Not long ago, in a room very like this one (the setting of most of these stories is both familiar and vague), I was looking for the origin of a video game.
My first job was as a lawyer. I was not a very happy or inspired lawyer. One night I was driving home listening to a radio report, and there is something very intimate about radio: a voice comes out of a machine and into the listener’s ear.
In the late 1700s, machinists started making music boxes: intricate little mechanisms that could play harmonies and melodies by themselves.
From time to time, a hiker through the Swiss Alps might witness a startling sight. First, the sound of a helicopter reverberates off the valley walls.
Here’s a simple recipe for doing science. Find a plausible theory for how some bits of the world behave, make predictions, test them experimentally.
The cyclist takes me by surprise, and the thoughts that had been swarming inside my skull — That lesson this morning was a disaster.
For centuries now, conservative thinkers have argued that significant social reform is impossible, because human nature is inherently limited.
The first time Misty broke into the backyard to pound and scream at the bedroom window, the police handcuffed her and said — her face pressed to the hood of the idling black and white — that she was not to return.
There are mammoths along Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. They stand out against the constant crush of urban traffic, a reminder of the city’s recent past.
I was in the last days of a family vacation in a house on a lake in northern Vermont when I got the news that Seamus Heaney had died.
For the Frenchman Marcel Proust, the elixir of memory might have been a petite madeleine, but that wouldn't work on British-bred me.
A couple of years ago, at a massive conference of neuroscientists — 35,000 attendees, scores of sessions going at any given time — I wandered into a talk that I thought would be about consciousness but proved (wrong room) to be about grasshoppers and locusts.
In the past few years I have spent a lot of time in the West Bank city of Hebron, where communal relations between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims could hardly be any worse; and I have often wondered why we expect the adherents of the Abrahamic faiths to get along, when their revered ancestors,
‘This is where Bing Crosby’s buried,’ says my mom from the front seat of my middle aunt’s car. Mother is feeling triumphant because she’s conned me into a twofer.
I spent the summer staying up all night. When everyone else was asleep, I was out in the gloaming with the livestock and the wildfowl, searching for a rare, endangered bird.
A few years ago, I was invited to attend a traditional Haida memorial ceremony. It was for a prominent community member in Old Masset on Haida Gwaii, off British Columbia.
In 1796, the English physician Edward Jenner injected an eight-year-old boy in Gloucestershire with cowpox.
In the dying years of the 1600s, the English philosopher John Locke did something remarkable: in just a few short pages, he took away our souls.
Between the ages of six and eight or so, when I was old enough to run around outside but too young to have cooler things to do, I spent quite a bit of time with insects.
A few times a month, I walk from my apartment in the rapidly gentrifying Lower Queen Anne part of Seattle towards one of the cafés in the booming South Lake Union neighbourhood.