I first encountered Trimble's work when I was an undergraduate astrophysics major. On the first day of seminar, my professor handed out a 101-page stack of paper. Flipping through its 13 sections, he explained that Trimble trawled the scientific journals and collated the year's cosmic progress into a tome like this one. It wasn't just a review paper laying out the state of atmospheric studies of Jupiter, or asteroid hunting, or massive star formation. It was all of everything important that had happened the previous year in astronomy—broad, comprehensive, and utterly unusual. Most unusual of all was that it contained jokes.
Today, new technologies promise to synthesize masses of publication data for scientists. But before artificial intelligence even tried, astronomers had Trimble, who wrote these comprehensive articles every year. For 16 years, she devoted her mind to this task of curation, contextualization, and commentary. And throughout her career, she has largely eschewed long-term research with fancy telescopes, competitive funding, and approving nods from university administrators. Refusing narrow focus, she has gone solo on most of her 850 publications, focusing as much on the nature of doing astronomy as studying the universe itself.
For centuries, blue was considered one of the rarest of pigments, found only in small quantities in nature. Pigments like lapus lazuli, made from a metamorphic rock of the same name, was said to have a value akin to precious metals like gold. But thanks to Diesbach’s chemical mishap, the pigment could now be made synthetically; faster, cheaper, and in greater quantities than ever before. Diesbach’s blue, called Prussian Blue, is considered one of the first synthetic colors to ever have been made. Since then, we’ve found many more.
It’s strange to think of color as something that can be discovered. Ask most scientists and they’ll tell you that’s not really how it works, anyway. “You can’t discover a color,” said Mas Subramanian, a chemist at Oregon State University who in 2009 created a blue pigment called YInMN blue. “You can only discover a material that uses a particular reflection of a particular wavelength.” Semantics aside, humans have created new pigments—whether through intentional scientific inquiry or pure happenstance—for as long as we’ve been around.
“I’m going to send you a plane ticket. I want you to come out to Hollywood, and we’ll see if you can write.” With those words, Steven Bochco changed my life. Steven had been changing lives for years. He had offered little-known actors roles that would define their careers, and recruited young directors for what were to be Emmy-winning scripts. And, because he seemed to have read everything, he also discovered a bevy of playwrights, academics, and lawyers (among them me, a public defender in the Bronx) whom he nurtured and mentored as television writers. I was not even the first writer named David whose life he changed; I was the last and least of his three Davids.
I know this because Steven told me so. Early in our relationship, after receiving Steven’s notes on a script that he found wanting, I reminded him, a bit defensively, that it was only the third script I’d ever written, and suggested that even David Kelley probably didn’t always get it right the first time. “No,” Steven said evenly. “With David we pretty much shot the whites.” Steven didn’t intend this as cruel or demeaning. It wasn’t meant to put me in my place or to push me to work harder. For Steven, it was simply true. He had a relentless, assiduous fidelity to the truth. He looked squarely and honestly at the world and then unflinchingly described it.
The problem wasn’t the headphones—they were seriously high quality headphones. It was the intensity of my voice. As I read, my own words seemed to reverberate in my head and bounce around my skull. They were loud and aggressive. It was unnerving. It was emotionally draining.
“Can we turn down the volume?” Outside my technically impressive cave, Ken and Matt, the engineers, were making the magic happen. They couldn’t see me, but they could hear every breath and rustle and word. They didn’t have windows to the outside world either, but they kept the door open to the long hall full of studios with serious sound insulation and blinking signs that said, “Quiet please, recording.” They had created thousands of audiobooks between the them. I had entered a different universe, and I was grateful that some of us knew what we were doing.