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In Retrospect

Maisonneuve editors past and present recall stories that have stuck with them through the years

The Unbearable Lightness of Gravity

by Jon Mooallem (summer 2006)

Jon Mooallem’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Gravity” is about a crew of so-called gravity hunters who lug battered gravimeters around the United States to measure the earth’s gravitational field. Their job, essentially, is to detect tiny changes in the downward pull that keeps ­living things grounded. 

Why the hell would anyone need to do this? That’s what Jon wanted to know, and the story is a great example of obsession as a journalistic practice: take an unusual fact, start digging, and with every breakthrough in the reporting, uncover newer and stranger contexts around an activity. (Spoiler: the American military plays a role.) 

Mooallem is now a leading magazine writer, and this story was the first time I felt I was dealing with a talent whose gifts were real, possibly prodigious, and who was forcing my own editing ...

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