Newton and Thomas Pynchon

If you’re a fan of Thomas Pynchon, you may be interested in something I wrote about Newton, thermodynamics, and Pynchon’s story “Entropy” over at

The gist of it is this: Pynchon signed two copies of his famous story “Entropy” with the inscription F = ma, that is, Newton’s second law. Why would he do that? What does Newton’s second law have to do with entropy?

I discuss the science that relates F = ma to entropy, and speculate on what Pynchon might have meant.

And BTW, stay tuned for more on science in Pynchon’s work.

Call Me, Ishmael

Ben Lillie, of well-justified The Story Collider fame, pointed us to a relatively new website – Call Me Ishmael. The idea is that you call (774.325.0503) and leave a voicemail talking about a book and how it connected with your life:

Leave a voicemail about a book you love and a story you’ve lived.

While “Ishmael” does, helpfully, provide a transcript of the call, it is the layers of emotion in the voice of the reviewer telling the story that really brings the reviews to life. This is probably not an accident.

And, in case you are wondering, I will not be calling in to leave a voicemail reviewing Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard, because I hate talking on the phone.

The “poetry you find in science” in Cartarescu’s Blinding

Romanian author Mircea Cartarescu’s massive novel Blinding is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time – and I’m only 80 pages in. It’s a dream autobiography/family history, heavily influenced by scientific ideas and metaphors. The author described his thinking to Bookforum:

It is the point at which science is unified with poetry, with geography, with mathematics, with religion, with everything you can imagine. Three quarters of the books I read are scientific books. I’m very fond of the poetry you find in science. I read a lot about subatomic physics, biology, entomology, the physiology of the brain, and so on. I’ve always thought that being alive is a great gift, one that should be explored.

If you like science in poetry or literature, this book is worth checking out.

Trends in Genetics

Although it may not be obvious here, I also occasionally write formal scientific stuff, like a review article for Trends in Genetics:

Joshua T. Witten and Jernej Ule, “Understanding splicing regulation through RNA splicing maps,” Trends in Genetics (1, 2011). Continue reading “Trends in Genetics”

Bullet Health Hazard?

The difference between a great title and one that gets you ignored? In this case, six words – or one conditional phrase. Here is the title of the PLoS One article by Pain et al.:

Potential Hazard to Human Health from Exposure to Fragments of Lead Bullets and Shot

Continue reading “Bullet Health Hazard?”