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The Science Fair

Issue #51, Spring, 2012

“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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Julia Elliott

LIMBs • For the past few months, nanobots have been rebuilding Elise's degenerating neural structures

Andrea Barrett

THE PARTICLES • Not long after midnight, a faraway gleam, which may have been a periscope caught by the light of the moon, caused two women to shriek

Etgar Keret

PARALLEL UNIVERSES • TRANSLATED BY MIRIAM SHIESINGER • There are some parallel universes where I'm having sex with a horse, and ones where I've won the lottery

Namwali Serpell

BOTTOMS UP • This would never have happened if it weren't for herpes

Jessica Johnson

TONIGHT'S ANATOMY

Megan Levad

NANOBOTS
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

Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad

The host of the hit show Radiolab talked with Tony Perez, of Tin House Books, about sound effects, stories, science, and that warm thing that glows a little--a friendship.

Alan Lightman

THE TEMPORARY UNIVERSE • The novelist yearns for the eternal; the physicist knows better

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

THE HARD PROBLEM OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE SOLITUDE OF THE POET • There's more to the mind's eye than meets, well, the eye

Amy Leach

THE WILD WHAT • An amateur astronomer daydreams about constellations and lets her imagination run rampant

Justin Nobel

ATOMIC CITY • The secret, sordid history of America's forgotten nuclear disaster, and the lovers who caused it

Jesse Lichtenstein

THE SYNTHESIZERS • The revolutionary science being done in the beginning of this, the biological century, will make your head spin

Karl Iagnemma

HOW TO BUILD A ROBOT • Domo arigato for the guide that explores the similarities between scientific and artistic inspiration

Rachel Riederer

UNCOMMON SENSE • Sorting out the mixed-up signals of synesthesia, the sensitive soul's disease of choice

Clancy Martin

BOYHOOD ADVENTURES IN THE MAGICAL SCIENCE OF ASTRAL PROJECTION • Plus nitrous oxide

Gabriel Blackwell

ON LAWERENCE WESCHLER'S Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of WonderA tour of the Museum of Jurassic Technology's assortment of curios entraps you in a web of dubious references

Alexandra Kleeman

ON RACTER'S The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed: Computer Prose and PoetryHas a computer attained Eliot's ideal of a poet without a personality?

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 • Attempting to bridge the dizzying divide between science and art

Michelle Legro

ON AMBROISE PARE'S On Monsters and MarvelsFrom the tame to the tetratoid, a compendium of sixteenth-century birth defects

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 PowerThe magnetic girl's mysterious aura attracts attention. And more!

Deborah Blum

THE FLAVOR OF BLUE • The ailing business of dying food