The Morgan Library and Museum, an antique among museums, retains a rare group of documents purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan, beginning in the 1890s, the great era of American fascination with handwriting. We can see Beethoven's manuscript for his Violin and Piano Sonata in G Major, op. 96, with the composer's ferocious scrawl obliterating a section. A couple of cases away is a manuscript of Mozart, famously free of any corrections, proving that music came through him as if it were the very voice of God.
In a Morgan exhibit of diaries, there is Einstein, writing in German, breaking off abruptly and continuing in algebra that seems to spill from his pen. The shock is seeing that he was truly multilingual, math simplyRead more
Ask which domesticated animal is most like humans, and the answer comes quickly: “Dogs!” Like us, dogs live in hierarchical packs, thrive on affection, and are smarter than the average cow, sheep, or goat. Yet all this is also true of the pig.Read more
Our fascination with the brain seems to come from a longing to make psychology more like a hard science and hence, we assume, more useful. Physics gave us electricity, skyscrapers, and the Internet. Chemistry gave us medicine and more fresh food. Psychology is still taking baby steps, designing empirical tests of unsurprising observations. It may be too much to expect science to reliably save marriages, but how desperately we need the secret to stopping people from burning others alive.Read more
How easily the small eludes the big. We say that bugs will inherit the Earth, as if it wasn’t theirs already. Bugs made the Earth. Long ago, tiny spineless creatures with legs arrived on the wet shoreline, probably to escape predators at sea, and made land habitable for plants. The simultaneous accommodation and war between plants and insects, the six-legged descendants of those first crawlers, would shape the terrestrial ecosystem.Read more
The fighting in Burma would be the longest campaign of World War II, under conditions so bad that the Japanese called the place jigoku—hell. Soldiers hiked across hot, dry plains one day and slogged through mud under pelting rain the next. They fought off blackflies, mosquitoes, ticks, and leeches, as well as dysentery, cholera, dengue fever, scabies, trench foot, yaws, and malaria.Read more
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, / And live alone in the bee-loud glade, wrote W. B. Yeats while living in London. Nearly a century later, Sylvia Plath, who kept hives with her husband, composed five poems about bees in the very same house.Read more
Louis Sullivan, an early advocate of office towers, called rooms “cells,” meaning the cells of plants, not those of monks or prisoners. Plants inspire architecture, as do structures built by animals and insects. Call them nests, hills, reefs, hives, or something else—homes in nature efficiently use the materials at hand to meet idiosyncratic needs. For the 120 color photographs here, the German wildlife photographer Ingo Arndt spent two years seeking out in-situ shots, as well as subjects for studio compositions.Read more
This volume is full of unexpected revelations, not for the squeamish, starting with the fact that the preferred plural of “octopus” is “octopuses,” not “octopi.” Octopuses, we learn, can lurch onto land and can change color and shape in seconds. After 272 pages in the company of these animals, they no longer seem weird because of their four pairs of arms lined with suction cups. They’re weird because of the ways they contradict our ideas about intelligence.Read more
My mother, who admired Linus Pauling, kept three rows of bottles filled with vitamins and herbs in her kitchen, as well as stacks of newsletters with advice about “natural” remedies. She maintained an admirable figure on a low-fat, low-meat diet and enjoyed a full, happy life. So when she died of a rare cancer at 78, people were especially surprised. “It was all that chlorine at the pool,” one griever surmised.Read more
Every Christmas I receive a charming letter from a college friend I’ll call Doug. Because we live far from each other, I have never met his three children. Reading his letters carefully, I could see that one child wasn’t flourishing as well as the others. So this past winter, when Doug and I met in person for the first time in years, I wasn’t surprised when he told me that this son was “special.” On certain tests, the boy is as bright as his siblings, who are racing through honors programs—yet he cannot remember the names of his classmates or teachers.Read more
David K. Randall begins this glide through dreamland with a quote from Aldous Huxley: “That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep.”Read more
Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford, confesses that when he began this book he was influenced by Easy Rider, which he had seen again for the first time in years, and was drawn to the aimless wandering of its three male characters.Read more
Washington Examiner Top Stories
Type in your email
address to get started:
Thank you for signing up for the Jonathan V. last newsletter! You should receive your first newsletter very soon.
We're sorry, there was an error processing your newsletter signup.