Watch This Space

Who can blame us, given the way things have been going on Earth, for casting our eyes heavenward, imploringly, or in exasperation, or to find solace in the deep blue of the sky or the reassuringly constant motion of the moon and the stars? Sorry, folks. What we are not seeing in the seemingly peaceful ocean of space above is nonetheless there: another realm in which to misgovern ourselves, another nest to foul, and the potential new battlefield that science fiction has long been exploring. In his cover story, nuclear arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis paints a discouraging picture of an orbital sphere increasingly crowded with the satellites of an increasing number of countries and companies. These satellites, on which all of us depend for things ranging from national security to the weather report, are becoming so numerous that a serious effort at traffic control is needed, and the amount of space junk in orbit, which can be lethal to space vehicles as well as to satellites, is also becoming unmanageable. Overshadowing all of this is the new nuclear arms race in space, as the United States, China, and Russia jockey to dominate—an endless, expensive, and dangerous situation. In saner times, treaties aimed to keep the peace overhead. May those times return, and soon.

This is the 70th issue of the Scholar I’ve edited, and it will be the last. I’m ready to spend less time tinkering with the prose of others and more time tinkering with my own. Soon after I became the editor, nearly 18 years ago, I realized it was the job I had always wanted without knowing it, and the only job I would ever want again. Like most journalists, I do not submit happily to authority, and the joy of these years has been to edit the magazine, print and digital, as I saw fit. I’m grateful to Phi Beta Kappa for this freedom; I feel confident that it will be extended to my successors down the years. All those whose names appear on this page, and some whose names have come and gone, have helped to make the Scholar a better magazine during my time here. I thank them, and I thank all of those writers whose names appear on the preceding page, and those on all the Contents pages for these 70 issues. I got into this work nearly half a century ago because I admired writers so much, and that admiration has only grown. They write to be read, of course, and we edit to give them readers. Thank you, gentle readers, and especially those of you who can read articles you disagree with and yet continue on. Keep reading the Scholar. My longtime colleague and friend Sudip Bose will take my spot for the interim at least, and I’m eager to see what he and my other dear colleagues will do next.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Robert Wilson's most recent book is Barnum: An American Life. He was the editor of the Scholar for more than 17 years.


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