A Concatenation of Extraterrestrials

The past few days have been a cosmic convergence of opinions about extraterrestrial life.  First, I’ve been interviewing scientists and engineers who think that funding searches for planets that might support life isn’t unreasonable.  Second, a neighbor told me he’d read in the New York Times that extraterrestrial life almost certainly had evolved somewhere, some […]

Redux: What is a good death?

This post first ran on August 29, 2013.My beloved neighbor Joanne was 87 years old when her son found her dead in the hallway of her old farmhouse on Monday. They’d gone to a funeral together that morning — a younger relative had died of pancreatic cancer — and after lunch he’d dropped her off at […]

What Makes Something Bodyhacking?

A few months ago, in a dark club on the always-busy 6th Street in downtown Austin, there was a very odd party going on. To get in, you had to show a thin metal badge with a dancing woman etched into it. Projected onto the wall above the DJ playing house music there was a […]

Guest Post: When Everything Good Is Also Beautiful

For the better part of 30 years, my head was firmly stuck in English. But when I moved to Italy three years ago, I also started my first genuine effort at picking up a second language. My barely remembered high school Spanish prepared me for some things about Italian, like the gendered nouns and overwhelming […]

Damage Patterns

The other night I was in the midst of writing about the Ice Age when I strayed to the internet. Up came the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography that went this year to New York Times photographers Mauricio Lima, Sergey Ponomarev, Tyler Hicks and Daniel Etter for their coverage of the European refugee crises. Fresh from writing a […]

Guest Post: The Dirty Bomb of Nutrition

The hard thing about teaching nutrition to college students is that, as far as eating healthy is concerned, they’ve heard it all before. In fact, Michael Pollen’s phrase, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”– is about the best 3-second nutrition message around. I find myself wanting to repeat this phrase to my students and […]

The Story I Never Wrote

Last year, I abandoned a story. It happens, journalists don’t write every story they think they might. But this one I still think about. It started innocuously enough. A paper caught my eye about looting and archaeology. The premise was somewhat counterintuitive: the author argued that in places where the economic situation was particularly dire, […]