These words mark Science Frictions No. 90, and with that fat integer, I bring the column to a close. You have not read the last of me—in the Scholar or elsewhere—but these words are meant to tie a red bow around this particular package of work.
Science Frictions has been my university, my happy hour, my dog to walk, my mosquito to slap, my coffee break, my food for thought. If you will miss it, so will I.
So why must it end?
The best part for me has been the thrill of learning. The column has opened doors to the lives of bugs, to the workings of our sleeping brain, to planets and quarks and dogs. It has brought me, and I hope you, a little closer to the Earth, to the creatures we share it with, to the universe that is our home. My effort has been to marry science with poetry, or at least to bring language to science that is worthy of poetry. (It never hurts to try.)
I like what Rachel Carson wrote about science in 1952. The Sea Around Us was a best seller, and the following was her response to comments on how remarkable the book’s popularity was, considering that it contained so much science:
We live in a scientific age; yet we assume that knowledge of science is the prerogative of only a small number of human beings, isolated and priestlike in their laboratories. This is not true. The materials of science are the materials of life itself. Science is part of the reality of living; it is the what, the how, and the why of everything in our experience.
A most gratifying piece of Science Frictions has been working with the team that is The American Scholar, led by Robert Wilson and including Allen Freeman, Sudip Bose, Bruce Falconer, Leah Jacobs, Caroline Jones, and Margaret Foster—she who procures dazzling images to go with the pieces. These editors and this magazine that contributes so vitally to American intellectual culture have had my back and have warmed me with their humor, kindness, and perspicacity.
And how can a writer adequately thank her readers? A piece without a reader is a trip without a traveler, a song without a singer, a woods without a tree, a town without espresso. An unread essay is nothing at all. Thank you for paddling over here once in a while to read Science Frictions. I hope it has kept you good company on a Wednesday morning.
So why stop now?
I’m a poky writer, even plodding, and the column has been enormously demanding of my time. Consider that I’ve gone from the Higgs Boson to Mars to marsupials. But hard work is what I’m good at, and writing is what I’m here to do. And I hereby renounce (mostly) that flapdoodle about opening veins and sweating bullets. Writing’s work, but the work of writing can be downright thrilling.
But the column has resulted in the neglect of certain longer works I’ve had in progress for some time. Currently stranded on the shelf, these unruly children are having tantrums, throwing themselves on their paperclips, sobbing lugubriously. It’s time to return to them in a big way.
Still, this is no real goodbye. It’s—so long for now. Till we meet again.
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