The Physics of Communication

(This is the slightly revised text of the speech I gave at North Carolina State University to kick off its annual Communication Week).

When I was invited to speak at N.C State’s Communication Week I wondered – what do they do the other 51 weeks of the year? Is State, in fact, a monastery where everyone takes an oath of silence? Or maybe it’s just preparing students for marriage.

But as I thought it about some more, it made perfect sense. It is true that we communicate more than ever before. I, of course, would never engage in such activities, but my deep scholarly research has unearthed unimpeachable evidence that students routinely send emails at breakfast, visit shopping websites during lectures on European history and even text while driving.

Lionel Shriver

Home town hero Lionel Shriver returned to Raleigh last night to discuss her new novel, Big Brother, at Quail Ridge Books. About 50 people – including a couple-three without gray hair – heard her describe her latest sally into our politically charged landscape: a novel hinged on obesity.

Inspired by her late brother’s weight issues, which contributed to his death at 55, the novel takes off when 40-something Pandora picks up her brother, Edison, at the airport. The once svelte jazz musician has gained hundreds of pounds in the four years since his sister saw him last. The book asks: “What happened?”

Ann Patchett Demands a Pulitzer For Somebody

Ann Patchett has offered an eloquent response to the Pulitzer committee that decided not to award a prize in fiction this year. She writes:


"Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps.