Scientists estimate that Neptune contains enough methane to make almost two billion cubic miles of pebble-sized diamonds.... At some point in the far future, perhaps as many as 100 million years from now, Triton and Neptune will collide. The concussion, destroying Triton and perhaps gouging out a portion of Neptune's core, will spew billions of fragments into the planet's atmosphere, resulting in the formation of a spectacular ring system, possibly exceeding that of Saturn. Thus, Neptune is a planet that seems torn between attractions, its arcs clinging together like mother and cubs, its biggest moon swooping closer, doomed, until it shaves from Neptune a glittering disc of jewels and rock and silence.
--- Geoff Shandler, "The Diamonds of Neptune
My feeling became so agitated, that I trembled like a Leaf --- this She perceived, Shut the door with a double lock and throwing her veil back Shewed me one of the most beautiful face, I ever saw "have You been or are you Married" yes madam "Long" 12 Years "is your wife in this City," no madam "Your name Audubon" yes madam "Set down and be easy" and with the smile of an Angel "I will not hurt you" I felt such a blush and such Deathness through Me I could not answer. She raised and handed Me a Glass of cordial, so strange was all this to me that I drank it for I needed it, but awkwardly gave her the glass to take back --- . . . "have you ever Drawn a full figure" Yes "Naked" I had been shot with a 48 pounder through the Heart my articulating Powers could not have been more suddenly stopped. [From an 1821 letter written by John James Audubon to his wife.]
--- Christopher Irmscher, "Audubon and the Veiled Lady"
If the skyscraper, with its crudely phallic thrust, is male, the airplane is female. Entering, we pass into a place that promises --- if rarely quite delivering --- all the amenities of the womb: shelter, nourishment, warmth, dimness, sleep. The earliest flight-attendants, in the 1920s, were men, but airlines quickly discovered that passengers preferred to be cared for by women, and before long they were openly competing with one another to provide the most beautiful and provocatively clad stewardesses. Erotic currents move among the passengers as well. Skyscrapers place us alongside strangers and demand that we work; airplanes seat us side by side and whisper idle fantasies of sex. This is the double face of modern alienation: the limitless path of loneliness, the limitless promise of random encounters. Proximity, anonymity: the world of skyscrapers and airplanes is one in which terrorists stalk freely among their prey.
--- Adam Goodheart, "The Skyscraper and the Airplane"
From "Our essays speak for themselves"
Samples from The American Scholar