Claire L. Evans

Discovery, by nature, has a ripple effect. When one thing is found to be plausible, testable, or true, a suite of potential other truths and plausibilities tend to follow suit. This is the nature of inductive reasoning, the foundation of the scientific method, and the reason why science–as a human project–is generational. We discover something…

Is There Life on Maaaars?

You certainly didn’t hear it here first: today NASA, at a press briefing, announced that minerals analyzed by the Curiosity rover indicate that life might, in the galactic past, have survived on Mars. The rover’s been poking around an ancient network of stream channels descending from the rim of Gale crater since September of last year; now,…

My New Book: High Frontiers!

Writing for the Internet is like yelling into the void: freeing, probably more than a little cathartic, but ultimately lonely. That’s not to say that I haven’t made profound connections out here, but like most writers I long for a little thing with my name on it that fits in the hand, that can be…

What Distance Is

What is distance? There’s the distance between people, who subconsciously space themselves apart, providing a reliable visual matrix of intimacy. It’s no coincidence we use the word “close” to describe our most intimate relationships: to whisper and caress, we draw near to one another, less than six inches apart. For chatter amongst personal friends, the…

L-O-L-A, LOLA

Before the invention of computer flight simulators, engineers at NASA needed a way to help astronauts visualize landing on the moon. So they built LOLA, or Lunar Orbit and Landing Approach, at Langley Space Center: a system of massive glowing murals and scale model-orbs criss-crossed with ribbons of track. In total darkness, pilots would ride…

Mona Laser

The cultural critic Walter Benjamin, in his seminal 1936 essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, argued that the “aura” of a work of art, that sense of special awe and reverence we feel, being in its presence, isn’t inherent to art itself. Rather, it’s a side-effect of its exclusivity, restricted…

“This one will look like a jellybean,” the session director warns us. “Or, you know, when you empty a hole punch? The circles of paper that fall out? One of those.” She’s talking about Neptune, and I am about to step, carefully, up a ladder painted industrial yellow and wheeled into place in front of…

I probably don’t need to introduce Oliver Sacks to you. You’ve undoubtedly already delighted over his wobbly affectation and tales of neurological strangeness on RadioLab or NPR. You might have read his lovely first-person account, in the New Yorker, of his early experiments with hallucinogens of all stripes, from the “pharmacological launch pad” of amphetamines…

Universe Book Club: Incognito

The history of science can be read as a series of brusque reality checks. Once, we thought the sun revolved around the Earth, but modern astronomy relegated our real estate, incrementally, from the center of everything to a hum-drum corner of an unimportant galaxy in a handful of generations. The theory of Evolution turned us from mini-gods…

The Earth is the New Moon

Stewart Brand, writing about space colonies, observed that “if you live in a satellite, the Earth is something that goes on in your sky.” For Felix Baumgartner, the daredevil skydiver who seduced the world with his chiseled jaw and seeming invulnerability to fear (and who broke the sound barrier with his body last weekend) the…