Tuesday, February 05, 2013

What's in a name?

This blog came into existence in 2004 as my twenty years of essays in the Boston Globe's weekly science section came to an end. That column was called Science Musings, a title bestowed by the editor who gave me the job. The columns ranged widely, but they all had something to do with science, a thousand essays in all.

Since my column in the Globe had a built-in audience, it seemed only natural to carry the title over to the blog, and indeed the earliest posts here were almost exclusively scientific in their content. But the blog has evolved, and a newcomer might wonder if the name is appropriate. Certainly, what you read here has become more personal, less explicitly scientific.

But everything you read is informed by science. Empirical knowledge has been the bedrock of my life, my touchstone. Even my most lyrical musings are pared with Ockham's Razor and sauced with skepticism.

A character in one of Nabokov's stories says: "Were I a writer, I should allow only my heart to have imagination, and for the rest rely upon memory, that long-drawn sunset shadow of one's personal truth." That personal truth, in my sunset case, was forged in a lifetime of scientific study and scientific journalism. Over the years I have scraped away whatever excrescences did not meet the test of consensus public knowledge –- reliable, reproducible, economical.

But the heart! The heart I allow imagination, and affairs of the heart seem to be intruding themselves into nooks and crannies of the blog, sometimes exploding out of containment to splatter the screen with what is surely excess if not excrescence. Well, so be it. The heart has its imperatives, and you, the reader, will stay or go depending upon your own constraints of head and heart.