First, AI came for our volunteer jobs

In 2007, while a researcher at Oxford, astrophysicist Kevin Schawinski co-founded what would become the largest online citizen science project to date. Galaxy Zoo involved several hundred thousand volunteers pouring over images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to classify galaxies. Significant discoveries were made, dozens of journal articles published the results, and another site, […]

Diary of a Human Zoo Animal

Last week I roamed the trails of the Zurich Zoo with my son. The new elephant exhibit, we heard, included an underwater window in which one could watch the elephantine legs paddling. As a tourist attraction, though, a world-class zoo is pretty much the same wherever you go, and it wasn’t exactly a thrilling day. More […]

The Freshwater Bullies of Gatun Lake

The crocodiles should not be a problem. Yes, the population has spiked after being placed under protection, and there have been some attacks recently. But those attacks tend to happen when somebody steps right into the water. The crocs all hang out in the shallows. Stay out of the water and you should be fine. […]

The Last Word

December 5-9. 2016 At a writing residency in Oregon, Emma finds a bird foot in coyote scat, and then sees death all around her in the forest. When I stopped for lunch, I took out my notebook and wrote, “Thinking mostly about nothing much except how the forest is death, death, life out of death, death accumulated so it […]

Thankful? Oh, Really?

Ann:  It’s been a fairly dreadful year, personally and nationally, and giving thanks is going to be a stretch.  But even when I was a kid, I was thankless.  When my grandfather said grace at Sunday dinners — “Bless, oh Lord, this food to our use and us to thy service” — I thought the […]

Redux: Killing in the Name of Science

On the occasion of fifteen years of science writing, I revisit the task that led me out of science. When I first wrote this piece, I have to admit, I was shaking and crying. It was a passage I needed to write, and it appeared here in 2011. If you have trouble with the image […]

Rosetta and Philae: Plucky siblings for life

On September 30, the Rosetta orbiter will make a controlled collision with Comet 67P/C-G. It is not designed for landing, so this is the last we will hear from it. This date also marks an end to a happy period for my family that started in 2013 when my son was just four years old […]

Redux: The Berger Inquiry

When I first posted this piece in August, 2014 I wanted to let the Berger Inquiry stand alone for the remarkable event that it was. Subsequent events have added nuance to the meaning of the inquiry. When the proposal was revived in 2004 as a natural gas pipeline, some of the people who had spoken […]