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<i>Mullus Surmuletus, The Striped Surmulet</i>. (Courtesy Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library, Digital Collections.)

The Grand Temptation

March 2, 2020

Maybe Cape Cod is fertile ground for existential transformation. Something about the metals in its sandy soil catalyzing metaphysical shifts—I don’t know. All I know is I had my entire worldview rearranged when I was visiting its shores.

From the VQR Vault: Animals

Whether like a deer lightly on talented feet,
scholar of brambles, incredible racer of meadows,
intuitive knower of leaves and the leaves’ shadows,
antlered with boughs to disguise the shallow retreat,—
or more like a bird, methodical tracer of summers,
keeper of small assignations with day and with night,
irrational singer, whose only defense is the fright,
quicker than trigger, always aware of newcomers,—

The Olfactory Lives of Primates

Dear Chris, I’m sorry you couldn’t make it to Brad and Caitland’s wedding. It was pretty good. The beginning dragged—the usual, everyone standing around, sniffing each other’s breath, figuring out who was from Caitland’s family, who fr [...]

Flawed Intelligence, Flawed Design

In 1996, a then-unknown professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, in Pennsylvania, published a book in which he claimed to be the author of a scientific discovery of the magnitude of those of Copernicus or Newton. Those of us in academia who interact with the general public know only too well that there are many people out there with this kind of belief. At least once a week I get a thick envelope containing pages on pages of mathematics showing that God is truly the number pi, or that world peace can be found in the outer reaches of modern topology. The internet has only made things worse. At least these people, unlike many of my other correspondents, feel no need to assure me that they will pray for me—or, conversely, regret that I am past praying for.