Issue 51

The Science Fair

Spring 2012


Editor's Note

“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” Einstein once said. His desire to open doors, to chart the world, dissect it, understand it, and make order out of chaos, echoes the experience of creation found in writing. Writers, too, work in solitude, inside their heads, solving problems and stitching together worlds. They calculate the geometry of human relationships, the velocity of a falling expectation, the force of a breaking heart. And yet, despite similarities, scientists and writers often find themselves grappling not only with the world but also with one another. Given the overlap of literary and scientific worlds, we at Tin House asked ourselves, why are they at odds? And could we, as a literary magazine, do anything to clear the air? Writers from both camps excitedly took up our challenge and, we think, succeeded in bridging the supposed divide. Andrea Barrett, who has been twining fiction and science for more than twenty years, braids the narrative of one man’s single-minded pursuit of genetic coding during the onset of World War II. Synethesia, the curious condition of overlapping senses that causes people to hear colors, or see tastes, seems like the stuff of fiction, but Rachel Riederer’s investigation proves it is in fact a very real, and very odd, medical condition. And the poets wrote about everything from nanobots to body doubles. As with writing and science, the act of reading, at bottom, is about exploration, looking at the world through a new lens, be it a microscope or a point of view, and being open to discovery. So join us. Turn the page and unlock something inside you.

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Table of Contents


Julia Elliott
Andrea Barrett
The Particles
Etgar Keret
Translated by Miriam Shlesinger
Parallel Universes
Namwali Serpell
Bottoms Up


Jessica Johnson
Tonight’s Anatomy
Megan Levad
Why We Live in the Dark Ages
Patricia Lockwood
An Animorph Enters the Doggie-Dog World
The Computer Plays a Game of Chess
Jared Harel
My Body Double Goes to the Home Depot
My Body Double Tells Me I’m Away on Business
Dara Wier
When I Stared Down into an Empty Ballistic Missile Silo One Day in Nebraska
Kiki Petrosino
I Love You, No Discussion
Moon-Wrapped Fragrant Spareribs
Donna Hunt
Dimension 0
Dimension 5

New Voice Poetry

Katy Chrisler


Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad


Alan Lightman
The Temporary Universe
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
The Hard Problem of Consciousness and the Solitude of the Poet
Amy Leach
The Wild What
Justin Nobel
Atomic City
Jesse Lichtenstein
The Synthesizers
Karl Iagnemma
How to Build a Robot
Rachel Riederer
Uncommon Sense
Clancy Martin
Boyhood Adventures in the Magical Science of Astral Projection

Lost & Found

Gabriel Blackwell
On Lawrence Weschler’s Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder
Alexandra Kleeman
On Racter’s The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed: Computer Prose and Poetry
Cheston Knapp
On C. P. Snow’s The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution and The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution, ed. John Brockman
Michelle Legro
On Ambroise Paré’s On Monsters and Marvels
Jessica Handler
On Lulu Hurst’s Lulu Hurst (The Georgia Wonder) Writes Her Autobiography, and for the First Time Explains and Demonstrates the Great Secret of Her Marvelous Power

Readable Feast

Deborah Blum
The Flavor of Blue