The Wrong Stuff

Google, the company, entered this world in 1998.  I'm not sure how long it took for "Google," the verb, to follow, but I do know that millions of people engage in that particular activity many, many times per day.  For half of all Internet users worldwide, Google is the portal to the collected and digitized wisdom (and folly) of humanity. Google's search engine has changed how we conduct research, plan vacations, resolve arguments, find old acquaintances, and check...

After Google, Wikipedia might be the single most powerful new influence on how we as a culture organize, disseminate, and access information. For millions of Web-connected citizens, the online encyclopedia is the place of first resort for looking up everything from Shirley Sherrod to sickle-cell anemia. There's no...

I love asking people about their relationship to being wrong.  But there are some folks I'll never get to interview -- no matter how much I want to, no matter how many publicists or PR people I beg.  I'm thinking about subjects who can't talk to me for the very good reason that they're dead.  Or for the very good reason that they never existed: like cemetaries, libraries are populated with fictional characters whose thoughts on wrongness I wish I could hear. ...

Name a high-stakes industry, and odds are James Bagian has been involved in trying to make it safer.  Bagian is, among other things, an engineer, an anesthesiologist, a NASA astronaut (he was originally scheduled to be on the fatal Challenger mission), a private pilot, an Air Force-qualified freefall parachutist, and a mountain-rescue instructor.  And that's to say nothing of his current job: director of the Veteran Administration's National Center for Patient Safety...

"When you first contacted me about an interview on errors, I made the error of excessive self-esteem. I thought for a second that you thought I was a sagacious personage who had led a not uneventful life that might have something useful to say to your readers. But then when you mentioned [Alan] Dershowitz, it came to me in a flash....

There's a select number of places on earth where you really, really don't want to make a mistake.  High on the list, in every sense, are the planet's tallest mountains: the 14 peaks in the world that are over 8,000 meters (26,247 feet).

Widely acknowledged as one of the world's greatest mountaineers, Ed Viesturs is one of fewer than 20 people and the only American to have climbed all of those peaksand one of only five to have climbed them without...

Every episode of the radio show This American Life has, host Ira Glass suggests, "a crypto-theme."  There's whatever the story appears to be about -- the financial crisis, evangelical Christianity,...

Anthony Bourdain's first nonfiction book, Kitchen Confidential, introduced the world to a kind of one-man alt-FDA: a six-foot-four-inch executive chef and former heroin addict who wrote like Kerouac by way of Blackbeard and would gladly fillet your sorry ass with his own kitchen knife if you showed up late to work...

When I emailed sportswriter Joe Posnanski to ask him if I could interview him about being wrong, I got a response right away: "Finally," he wrote, "something I know something about."

That wisecrack doesn't square with Posnanski's reputation; he's better known as one of the country's best and smartest sports journalists.  A senior writer at Sports Illustrated and longtime sports columnist for the Kansas City Star, Posnanski has twice been...

"All I want is to die with a clear conscience," Diane Ravitch told me.  As assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush and a longtime conservative eduction activist and scholar, Ravitch once crusaded for nationally mandated testing, charter schools, school choice, and No Child Left Behind.  Today, she rejects all those positions as bad for America's communities, schools, teachers, and kids.  Read my...

Okay, maybe you don’t have strong beliefs about the “right” way to load a dishwasher, or about your sweetheart’s propensity to do it “wrong.” In that case, either you are unusually saintly or (like me) you don’t own a dishwasher. But you almost certainly get involved in domestic disputes about who’s right and who’s wrong all the time; we all do. Although interpersonal arguments can have a number of causes – from serious and painful breaches in trust to the fact that we haven’t had our coffee yet – an impressive number of them amount to a tug-of-war over who possesses the truth. We fight over the right to be right.