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Michael Kaplan
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Michael Kaplan trained as a historian at Harvard and Oxford before becoming a documentary director and producer for WGBH-TV. A freelance writer/director for twenty-five years, he is also author with Ellen Kaplan of Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err Is Human, about which the New Scientist said: “armed with sheaves of anecdotes and research, the Kaplans show just how daft even the most intelligent people can be. The writing is delightful: graceful and packed with allusions, switching easily between hilarity and tragedy.”

Their previous book, Chances Are… Adventures in Probability, was praised by the New Yorker as “a fascinating layman’s trek through probability theory,” as well as by the New York Times: “[Michael and Ellen Kaplan] have hit on a great subject, and they explore it, down through the ages, with an enthusiasm that borders on glee… it’s a dizzying, exhilarating ride.” Michael Kaplan runs a communications company near Edinburgh, in Scotland, where he lives with his wife and son.

Blog Entries by Michael Kaplan

MKULTRA: the Perversion of Ethics

Posted April 13, 2010 | 13:02:48 (EST)

When you are going mad, you first notice new, shocking things about the world; you had not previously realized that the pigeon on the windowsill is always the same pigeon, nor that the rhythm of its coos is the rhythm of human speech. Only later does the fear begin, as...

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Obedience: The Lesson of Eichmann

Posted April 11, 2010 | 12:40:52 (EST)

It was like some German Expressionist play: the white room, the three men in robes on this high dais; men (in black suits and narrow ties, with heavy-framed glasses, often balding) rushing back and forth with papers; and the man -- in black suit, heavy-framed glasses, balding -- sitting in...

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Titanic: Too Big to Fail

Posted April 10, 2010 | 13:05:54 (EST)

Just at the most terrifying moment, when the giant ants are advancing over the horizon, snapping barbed jaws the size of windmill blades -- some honking voice from the row behind announces, "Y'know, that's physically impossible; no way could ant legs support something that size..."

You want to throw...

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The Ceremony of Forgetting: Appomattox

Posted April 9, 2010 | 12:49:20 (EST)

"Tell General Lee that my command has been fought to a frazzle... I can not long go forward."
General J.B. Gordon was a man for whom "forward" was an article of religion; if he was admitting weakness, it could mean only the end. Lee's face, as always, betrayed no...

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Martians in New Jersey: Remembering the War of the Worlds

Posted October 30, 2009 | 16:09:53 (EST)

Grover's Mill, New Jersey is lovely at this time of year. The long tree-fringed pond still glows with the late blaze of fall foliage. Down at the mill itself, you'd think you could buy a pumpkin; but it's now a mower-repair shop - perhaps a more appropriate business for a...

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Hot Celebrity Gossip!

Posted October 22, 2009 | 16:45:22 (EST)

You know who Kevin Federline is, don't you? Why, for heaven's sake? In what way has hearing about K-Fed's "career" and family troubles made any of our lives more interesting or fulfilling? What about Heidi Montag? Or Jon Gosselin? Khloe Kardashian... anyone?

Our age isn't unique in promoting people who...

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Drugs: Losing the Longest War

Posted October 15, 2009 | 19:23:37 (EST)

On October 14, 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared war on drugs ... again. There have been one or two conflicts in human history that lasted longer -- though we'd better win this before 2012, or we'll find ourselves alone in a league with the Hundred Years' War.

So, how have...

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Columbus: Blundering into Immortality

Posted October 14, 2009 | 13:21:58 (EST)

Four sculpted kings bear his tomb in the cathedral at Seville. Pompous marble proclaims his titles: Admiral of the Ocean, Governor of the New World. The man who, today in 1492, spotted the faint green sliver of the Bahamas on the horizon now rests in a style appropriate to his...

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"A Hell of a Brainy Plan": Remembering the Black Sox

Posted October 12, 2009 | 14:30:05 (EST)

October 9, 1919: Friday afternoon, bottom of the ninth, ninety years ago. One out, two on, Shoeless Joe Jackson comes to the plate. The Reds lead the White Sox 10-5, but there's still hope: the real damage was only done by the first five Cincinnati batters, all those innings ago....

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The Secret of Conspiracy

Posted October 2, 2009 | 18:29:11 (EST)

This week in 1964, the Warren Commission made public its report into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It did so with many misgivings. Some members worried that issuing any judgment would merely reopen speculation about a deeply painful moment in American history; others feared that by announcing a...

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The Discovery of Neptune

Posted September 22, 2009 | 17:21:45 (EST)

Where do you do your best work? Possibly not here looking at the screen, nor in the ergonomic workplace so thoughtfully provided by your employer. I know a lawyer who solves cases while asleep; Mozart composed most fluently at the billiard table; Thomas Wolfe wrote his novels atop a refrigerator....

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Message from a Bomber

Posted September 20, 2009 | 14:38:32 (EST)

"In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we've had to kill people." This is not the usual way to break into the pages of the New York Times, but then this writer was exceptional: the terrorist called "Unabomber" by the...

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A Never-Ending Battle

Posted September 11, 2009 | 05:49:28 (EST)

On this day exactly two thousand years ago, on a narrowing track between impassable bog and high hills, the cultural destiny of Europe was changed forever. At the end of a long running battle in the sodden wilderness, the remains of three Roman legions came up against well-prepared defensive earthworks:...

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Anniversary: Chicago '68

Posted August 28, 2009 | 08:32:42 (EST)

"The whole world is watching," they chanted; "the whole world is watching!" Perhaps not the whole world - but America was, reclining post-prandially in front of the TV, and what it saw was ugly: Chicago police, robotic in baby-blue helmets and gas masks, yanking kids out of the crowd and...

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HUAC: Americanism

Posted August 27, 2009 | 12:43:23 (EST)

"Honey, I'm bored. There's nothing to do tonight." "I know! Why don't we try some un-American activities?" What actually is un-American activity? I've had someone accuse me of it for disparaging pro wrestling, but I'm not sure that qualifies. If we were being strictly constructionist about this, we might say...

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