Conversation with Malcolm Margolin


Malcolm Margolin was born in a Jewish neighborhood in Dorchester outside Boston in 1940. He was a dreamy child with his nose always in a book. School bored him. A piercing intelligence pushed him forward. He graduated from Harvard, married his Radcliffe girlfriend, and ultimately found himself in a VW bus he bought for $300 headed to California from his home base in New York City. After many wanderings he settled in Berkeley and began to make a living for his growing family as a writer. Continue reading

“Do It Yourself” and “Maker” Movements Bringing Hope

Do you know about the DIY Movement? The Maker Movement? The Great Re-Skilling Movement? If you are like me, these movements (DIY stands for “do it yourself”) may at best be at the edge of awareness. I’ve come to know some remarkable young people in West Marin who identify with these deeply interactive movements, which reflect critical trajectories in technology, environment, culture, and economics. Continue reading

Winter Gathering at the Whidbey Institute, WA


I write from the town of Langley on Whidbey Island north of Seattle. I just attended the Third Winter Gathering at the Whidbey Institute. The Gathering is led by my long-time friends Rick Ingrasci and Peggy Taylor. Life partners, they have led the Summer Gathering at Hollyhock on Cortez Island in British Columbia for 27 years. Continue reading

Physicist Tom Nash on M-Theory and the Cosmos

“The room was crackling with interest—did you feel it?” my friend Jan Broek asked me. I did. The occasion was a New School conversation with physicist Tom Nash about the nature of the universe. I expected an audience of ten—but forty New School friends showed up. There is a hunger for physics and cosmology at The New School. Clearly we have to do more.

Tom and I have been friends for 50 years. He has had a distinguished career in experimental physics at Fermilab. He is now a member of the California Institute of Technology group that participates in the search for direct detection of gravitational waves (some of which may even come from incredibly soon after the big bang). We talked about Stephen Hawking’s book The Grand Design and decided to do a New School conversation about the issues it raises. Continue reading

Reverence and Resilience

Some preliminary notes

A friend suggested to me the other day that reverence might be at the heart of our work. She proposed that there is a relationship between reverence and resilience. I asked what she meant by reverence. She said that she meant reverence for life. Then she said she also meant reverence for whatever each of us holds to be the organizing principle of the universe. Continue reading

The Grand Design

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.
Albert Einstein

A unifying theory of the universe is the holy grail of modern physics. Einstein sought but did not find it. The great Cambridge mathematician Stephen Hawking and CalTech physicist Leonard Mlodinow believe they have found that unifying theory in something called M-theory. They take us on a journey I can only sketch in their elegant book The Grand Design [Bantam, 2010]. Continue reading

A Poem for Our Time


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)