A Tree Persists in Brooklyn

The first pages of children’s classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn describe eleven-year-old Francie Nolan sitting on her Brooklyn fire escape, daydreaming that she lives in a tree. For Francie, it wasn’t hard to imagine; tree limbs curled gracefully around the fire escape, shading her from the summer sun with umbrellas of pointed leaves. The tree […]

Redux: Contagious Compassion

This post was first published in March of last year; sadly, it’s more relevant than ever. On February 29, after having lunch in Hood River, Oregon, Kozen Sampson drove to a quiet neighborhood to take his dogs for a walk. He was getting out of his car, he says, when a man with brown hair approached and kicked his car door. […]

Better Science Writing Through Improv

Those of us who try to communicate complicated things for a living are usually told, early on by some wiser person, to know our audiences. To know our readers, in my case. I’ve always taken this pretty seriously—which is to say, I take all of you seriously. I don’t know your names (except for Mom—hi, […]

Corvid Redux Week: The Crow Knows Your Nose

Like Ann, I’m a recent convert to the charm of crows. This has led to a running joke with my husband’s cousin, Roger. At family reunions, I tell him how much I like crows. He tells me how much he likes to shoot them. Hilarious, right? Here’s the satisfying part: Crows remember Roger. They don’t just remember Roger’s […]

Totality Awesome

The eclipse, as narrated by our children and their friends. Two hours before totality Adele, age 7: “What do you know about the eclipse?” Lulu, age 8: “What happens is that the moon comes in front of the sun and eats it and blocks the sunlight.” Adele: “Goes in front of it, kinda.” Lulu: “And […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): Arctic Resignation

The Svalbard archipelago, midway between continental Norway and the North Pole, is famous for its polar bears, but it is also home to the distinctive (and distinctively adorable) Svalbard reindeer. Shaggy-haired and stubby-legged, the Svalbard reindeer is not only the world’s smallest subspecies of reindeer but also the world’s northernmost herbivorous mammal, and its survival […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): When Han Solo Got Waxed

The latest issue of the journal Environmental History features an article titled “Chest Hair and Climate Change: Harrison Ford and the Making of ‘Lost There, Felt Here.’” Stop snickering! This is a serious thing. At least, I think it’s a serious thing. Section editor Finis Dunaway acknowledges that while “readers were not expecting to find an […]

Redux: Tesser Well

When I first published this post, my daughter was six. Now, she’s eight-going-on-nine, and halfway through the Harry Potter series. But on dark and stormy nights, winter or summer, she still feels the pull of A Wrinkle in Time—and I do, too. ______ It was a dark and stormy night. In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, […]