Bob’s 9/11 post from 20 years ago — To a Man With a Hammer

Some things are worth reading again. For the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, here — unedited — is my column originally published September 13, 2001.

My smarter and handsomer brother was in Northern New Jersey on Tuesday looking across the water at what was for just a moment longer the single remaining tower of the World Trade Center. A cold front had passed through the night before, leaving the day startlingly clear. The carnage was easy to see even from a distance. Only the rising cloud of smoke and ash marred the sky. And then that tower, too, was gone. The magnitude of this disaster and its sister at the Pentagon in Washington is […]

10 years later Fukushima Daiichi still melts down my heart

Ten years ago this month, 22,000 Japanese citizens died in a huge tsunami that also caused the second-worst nuclear accident in history at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. Because I know about nuclear safety, I wrote a total of four columns about the accident in the month that followed. You can read them in order here, here, here and here.

When I wrote within hours of the accident that none of the 11 reactors would ever operate again, I was the sole voice on the planet saying so out loud. Read the comments and you’ll see I took some flak for […]

2021 Prediction #3: Get ready for more GameStops as hedge funds are no longer the only bullies in town

Sorry I got my puts and calls mixed-up in the e-mail version of this column. It should now be fixed. My 16 year-old copy editor says he won’t make that mistake again. — Bob

Today is my birthday. Thirty-five years ago today I was drinking coffee in my Palo Alto kitchen when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on TV. Thirty years ago today my father fell over, instantly dead of a heart attack while walking between gates in the American Airlines terminal at DFW. I was expecting a call, just not that one. Life is full of surprises and some of them aren’t good, as hedge funds are learning this week while their […]

2021 Prediction #1: Trump will do fine without Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

I’m no Trumper. This prediction has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with how social media actually works. Following the U.S. Capitol riot of January 6th, President Trump was bumped from nearly all social media, even YouTube, with many of those changes subsequently made permanent. These moves led to speculation that Trump would be hobbled without his beloved accounts, his immediate impact on public discourse muted without the ability to tweet. While this may be true in the very immediate sense, it won’t last. Even Trump, the technical luddite, will figure it out and roar back shortly with or without those accounts.

This prediction is very similar in thinking to a […]

The Big Sky is Falling

The history of instrument flight (originally called blind flying) has had three distinct phases. The first began with Elmer Sperry’s Gyro Horizon in the 1920s that allowed skilled pilots to fly through clouds by showing them where was the horizon they couldn’t otherwise see. Race pilot Jimmy Doolittle used Sperry’s gyro and a precision altimeter, a gyro compass and a primitive navigation radio in 1929 to make the first flight entirely “under the hood” with takeoff, flight, and landing all without visual references. That Jimmy Doolittle was one hell of a pilot. But for the purposes of this column what I want to concentrate on is that in this first era of instrument flight the only thing Doolittle had to worry about hitting […]