A few days ago, I stumbled across this particularly arresting GIF while scrolling through my Facebook feed. The animation shows a stringy figure with huge feet lugging a rippling green sphere along a ribbed beam. “Look at that little guy plodding along,” I thought. “That looks like hard work.”
Here’s the thing: That “little guy” is a motor protein called kinesin. His feet are actually heads. And he isn’t simply plodding. Kinesin is propelled down structures inside the cell called microtubules (that beam in the GIF) as its heads bind and release. Humans plod. Kinesin is driven by chemistry. Continue reading →
“The Silver Lake Wolves” sounds like the title of a young adult novel, or possibly an indie rock band with lots of close harmony and beards. Actually, it was the name given by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to a small family of wolves living near Silver Lake, Oregon, about 75 miles northeast of where I live in Klamath Falls. The family consisted of a male, known as OR 3, a female, known as OR 28, and a single pup. Earlier this month, someone killed OR 28. Because she lived in the western two-thirds of Oregon, she was protected by the Endangered Species Act. Killing her was a federal crime.
I’ve been covering wolves as a journalist for a few years now, and I’m endlessly fascinated by the complex ways we humans see them, relate to them, and interact with them. One clear tension is between seeing each wolf as an individual animal and looking at large numbers of wolves as a population. And the death of a single wolf in a small population tugs hard on that tension. Continue reading →
Emma and her family live in southern Oregon, close to some of North America’s most rambunctious gardens. I’ve been lucky enough to camp out in a few of them with her, so I know she’s superfine company in the woods: smart, witty, thoughtful, and always fun to argue with. Please welcome Emma to our virtual campfire, and look for her first post tomorrow.
Everyone has an embarrassing moment on social media. For me, the most memorable started with an adorable photo of a baby polar bear. The bear had gleaming white fur, big brown eyes, and a sweet expression. It floated into my line of vision one morning two summers ago, as I consumed Twitter while consuming my morning cup of tea.
May I introduce James Gleick? He’s been on staff at the New York Times, and has written seven books, including Chaos and Genius (a biography of Richard Feynman), for which he’s won impressive prizes. And he’s just published Time Travel, which Joyce Carol Oates called “another of [his] superb, unclassifiable books.” It’s a compendium of all the explanations, implications, ramifications, aspects, and generally unpleasant outcomes of traveling to the future or to the past.
Ann: When I look at your book-tour dates and places, I see that you’ve mastered time travel yourself, or at least you’ve managed to get from one place to another in unlikely intervals of time. Are you exhausted?
James: Oh, well, I’m fine, thanks, though space travel—the mundane kind, as opposed to the rocket-ship kind—can occasionally feel as disorienting as we imagine time travel to be. After all, jet lag is a kind of time sickness. At least I didn’t cross the International Date Line. I did have an uncanny moment at the Seattle airport when I wondered if I had slipped into a bygone era and was about to board a biplane:Continue reading →
This summer, the Bramble Cay melomys, a reddish-brown rodent that resembles a large mouse, made international news. In mid-June, the Guardianreported that the melomys, last seen in 2009, had been confirmed extinct in its only known habitat, a tiny, isolated coral outcrop in the narrow strait between Australia and New Guinea. “First mammal species wiped out by human-induced climate change,” the headline read. The story, and the declaration, were picked up by publications around the world.
Climate change certainly dealt a blow to the melomys, and very likely the fatal blow. In 1998, about ten acres of Bramble Cay lay above the high tide line; by 2014, only six acres remained above the tide, and rising seas had flooded the entire island several times, killing or damaging most of the succulent plants the species depended on for food. The melomys was last seen alive in 2009, and this past June, a report by three scientists to the Australia’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection concluded that there were no more melomys on Bramble Cay. The last remaining members of the species may have been simply washed away.
But did climate change kill the melomys? Yes and no.