Guest Post: Science Fail

When I was in 4th grade, my teacher gave everyone in class an ice cube. Our task, she said, was to keep it from melting for as long as possible. In a room full of 10 year olds, that task turned into a heated competition. But I wasn’t worried. I’d had a stroke of insight: […]

I’ll Miss You Summer

My son’s new school supplies shine too brightly in the corner of my office. It’s the standard fare: glue sticks, soon to be dried out felt pens, a rainbow of highlighters, a cheap pencil sharpener made in China. The exercise books lay crisp and waiting to be filled with vocabulary tests and paragraphs about summer […]

A Singular Data Point Is A Datum, You Idiots!

There’s a moment when you realize that you’ve become the person you hate. For me, it happened at the dinner table. I was telling (ok, ranting to) my husband about how my employer, FiveThirtyEight, has chosen to adopt as its house style the usage of the word data as a singular noun. “So you’ve become […]

Guest Post: Postcard from El Salvador

Agricultural engineer Irene Varela is a compelling presence. Six farmers are gathered on the patio of a church library in Santiago Texacuangos in El Salvador, about an hour outside the country’s capital for a workshop she’s leading. “What’s the soil like when you have worms?” Varela asks in Spanish. “Moist,” says one famer. “Rich,” says […]

Learning from Rafe

On May 28, on the northwestern outskirts of Tucson, Arizona, biologist Rafe Sagarin went for an evening bike ride. He intended to spend the night at the nearby Biosphere 2 facility, where he hoped to one day build a living model of the Gulf of California. He was, as always, full of plans and ideas—for himself, for his […]

Survey Says

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “not at all” and 10 being “very much”, how much has the sight of this question made you die inside? You’re not alone. Surveys are dreadful; often badly-worded, usually tedious, always demanding more of your time than they deserve. Yet they’re a pillar on which a […]

Flabbergasted By the Real World

I grew up on a small farm and among other creatures, we raised chickens. Every day they had to be fed and watered and their eggs, warm from their bodies, had to be gathered. When the chickens got old enough to stop laying regularly, we’d turn them into stew: we’d kill them and dress them, […]

Redux: Auditing Astronomy Class

This was first published in Dec 6, 2011 — it was originally a guest post, Cameron wasn’t yet an LWONer — and was honorable-mentioned for the American Institute of Physics’ 2012 science writing prize in the New Media category. Her mom sounds like a doll. I’m not sure exactly where this story begins, but maybe it’s […]