Toward a Unified Theory of Poohsticks

By the time it arrived at the edge of our campsite, the stream had grown up so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. It was still clear and shallow, but […]

How to Name a Caribou

Few species are more frustrating to taxonomists than the North American caribou. Ranging from the Canadian Arctic to the Great Lakes, caribou vary enormously in size, color, antler shape, habitat, and behavior. Some aren’t much bigger than domestic dogs; others are almost big enough to rub shoulders with a moose. For more than two centuries, […]

Redux: Draw Me a Picture of Nature

The literary critic Raymond Williams once wrote that “Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language.” It’s a head-scratcher right up there with love, or goodness: We depend on it for survival, but we’re often not quite sure where it is, what it is, or whether we’re a part of it. Jessica Mikels-Carrasco, […]

Redux: Where the Wind Has No Name

Of all the evocative place words humans have come up with, the words for local winds may be the most varied and most charming. There’s the Albrohos of Portugal, the Gilavar and the Khazri of Azerbaijan, and the Shamal of Iraq. There’s the Cape Doctor of South Africa, the Hawk of Chicago, and the Wreckhouse winds of Newfoundland. […]

The Last Word

June 13-17, 2016 Christie thought she was from nowhere–until an internet quiz put her in her place. The novel Frankenstein, Michelle writes, “can be read a warning of the perils of human hubris and a brilliantly imaginative response to a global disaster.” Will we take its lessons and inspiration to heart in the face of our own monstrous creation, climate change? J-Shame: “It hits when your […]

Dr. Frankenstein’s Climate

Between two and three o’clock in the morning on June 16, 1816, during a restless night in a villa on Lake Geneva, eighteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin had a waking dream. As the moon shone through the shutters of her room, she remembered, “I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had […]

Redux: The Botanist Nobody Knew

Before dawn on October 3, 1932, in the small Columbia River town of Bingen, Washington, an 82-year-old man walked to the depot to catch the morning train to Portland. Under circumstances that remain unclear, the arriving train struck him down, killing him almost instantly. The man had lived in town for more than half a […]

H.G. Wells’ Advice on Science Writing

H.G. Wells is remembered today for his science fiction, but he had a solid foundation — and an enduring interest — in science fact. As a university student in London in the 1880s, he was deeply influenced by a course with Thomas Henry Huxley, a biologist so fiercely committed to evolutionary theory that he was known […]