It is not possible to verify the universality of gravitational forces directly; you would have to study all pairs of bodies in the entire universe, and find a way to remove the influence of the other bodies. But that’s now how science works. Instead, it employs a mixture of inference and observations. Universality is a hypothesis, capable of being falsified every time it is applied. Every time it survives falsification – a fancy way to say it gives good results – the justification for using it becomes a little stronger.

  • From In Pursuit of the Unknown, by Ian Stewart

The beauty and strangeness of the world may fill the eyes with its cordial refreshment. Equally it may offer the heart a dish of terror. On one side is radiance; on another is the abyss.

  • Upstream, by Mary Oliver

Because I don’t care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it: no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome, rewarding treat. Because, here’s the truth: life is catastrophe. The basic fact of existence—of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do—is catastrophe. Forget all this ridiculous ‘Our Town’ nonsense everyone talks: the miracle of a newborn babe, the joy of one simple blossom, Life You Are Too Wonderful To Grasp, &c. For me—and I’ll keep repeating it doggedly till I die, till I fall over on my ungrateful nihilistic face and am too weak to say it: better never born, than born into this cesspool. Sinkhole of hospital beds, coffins, and broken hearts. No release, no appeal, no “do-overs” to employ a favored phrase of Xandra’s, no way forward but age and loss, and no way out but death.

  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt


I’d often wondered, when my father prowled around banging the kitchen cabinets and complaining that he wanted a drink, what “wanting a drink” felt like—what it felt like to want alcohol and nothing but, not water or Pepsi or anything else. Now, I thought bleakly, I know.

  • The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

…so cool and blonde and monotone that sometimes she seemed partially drained of blood. She was a masterpiece of composure; nothing ever ruffled her or made her upset, and though she was not beautiful her calmness had the magnetic pull of beauty—a stillness so powerful that the molecules realigned themselves around her when she came into a room. Like a fashion drawing come to life, she turned heads wherever she went, gliding along obliviously without appearing to notice the turbulence she created in her wake; her eyes were spaced far apart, her ears were small, high-set, and very close to her head, and her body was long-waisted and thin, like an elegant weasel’s.

  • The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

One night the woman lightly places her fingertips

on the head of the man asleep beside her:

somewhere hundreds of brain-equivalent miles down

inside him is a database

of fossils of earlier women. Later,


His turn: with his ear against her back,

between the shoulders: there, the whole script

of an alternate reality is being recited (someone)

plays his part) in a  drama

compounded of glial cells and electrical links.


  • Goldbarth, Albert, Everyday People : Minnows, Darters, Sturgeon

the marvelous basic mechanics of speech,

of lung: 300 million alveoli that, “if spread out flat,”


as my eighth-grade science teacher preened, “would come to

750 square feet, the entire floor space of an average house,”


and she added that tired magic about how atoms

of Julius Caesar and Napoleon and Beethoven did


their fleet anachronistic dance in every inhalation

of ours, although at thirteen I preferred to think


that the atoms of Cleopatra’s body—my Cleopatra,

inflating her see-through empresswear


with husky breaths—commingled with my blood, and also

realized in my own dim way it wasn’t only Einstein,


Shakespeare, Madame Curie populating my oxygen,

but also the smelly and scabby old man


from across the street who’d died last year

  • Goldbarth, Albert, Everyday People : The Poem of the Little House at the Corner of Misapprehension and Marvel