Redux: Dr. Frankenstein’s Climate

Two hundred and one years ago today, a young writer began a very famous story. Every year, it gets a little more relevant. Between two and three o’clock in the morning on June 16, 1816, during a restless night in a villa on Lake Geneva, eighteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin had a waking dream. As the moon […]

Listening to the Lost Boys

Last Sunday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours at a right-wing “free speech” rally in downtown Portland, Oregon. I described parts of the experience in a story I wrote earlier this week, but I’m still thinking about what I heard and saw. The rally, organized by an area group called Patriot Prayer, was held in […]

The Common Language of Conservation

When marine biologist Julia Lowndes started graduate school in California in 2006, she expected to spend the next several years learning about the behavior of the Humboldt squid, which had recently—and dramatically—expanded its range north along the California coast. But before she learned anything about the squid, she discovered, she had to learn to code.

Motherhood Week: Making Friends With Mister P.

My eight-year-old daughter is a fourth-generation perfectionist. In my family, the trait is matrilineal, so I know from firsthand experience that it has a few advantages. My daughter is likely to pay her bills on time and use semicolons correctly. She will not be intimidated by details. She will have a certain baseline competence that will make her […]

Color Your Way to Climate Reality

I often write about subjects that are hard to read about—climate change, extinction—so I think a lot about how to draw people toward information that mostly makes them want to run away. Musician, artist, and programmer Brian Foo has pondered the same problem, and his solution is simple. Present your readers with terrifying data, then ask […]

Redux: Science Metaphors (cont.): Scale Mismatch

I wrote this post less than 24 hours after the U.S. presidential election. It’s been a long five months since then, but I’m still finding this metaphor useful, in work and in the rest of life. I hope you will, too. Dear readers, dear friends, As I write this, on the afternoon of November 9, 2016, […]

Resistance Begins at Home

On the evening of November 29, 1944, in the small town of Hood River, Oregon, the members of American Legion Post 22 performed what they later described as a patriotic act: They went to the county courthouse and blacked out sixteen names on the plaques honoring local soldiers. All sixteen men were still overseas, fighting on behalf of the United […]

Don’t Think of a Mammophant

  Let’s talk about de-extinction. Actually, let’s not. Let’s talk about what the as-yet-unrealized technology known as “de-extinction” really is, which is the creation of hybrid organisms using genetic material from both extinct and extant species. Last month, a team of scientists announced that a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo—”more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits,” […]