Over the past week or so, I saw headline after headline reporting on extremes: heat waves in the Arctic, in England, in Japan. Wildfires in California and across Europe, including the Arctic circle. Drought in Australia. Extreme summer weather conditions around the world have suddenly become high-profile news, and none of it is encouraging. It made … Continue reading Climate and weather: Is this the new normal?
The title refers to a book I just finished reading. I'll tell you more in a moment. But first, I need to report "breaking news." Last night, while scrolling through my social media feeds, a cutesy entry from the pop culture website Buzzfeed showed up: "32 People That Look So Much Like Their Parent You'll … Continue reading Stories of heredity: “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh”
Did you see the news recently about the whale that died in Thailand because it had a stomach full of plastic bags and other trash—more than 17 pounds' worth? How about about increasingly vocal efforts to remove plastic drinking straws from the list of common dining accessories? Plastic news really caught my eye that past couple … Continue reading The perils of plastic
This week, I finished reading The Woman Who Smashed Codes, by Jason Fagone. It chronicles the life and contributions—mostly behind the scenes—of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, arguably one of the most important cryptography specialists working in the United States during the first half of the 20th century. She and her husband William created useful methods and … Continue reading A story about…science?
Did you hear the news? If you've got romaine lettuce on hand in the United States, and you don't know where it came from (such as a local farm), you are being urged by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to throw it out. A batch of romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona has been contaminated … Continue reading The under-appreciated lives of plants
I wanted to share a quick post about a book I finished reading this week, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes. In 2017, Milwaukee journalist Dan Egan wrote a compelling "un-natural history" of the Great Lakes, chronicling the shifting relationship modern human society has built with these giant inland seas. Balancing stories of … Continue reading From canals to carp–a book about the Great Lakes
Last summer, I read the book How to Tame a Fox, by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut. I found the scientific story of fox genetics and domestication in the Soviet Union/Russia to be a compelling mix of biography, science, and politics. In June 2017, I wrote a blog post about the book and other … Continue reading More tales of domesticity and aggression
It can be very difficult to visualize the inner structures of living things since we can't see them directly. Our own bodies hide mysteries that usually are revealed only to surgeons or with imaging techniques such as X-rays. But the tiniest components of life: the structures of cells, viruses, and molecules—such as DNA and proteins—can … Continue reading An animated view of life
As a young child, my first lessons in "community" came from errands and outings with my family, interactions with neighbors, school and extra-curricular activities I participated in...and public television. I grew up with now-classic episodes of "Sesame Street" and "Mister Roger's Neighborhood," which taught me about the basics of positive communities and the people who … Continue reading Scientists in our neighborhoods
What does it mean to be a scientist? When children are young, we teach them about the types of people they will encounter in the big world and their own options for their future adult roles. We tell them that scientists are people who ask questions about how the world works and try to find … Continue reading Science from the sidelines: Lessons from jellyfish