and she’d said that many of them are obviously seeking attention, which […]

The man who feared, rationally, that he’d just destroyed the world

I’ve been reading a lot about Los Alamos, the Manhattan Project and the Trinity Test, the 70th anniversary of which was July 16. Here’s my story from last week; please take a few minutes to read it. I wrote the story after seeing Los Alamos for the first time while on a reporting assignment for […]

The Heroes of Pluto

The words you never hear from NASA: “This is actually really hard to do.” Or: “We’re not sure this is gonna work.” There is a code among engineers: Express confidence, exude competence. But space is hard, as we keep pointing out lately. Things blow up. Computers reboot themselves at inopportune moments. Planets turn out to […]


I’m at APL, also known as the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, though I have taken to using the shorthand of “Pluto,” as in, “I’m heading up to Pluto” or “The traffic is pretty gnarly getting to Pluto today.” Check out Rachel Feltman’s Speaking of Science blog for the latest news and images. Pluto […]

This could be the last time I [fill in blank]

The main thing I don’t like about getting older is this whole business of “aging.” I’m fine with being older so long as I can feel 18 eternally, with commensurate infinitudes of aspirations and possibilities, and never a somber thought. Unfortunately, “aging” has a way of catching up with you, and one day you realize […]

What do you bet that Cary Grant’s roller bag never wobbled

The Santa Fe, N.M. airport looks like it hasn’t changed much in about 70 years, which is to say, it’s charming, everything scaled down to human dimensions, almost like a small-town bus station. The architecture is Western, with exposed beams, tile floors and a café where you can have a cup of coffee in a […]

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