[First published in The New York Times Magazine, June 11, 1995, under the headline “This Is Sex?”A version of this essay appears in What Just Happened.] AT FIRST GLANCE, THERE’S a lot of sex on the Internet. Or, not at first glance—nobody can find anything on the Internet at first glance. But if you have time on your hands, if you’re comfortable with computing, and if you have an unflagging curiosity about sex—in other words, if you’re a teen-ager—you may think you’ve suddenly landed in pornography heaven. Nude pictures! Foul language! Weird bathroom humor! No wonder the Christian Coalition thinks the Internet is turning into a red-light district. There’s even a “Red Light District” World Wide Web page. The battle cry of the online voyeur is “Host Contacted—Waiting for Reply” So we explore. Some sites make you promise to be a grown-up. (O.K.: you promise.) You try “Girls,” a link leading to a computer at the University of Bordeaux, France. The message flashes back: Document Contains No Data. “Girls” at Funet, Finland, seems to offer …
Removing doubts about the meaning of time is an ambitious goal, but not too ambitious for the Queen and Parliament of Britain in 1880. They enacted the “Statutes (Definition of Time) Act” to settle the matter once and for all. So now we know. Or do we?
What was the “most characteristic feature of the thought” of the early 20th century?
These people threaten to destroy one of the internet’s nicest things. Twitter is a happy accident, a fortuity, a quirk.
You could get this book now if you had a time machine. Then again, if you had a time machine you wouldn’t need the book.
“Gravity is weak,” Feynman said. “In fact, it’s damned weak.”
“Ghosts were seen when, for reasons unknown, they inadvertently slipped from their allotted time into the present.”
Is the public library as anachronistic as the record store, the telephone booth, and the Playboy centerfold?