The Now I Know Weekender, August 4, 2023


The world outside of Now I Know this week has been a busy one for me — nothing really notable, just the busy-ness of life. So I’m going to jump into the Week in Review quickly. Three passing things to share, though.

1) If you’ve been reading for long enough, you know I’m a huge New York Mets fan. And if you follow baseball at all, you know the Mets went from preseason favorites to make the playoffs to an epic disaster (and that was before yesterday, when the lowly Royals swept them in three games). The Mets basically gave up on the season this week, trading away two future Hall of Famers and a few other guys, and… well, that’s not fun, if you’re a Mets fan. (Trust me.) But as part of my efforts to come to terms with it, I wrote a 3,000-word blog post on why I’m optimistic for next year. It’s longer than it needed to be but as I said, I’ve been busy, and I didn’t have the time to make it shorter. 

2) In the bucolic town of Fairfield, Connecticut, there’s a house — but it shouldn’t be there, because the person who owns the property didn’t know it was being built. That’s a story that’s made national headlines this week — here’s the Washington Post article. Why am I sharing this? Because I grew up not too far from where the house is, so it feels almost personal to me. 

3) Speaking of me from when I grew up: a year ago or so, I wrote a Weekender about quicksand and my irrational fear of it when I was a kid. It turns out I wasn’t alone in that fear — it’s not uncommon for people born before the mid-1980s. And, I learned this week, NASA had some fears that the moon landings would have to deal with a similar concern, with one prominent researcher fearing that “the lunar dust might swallow astronauts like quicksand.” Part of NASA’s pre-Apollo test missions involved landing stuff on the big space rock to make sure the stuff didn’t sink. I guess you can’t be too concerned about quicksand.

And with that, let’s look back at the week.

The Now I Know Week In Review

MondayThe Woman Who Found Herself: I learned about this story in a weird way — I first discovered the bonus fact and, while researching it, found out about the main story. I almost made the story in the bonus fact into the main story as a result, but I’m glad I didn’t — there’s no real justification for prioritizing it over the one I lead with. I guess Now I Know isn’t first-come, first-served in that way?

TuesdayAn Odd Way to Celebrate Valentine‚Äôs Day: I’m 99% sure I first came across this story in March, which is basically the worst time to discovery a story about something that happened around a Februray holiday. 

Wednesday: The Transatlantic Bunny Battle: I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Duracell one here in the States.

ThursdayChristmas in August, Wisconsin Edition: The “Valentine’s Day in August” decision caused me to remember that this August tradition existed, and I decided that I needed to share it before I forgot again (and hit September). Which reminds me — I have a story that I need to share in mid-to-late August, to make the timing work! And I just made myself a reminder.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend:

1) “A Pathogen Too Far: How the 1918 Pandemic Revolutionized Virology” (The MIT Press Reader, 9 minutes, July 2023). The subhead: “The science of viruses, born out of the 20th century’s deadliest pandemic, launched medical thinking in a dramatically new direction, saving countless lives in the decades to come.”

2) “Black Hole Paradox” (The Baffler, 16 minutes, July 2023). I don’t know how to do this one justice, so I’ll just say “a story about Las Vegas.”

3) “There Will Never Be Another Second Life” (The Atlantic, 8 minutes, June 2023). “Second Life” is the name of an online universe — the first real foray into the “metaverse” before anyone had ever publicly shouted the word. It’s been around for 20 years and few people even know about it, but if you were into it back in the day, it likely took over your first life. This is its story.

Have a great weekend!