Some editors at the New York Times seem to have either developed a severe case of institutional amnesia, or decided to confer the presumption of innocence upon cellphone radiation, as the newspaper did upon asbestos for an entire decade after the mineral had been shown to be the most important industrial carcinogen in the world.
I often make plans with friends for a night in the future, and then as the day approaches, if there's been radio silence on the event, you start to wonder, is it still a date? Or you make what you thought were very "soft" plans with someone, only to be thrown off when they text "Where you are? We're here." You think, "But... I never got a confirmation! I didn't know it was actually happening."
There are so many venues for talking these days, what's the point of trying to listen? We can post our every trivial thought on a thousand websites that reach a billion people instantly. I know people with full-time jobs who post so much on Facebook and Twitter, I marvel that they do any work -- unless of course their bosses are doing the same.
What if Dr. Townes, instead of taking that timeout, had sent a text or played Angry Birds? Might we be in the dark about the laser? As research and Townes' example suggest, the unpredictable sparks of our own mental machinations should be something we don't want to miss any more than the majestic sight of a passing whale.