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13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Giving Notice: Reflections On Capturing The Light

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Alicia Llop, Getty Images

About a dozen years ago, as I was preparing to leave Cambridge, Mass., for Berkeley, Calif., I took to carrying around a small camera on my walks to and from work and home.

I was hoping to capture something about the place and my time there before setting off for the West Coast.

But what I ultimately carried away with me wasn't a set of artistic or nostalgic photos — it was an appreciation for the value of framing things just right. It's one thing to walk down a striking street of prim row houses with cherry trees just coming into bloom; it's another to appreciate the juxtaposition of elements, to think about their meaning, and to compose something that goes beyond that single moment.

I kept taking mental pictures long after I'd used up all my film.

Blogging for 13.7 over the last six years has been a bit like carrying around a camera. Instead of taking photos, I've roamed the landscape of science and culture in search of interesting findings or ideas to share with the 13.7 community and our broader audience of readers. Thinking about what to write — and how to write it — has invited me to consider new perspectives, to develop new arguments, and to think beyond a single academic publication, or a single news cycle.

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I'm not the only one, of course, to find the experience of writing illuminating. Research in education finds that writing can be a valuable tool for learning. Psychological studies reveal the value of expressive writing when it comes to processing a distressing event. Author Anne Lamott tells us that "writing teaches us awareness...to take yourself seriously and to take life seriously." Novelist Gustave Flaubert is credited with saying that "the art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe."

In framing a farewell, then, it seems I cannot help but bring in some science and some culture — what the data tell us, and what the writers do. For this is, sadly, a farewell: In the face of limited resources, NPR has decided to terminate 13.7.

But just as I continued taking mental pictures long after I ran out of film those years ago in Cambridge, I know that 13.7 has offered me something that will persist beyond the blog: a particular way of capturing the light. And I know that I and my co-bloggers will continue to write, celebrating science, culture, and our readers as we do.


Tania Lombrozo is a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She writes about psychology, cognitive science and philosophy, with occasional forays into parenting and veganism. You can keep up with more of what she is thinking on Twitter: @TaniaLombrozo

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
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13.7: Cosmos And Culture