Birthdays are Arbitrary and Awesome

Over the past six weeks, my sister and two of my dearest friends have celebrated landmark birthdays (the kind with a zero at the end). These festivities have left me thinking about birthdays. Why do we celebrate them? A birthday represents a lap around the sun — 365 Earth days, or 8,760 hours. But let’s […]

Guest Post: Why humans suck at earthquake preparedness

Driving through my hometown in Kentucky, I admire the old-growth oaks, the spires and stained glass of Victorian era homes, and the tall brick chimneys. Then I think about how they would crumble in an earthquake. Ever since moving to the west coast, I size up the earthquake safety of every place I go: I […]

“The Martian” and Ice Age Astronauts

Two nights ago I sat in a theater watching the film “The Martian.” I loved seeing a viable spacecraft making gravitational slingshots around planets while a stranded, potato-growing astronaut claimed himself the first colonist on Mars. What’s there not to love? Meanwhile, in my coat pocket I carried an object from an entirely different age […]

Life on Another Planet, The Atacama in Bloom

Rain has been falling on the driest non-polar desert in the world, famous for parts of it not seeing a drop of rain for centuries. The Atacama Desert in South America is caught in the rain shadow of the Andes on one side, and cold dry air washing in from an Antarctica ocean current on the […]

Walking in the Land in Between

I love walking. This seems like such a silly thing to say, like “I love breathing.” We’re humans, you and me. Walking is our thing. Being bipedal makes us us. But walking is also an activity that I love. It takes me places, it shows me things, it gives me ideas, it calms my nerves. […]

Seeing Through Time

In the bespangled Pioneer Saloon in Paisley, Oregon, hangs a picture on a wall of a fit, gray mustached archaeologist out in the field. Written in pen, the name at the bottom of the photo is Dr. Poop. Dennis Jenkins is his actual name, a senior archaeologist at the University of Oregon. Jenkins leads paleo digs in […]

The Children of Floods

This picture I took last week may look like nothing but chaos and you may be right. It was a flash flood in southern Utah and I was safely standing on a ledge above it. I was absorbed by the galling roar and the smell of the desert funneled by intense rainwater to a single […]

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 […]