I am currently working on a series of reflections for Lent 2020 with Liturgical Press. You can pre-order a copy here.
"Michelle Francl is the guide the world needs... with her help, we can find the mystery in the quantum structure of a burning atom, the human meaning of dirty dishes, or the poetic history of dust on a desk..." - Dr. Kimberly Belcher, Prof. of Liturgical Studies, Notre Dame University
Talking to Pauling's Ghost
"Pauling haunts my classes. Metaphorically, and sometimes I suspect, literally.
In the fall of 1957, Linus Pauling paid an impromptu visit to Bryn Mawr College to hear my colleague Frank Mallory, a new faculty member and CalTech alumnus, speak. Pauling sat in the front row, four feet from the lecturer’s table; four feet from where I now teach first-year chemistry. Each time I turn to the periodic table on the wall and encourage students to think about atomic valences or electronegativity, I catch a glimpse of Pauling in his prime, still stretched out in my front row, iconic black beret on his head, holding forth in his Oregon twang.
Even when I’m not teaching in that particular classroom, Pauling’s shade insinuates itself into my syllabus, driving what I teach — and sometimes what I’m trying to unteach. Pauling’s hybrid orbitals are a de facto language for organic chemistry. They are one of our most beloved and powerful loci of argument, invoked to explain phenomena ranging from conformational preferences to bond lengths to acidity. But imbued with such power, orbitals have taken on a reality they do not actually possess."
See the full article in the July 2018 issue of Nature Chemistry to read my exploration of the the illusory link between electron promotion and hybridization.
"While Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” with its glittering brass glissades and pounding drums may be the iconic grand Easter chorus, for me it is Eric Whitacre’s lush and complex choral setting of the single word “Alleluia” that sings of the resurrection. The chorus begins so softly, I’m never sure quite when the piece begins, or if that breath of an alleluia is only in my mind. Soon the alleluias swell and fade in waves. At last the sopranos hit a note almost impossibly high, swirling over the rest until a tenor solo breaks in. Alleluia. This is how I imagine the resurrection—Jesus taking that first uncertain breath, his chest barely rising and falling, his breathing gradually growing in strength and regularity, until the Spirit breathes onto him, calling his voice forth again. Alleluia. This is the resurrection as I imagine it. No trumpets, no great beams of light, simply God breathing unto God in one unbroken line of praise. Alleluia. He is risen. Alleluia. We are risen. Alleluia. You will rise again. Alleluia, alleluia, an infinity of alleluias."
From the Easter Sunday reflection in Not By Bread Alone: Reflections for Lent 2018.