Congrats to Tom! (Open Thread)

Our own Tom Levenson’s “The Hunt for Vulcan” has been short-listed for the Royal Society prize for science books. As Joe Biden might say, that’s a big fucking deal!

Tom, to say you class up this joint is an understatement on the order of calling Donald Trump “mildly disagreeable.” Congratulations, man!

H/T: Valued commenter Scav.

80 replies
  1. 1

    Congratulations Tom! Does that mean Tikka gets an Aahi tuna steak, tonight?

  2. 2
    opiejeanne says:

    Awesome! Congratulations! One of my favorite Front Pagers.

  3. 3
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Congrats to Tom! We have some very smart commenters and front pagers at BJ.

  4. 4
    Mary G says:

    Congratulations! The one you are working on now sounds like a winner too.

  5. 5
    satby says:

    Wonderful! Congratulations!

  6. 6
    SFAW says:

    Congratulations, Tom! Great job!

    If/when you win, try to resist the urge to say — if they let you talk — “e to the u, du dx, baby”

  7. 7
    trollhattan says:

    Eeeexcellent [Burns fingertent]

  8. 8
    Poopyman says:

    @trollhattan: WOO HOO!

  9. 9
    Thoroughly Pizzled says:

    It’s a great book, Tom! Should anyone ever ask me to explain general relativity to them, I will sound a little less foolish.

  10. 10
    Occasional Reader says:

    Hurrah! Can’t wait to bag a copy!

  11. 11
    mzinformation says:

    Wow! Congratulations!!! So deserving!

  12. 12
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    This is the best news! Big congratulations, Tom! Very happy for you and proud to know you even a little bit.

    Please tell us all about how you found out that THfV had been shortlisted. How did the RS notify you, what was your immediate reaction, who was the first person you told, what are you going to do with the prize money, etc etc etc?? We want to know all!

  13. 13
    Emma says:

    Just finished the audio version of Hunt for Vulcan (I also have the hardcover, a thoughtful gift). I just started Newton and the Counterfeiter. Fascinating stuff!

  14. 14
    MomSense says:


  15. 15
    Soonergrunt says:

    Congratulations, Tom!

  16. 16
  17. 17
    The Dangerman says:

    Sounds like an interesting read; perhaps it can explain some of life’s mysteries (for example, what happened to the damned mustard).

  18. 18
    Mandarama says:

    Many congratulations, Professor Levenson!

  19. 19
    Calouste says:

    Some of the past winners of the Royal Society Prize for Science Books:

    Roger Penrose
    Stephen Jay Gould
    Jared Diamond (twice)
    Stephen Hawking
    Bill Bryson

    People almost worthy to be seen in the company of a nearly top 10,000 blog front pager.

  20. 20
    msdc says:

    Congratulations, Tom!

  21. 21
    rikyrah says:

    Libertarian Gary Johnson Is Very Confused About Student Loans
    by Alexander Holt
    August 3, 2016 3:54 PM

    Do the stated positions on higher education policy from both major presidential candidates leave you feeling sad, and like you are choosing between two bad options? Maybe you could vote for Gary Johnson, candidate for the Libertarian Party and former governor of New Mexico. Yes you would throw away your vote, but perhaps he has some smart things to say about higher education.

    He does not.

    Johnson is deeply confused about higher education policy. He believes that the reason college costs are so high is because of the “guaranteed government student loans.”

    Linking college costs to federal aid is not a fringe theory—it’s called the Bennett hypothesis, named after Ronald Reagan’s education secretary, and there’s some evidence that federal student loans may lead to increased tuition (although it’s not the main reason costs have increased). But what’s worrying about Johnson’s statement is that he called federal student loans “guaranteed.” That word has a very particular meaning in federal student loan policy, and it refers to a program that was abolished in 2010.

    Before 2010, banks would issue student loans and the federal government would “guarantee” those loans. That program was wasteful corporate welfare, and the government saved billions of dollars per year when it switched to loans issued directly by the federal government.

    Granted, new federal loans are still “guaranteed” by the government, but that’s a very strange word to use in light of the program’s history. Why not call them “government” or “federal” loans? It suggests that Gary Johnson silly hasn’t read up on the federal student loan program since 2010. Which is… concerning.

  22. 22
    slag says:

    Very excellent! Now I just might have to read it. I hear it’s good.

  23. 23
    Miss Bianca says:

    Now I really gotta read this! Congratulations!

  24. 24
    Mandarama says:

    This award would be an important addition to the Balloon Juice credenzas.

  25. 25
    JanieM says:

    Congrats, Tom! Yay!

  26. 26
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Whatcha gonna do with your winnings Tom?

  27. 27
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Congrats, Tom, and a big shout-out to the ‘Tute.

  28. 28
    chopper says:

    if he wins it, will the blog post be “pretentious art douche to receive prize”?

    i kid, i kid.

  29. 29
    redshirt says:

    Great book. Bought a copy for my Father and he liked it too.

    Also, at my book club last night, in a bookstore in Portland ME, there was Tom’s book prominently displayed on the front table – a clear marquee position. I got a book club member to buy a copy!

    I’ll take that percentage, Tom. ;)

    Congrats! Well deserved.

  30. 30
    Mike J says:


    Please tell us all about how you found out that THfV had been shortlisted. How did the RS notify you,

    I’m pretty sure they send an owl.

