On the Discovery of Liquid Water on Mars


The first memory I know for sure is the smell of rain. I remember a screen door with holes in it big enough to let in a hummingbird, and outside I could see blue bellies of clouds over a dirt road. I can only figure it was somewhere in Arizona where I was born.

I’ve always been a water person. Even though I partly grew up in the desert — or because of that — I am mesmerized by its presence. At the root of what I know is rain.

Whenever a new discovery arrives, liquid water found on the surface of Mars or a shell of water vapor found around a quasar at the far end of the visible universe, I send up a private hooray! We’ve done it again, we’ve found more water. The media usually celebrates these finds along with me, which I take as proof that I am not alone.

Last week, NASA confirmed evidence of liquid water on Mars. Fluid erosion and deposition patterns appear to be ongoing, increasing during warm seasons, decreasing in cooler seasons. It is a melt and flow pattern, evidence that Earth is not alone in the solar system with liquid water. Continue reading

The Last Word

2688916488_1a125cd0e7_zSep 28 – Oct 2, 2015

Ok so Jennifer’s face looks a little older.  Does anybody have a problem with that?  Do babies? potential mates? Does natural selection?  Anybody?  No?  Then screw it.

New Person of LWON (oh joy!) Rose Eveleth got a new puppy.  So cute.  So energetic.  So barky.  So depressing.  What can be wrong with Rose, sitting on the kitchen floor with her new puppy and crying?

Guest Krista Langlois follows the boardwalk to the inside of Bowen Falls.  She’s soaking wet, can’t breathe, can’t see, is all-but-knocked flat, and is strangely comforted.

We’re killing cormorants right and left, says Michelle.  Supposedly we’re culling them, we certainly have good reason to.  Or maybe we just don’t like ’em.

Erik has a splendid idea: instead of describing other countries by stereotypes, why not figure out their keywords? My vote for Italy would be “connection.”


puppy: Ângela Antunes

What’s Your Word?

Xi and ObamaLiving in a foreign country can be exhilarating. Every time you step out your front door you are exploring a strange and exciting land. It’s like you are always on vacation. Likewise, reporting in a foreign country can be amazing as you get to dig into another culture in a way that no one else does.

It can also be a pain in the ass. You are continually sticking your foot in your mouth and missing cues. You can’t be sure what you are missing but you can always be sure you’re missing something. And you are often trapped by stereotypes that you may not even be aware of and that change for every country. Americans are too direct. They’re pushy. They don’t say what they mean. They’re too soft. They’re too hard.

All of this is only fair, since we Americans have our own stereotypes about other cultures. Germans are precise and exacting. Italians are hot-blooded. Australians are out of their bloody minds, mate. Continue reading

Aristotle’s Raven


East Sand Island, a slim strip of sand, sludge, and beachgrass near the mouth of the Columbia River, is home to an estimated 28,000 cormorants. Make that 26,800 cormorants: Since Memorial Day, crews from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services have shot more than 1,200 adult birds and doused more than 5,000 nests with vegetable oil, suffocating developing cormorant chicks within their shells. By 2016, if all goes according to plan, the East Sand Island colony — the largest breeding colony of cormorants in North America — will have been shot and smothered down to less than half its current size.

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Guest post: Water Unbound

It has been raining for three days now, really raining, the kind of rain that can only occur in a place that receives upwards of 7 meters of rain a year. Three days ago, water began pouring out of the sky the way it might during a tropical afternoon storm or a monsoon — a kind of rain that comes quickly and leaves a short while later. But this rain doesn’t leave.

I’m spending a summer in Fiordland National Park, on New Zealand’s South Island, and the Kiwis I live with want to show me how powerful water can be in one of the wettest places on the planet. So on Monday, having played board games, baked and watched movies for far too long, we gear up. Everyone digs out the most protective waterproof combination they can find. I put on a dry suit, neoprene booties, neoprene gloves, a neoprene balaclava and my diving mask. Then we pile in the back of a van and drive to Bowen Falls.  Continue reading

I Got the Post Puppy Blues

My majestic animal

Anybody who knows me at all, in any context, probably knows that I adopted a dog two weeks ago. It’s all I talk about all the time. Sources know that she might try to get in my lap during an interview. Friends know that they’re invited over any time to see her and teach her how to play nice. My family knows because I already brag about how much better behaved she is than their dogs.

What they probably don’t know is that for a few days in a row last week I came home from running errands and sat on my floor and cried. Continue reading

New Person of LWON: Rose Eveleth

9544541664_b43ec6c183_zWe are pleased as punch to welcome the supremely talented Rose Eveleth to the LWON fold. Rose is the host and producer of Meanwhile in the Future, a podcast from Gizmodo about … you guessed it … the future. She’s also a great writer. Need proof: Just read this awesome story she wrote about the tiny town of Eveleth, Minnesota. Or this one about how farmers abuse their prosthetic limbs.

Here are some other fun facts about Rose: She likes to build strange little things. Her favorite animal is the fox. She has a New Jersey accent that she hides unless she’s very mad. And somewhere on her body is a tattoo of a Dymaxion map.

We’ve been hounding Rose to join for what seems like decades. We’re so glad she finally caved. Tune in tomorrow for her first post.

*Photo courtesy of JD Hancock via Flickr


Face Time

shutterstock_242650873I was at an airport not long ago when a TSA agent did a double take while checking my ID. I’m used to this. I’ve always been blessed with youthful looks, and typically people meeting me don’t believe I’m actually nearing a half-century of years on Earth. Occasionally I’m still carded in bars. That feels nice. So I smiled, ready for the usual compliment.

But this was different. This man looked at my photo, looked again at me, squinting, and said, “Wow, you look about 16 in your picture!” Translation: “You look waaaaay older than you did when that photo was taken.” It was the first time someone had remarked, even indirectly, that my face finally matched my years.

It was inevitable. After all, one can’t look like a teenager forever. Life carves away at us in visible ways, even those of us with good DNA. And I’ve had a lot of poor health in the last decade, with effects that I’ve been seeing in the mirror more and more. Tired eyes. Splotchy skin with spots that no long pass as cute freckles. That extra pat of fat under the chin. Deep lines like scars between the brows. Thinning hair. It’s all here, on a girl who thought maybe, just maybe, she’d sipped from the fountain of youth.

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