What drew you to writing?

Karen Abbott: Well I always liked to write. When I was a kid in grade school I would write really bizarre . . . I was always interested in murder mysteries, and murder, and law, and sort of the darker impulses of people. So I would write stories about murderous matrons and, you know, serial killers who, you know, were grandmothers. And I would send these stories off to Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock and, you know, kept getting rejections. Of course I was like 15 and 14 so I really didn’t expect anything, but I kept doing it just for fun. Then I sort of gave it up and I figured, you know, nobody can really grow up and become a writer. I didn’t think it was something people did for a living. It was sort of a fanciful thing. And I had planned to go to law school. That’s what . . . mostly because I thought that would be the easiest thing to do, and I liked to argue with people, and I like politics. But while I was in college I got an internship at Philadelphia magazine. And one of the things I had to do besides picking up people’s laundry and opera tickets was transcribing their interviews. It was way before, you know, anybody had machines that did that for you. So there were a couple of journalists who would make me transcribe their interviews, and they would say things like, you know, “Note how I ask this question. Note the way I sort of use inflection on this word. And the way they answer this, mark that down.” And it was a very calculated system of questioning that intrigued me, and that’s when I started wanting to be a journalist, so . . .

Recorded On: 1/22/08

Abbott was always drawn to people's darker impulses.

Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • There are 2 different approaches to governing free speech on college campuses.
  • One is a morality/order approach. The other is a bottom-up approach.
  • Emily Chamlee-Wright says there are many benefits to having no one central authority on what is appropriate speech.

Why the number 137 is one of the greatest mysteries in physics

Famous physicists like Richard Feynman think 137 holds the answers to the Universe.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • The fine structure constant has mystified scientists since the 1800s.
  • The number 1/137 might hold the clues to the Grand Unified Theory.
  • Relativity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics are unified by the number.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
  • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
  • Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.