  31. 31

    Awesome!! Congrats!

    Well I do plan to read it some day~!

  32. 32
    redshirt says:

    @Miss Bianca: It’s great. It’s a history of science book and Tom’s writing is clear and straightforward.

  33. 33
    shortstop says:

    That is great! Felicitations, Tom!

  34. 34
    AnderJ says:

    Jay @Tom!

  35. 35
    Kristine says:



  36. 36
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    People almost worthy to be seen in the company of a nearly top 10,000 blog front pager.


  37. 37
  38. 38
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Mike J:

    I’m pretty sure they send an owl.

    Could be a bit perilous. I don’t think they’ve reckoned with Tikka.

  39. 39
    Marmot says:

    Congrats, dude!

  40. 40
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    Many congratulations! From someone who is not surprised.

  41. 41
    Brachiator says:

    Fantastic. Congratulations! Some of the other books look like tasty reads. I think my reading list pile will be getting higher.

  42. 42
    Doug! says:


  43. 43
    Schlemazel says:

    Congrats Tom! I am not the least bit bitter that my book was once again passed over. The intellectual elite feel that simply because i didn’t color within all the lines I should be disqualified! Some of those pictures wereHARD!

  44. 44
    Trinity says:

    Wow. Congrats Tom!

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:

    Congratulations, Tom! I’ve seen it on display at Vromans in Pasadena (which is one of our last remaining indie bookstores).

  46. 46
    Hildebrand says:

    Congratulations! Tom’s writing is excellent – I now assign Newton and the Counterfeiter for my Early Modern Europe course, because it so effectively adds both depth and life to someone who has had all the fun and interesting bits bled out of him by the vast majority of textbooks and monographs.

  47. 47
    Yutsano says:

    Mazel Tov indeed!

  48. 48
    scav says:

    @Schlemazel: The Sri Lankan judge did grade you a little overly hard for that small wrinkle in the gold leaf you went with on page 47. One could hardly see it next to the edgy chartreuse. But Tom’s application of gilt stars in a gravitational lens around a mythical planet was flawless. So again! We are not worthy but appreciate the glow and the occasional help hauling us out of the moderation pens below decks.

  49. 49

    I am angry right now. My library’s county system does not have a copy of this book on-shelf.

    /hunts down the collection developer responsible for the 500s

  50. 50
    burnspbesq says:

    This is so frakkin’ good.

    The Missouri public defender’s office is chronically underfunded, to the point that it can’t handle its caseload properly. State law allows the public defender to assign cases to private members of the bar in emergency situations. So guess who gets the first assignment? The governor.


  51. 51
    Aimai says:

    Congratulations! Just wonderful news!

  52. 52
    p.a. says:

    Hear he’s in negotiations at Eschaton. But seriously, congrats!

  53. 53
    WaterGirl says:

    Big congratulations, Tom! We’re not worthy.

  54. 54
    nastybrutishntall says:

    @Calouste: Pikers. Huzzah to Tom!

  55. 55
    Lee says:

    You’re awesome!

  56. 56
    M31 says:


    Newton and the Counterfeiter is a great book, and I’m looking forward to Vulcan immensely.

  57. 57
    Mathguy says:


  58. 58
    Humboldtblue says:

    Absolutely fantastic, congratulations science dude! I am slowly adding your titles to the kindle and you deserve all the plaudits that come your way!

  59. 59
    gogol's wife says:

    Congratulations! So nice to have you on this blog.

  60. 60
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Congratulations, Tom.

  61. 61
    MazeDancer says:

    How splendid! Giant Congratulations, Tom!

  62. 62
    WaterGirl says:

    @burnspbesq: It gets even better when you see that the reason he chose the governor was that the governor has been refusing to do nothing about the severe underfunding of the office.

    Awesome move.

  63. 63
    Miss Bianca says:

    @PaulWartenberg2016: It’s available in our library system, but I just requested my library to purchase the audiobook version, which is how my best reading gets done these days!

  64. 64
    jnfr says:

    Huge congrats and wild applause to you, Tom!

  65. 65
    Pinacacci says:

    Such a thrill; congratulations, Tom!

  66. 66
    RobertDSC-iPad Mini says:


  67. 67
    Cermet says:

    Wow! Congratulations! Hope you win but being on the shortlist is an honor recognizing your accomplishment!

  68. 68
    D58826 says:

    Well I didn’t connect the name when I bought the book.

  69. 69
    SarahT says:

    Late to the party but Mazel Tov, Prof. Levenson !

  70. 70
    Anoniminous says:


  71. 71
    planetjanet says:

    Just picked it up on Kindle. Should have done that a long time ago.

  72. 72
    Gelfling 545 says:


  73. 73
    JGabriel says:

    Coming in a bit belatedly, but:

    Congratulations, Tom!

  74. 74
    Denali says:


  75. 75
    Tenar Darell says:

    wow, Tom, congratulations!

  76. 76
    Dee Loralei says:

    Kudos Tom. I loved Newton and would go see the movie. Can’t wait to read Vulcan. Congrats again!

  77. 77
    Greg Ferguson says:

    Many congratulations [looks like a cool short list..:-) …]!

  78. 78
    HRA says:

    Congratulations, Tom!

  79. 79

    Late to the party – congratulations, Tom!

  80. 80
    Johannes says:

    Many congrats, Tom!

Comments are closed.