Nabokov 2.0: Expanded story, plus reactions

By Carl Zimmer | January 31, 2011 3:25 pm

Last Tuesday evening, my article on Nabokov and butterflies went live on the New York Times web site. My editor and I decided on that timing to coincide with the lifting of the embargo on a new paper providing genetic support to a hypothesis Nabokov had about butterfly evolution. But that left a few days before it would appear in print in tomorrow’s Science Times. So my editor provided me the opportunity to add to the piece in the intervening time.

I rarely get two bites at the journalistic apple, so this was a welcome surprise. I beefed up my account of Nabokov’s lepidopteran revival, which started with the work of Kurt Johnson and others–which Johnson recounts in Nabokov’s Blues: The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius. (Johnson is a co-author on the new study, too.)

And I also added a section about an amazing coincidence: another group of scientists recently published a molecular study backing another hypothesis of Nabokov’s–that Karner’s Blue Butterfly is a separate species. The man knew his butterflies.

If you don’t get the Times in print, you can read the version 2.0 online now. The print story is accompanied by some lovely photos; the Times has turned them into a slide show on their site.

The response to the story has been quite delightful. It was the most emailed article on the Times web site on Wednesday. I ended up talking about it on the John Batchelor Show, (starting at around 18:00 here). A co-author of the study, Naomi Pierce, went on NPR over the weekend to describe it. (Listen here.)

It’s always satisfying to see one of my articles serve as fertilizer for blog blossoms, and this time around a bountiful garden has sprouted. Here’s a by-n0-means-exhaustive list of my favorites:

Bioepherma: Nabokov was right–so was Stephen Jay Gould Wrong?

Jonah Lehrer: The Advantage Of Dual-Identities (A Case Study of Nabokov)

Jerry Coyne: Nabokov was right all along

The New Yorker: Nabokov’s Blue Butterflies

Library of America Blog: Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly studies bring together two cultures

John Hawks: Reflecting on Nabokov

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Link Love, Writing Elsewhere

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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