O’ROURKE AND LAWRENCE: Remembering Zach Brunt ’15

April 26, 2012
We were supposed to fly today. At Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, undergraduates from around the country are currently preparing to perform myriad science and engineering experiments in zero gravity aboard a Boeing 727 affectionately nicknamed “G-Force One.” And we, as members of the Yale Drop Team, had planned to be among them. Since »

O’ROURKE: Why ask big questions?

April 10, 2012
This weekend, abandoning my problem sets and senior thesis, I crashed the birthday party of a complete stranger. After introductions, we talked for hours about philosophical questions — the kind of stereotypical college palaver that I usually sidestep for sleep. Fellow undergraduates can easily imagine what we discussed: What does it mean to be a »

O’ROURKE: Stop assassinating scientists

March 27, 2012
Americans and Israelis agree that Iran must not develop a nuclear weapon. But while virtually all credible American experts support crippling economic sanctions as the best deterrence for now, many in Israel are unsatisfied with nonlethal tactics. Most egregiously, Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, allegedly sponsors the assassinations of civilian scientists in Iran. Compared to another »

O’ROURKE: More politics in science

February 28, 2012
Scientists tend to dream big but work small. Achieving a lofty but distant goal such as understanding the history of life might involve spending months making detailed measurements of mammalian skulls; discovering Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars requires a neurotic obsession with fiber optic cables. Methodical attention to detail is usually a comfortable — and »

O’ROURKE: Sex in space

February 14, 2012
Pity the columnist forced to publish on Valentine’s Day. My loyal readers don’t usually expect insightful commentary on love and related matters; after all, my true love is science policy, which is generally a lousy turn-on. Perhaps a compromise exists: sex in space. In fact, human spaceflight is on a collision course with virtually every »

O’ROURKE: Moon base not so crazy

January 31, 2012
Newt Gingrich’s up and down campaign to be the GOP presidential nominee is likely to flame out today in Florida. After unexpectedly dominating the South Carolina primary, his political fortunes have wilted under an unrelenting barrage of attacks. In particular, Gingrich’s recent promise to build a permanent American base on the moon provoked many savage »

O’ROURKE: NASA is still a go

January 17, 2012
My friends and family keep throwing cold water on my passion for space exploration. They believe news reports that President Obama cancelled the human spaceflight program, dooming NASA to slowly wither and die, and they try to nudge me away from denial. Fortunately, their narrative is wildly inaccurate; space exploration is poised for an exciting »

O’ROURKE: Why Yale isn’t Penn State

November 17, 2011
Last week, a horrendous scandal rocked Pennsylvania State University as the football team’s former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing at least eight boys since 1994. Some students, apparently callous to the victims’ suffering, rioted after university trustees fired Joe Paterno, the beloved head coach, for his failure to investigate »

O’ROURKE: The BEST Project isn’t the best climate science

November 8, 2011
Because scientific problems have grown incredibly complex, the public must trust conclusions from small groups of experts. The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) team recently received considerable attention after releasing their research on Earth’s changing climate. The national media embraced the team as impartial analysts who ended the putative “scientific” debate over climate change’s reality. »

Counterpoint: Back to Hades, Pluto

September 13, 2011
Eminent astrophysicists received unprecedented attention from schoolchildren in 2006. Unfortunately, the attention consisted of an astonishing volume of hate mail. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) had decided that Pluto was no longer a planet and third graders worldwide were revealing something unsavory about human nature as they attempted to drag science back to what they »