Manifesto of a Wasp Scientist

The following was inspired by my recent purchase of the clever and entertaining book, The Bees, by Laline Paull. All characters are fictional and should not be confused with real scientists. I especially ask that no bee researcher take offense, as 80 percent of science writers would shrivel up and die if you stopped talking […]

My Mom on the Bering Land Bridge

All this week Last Word on Nothing is geared toward Mother’s Day, which is next Sunday. Tell your mother you love her and share some of our posts, things are about to get maternal. Pictured above: my mother. I held her cold hands in mine, rubbing warmth into them as she crouched behind a rock […]

The Opposite of Extinction

Last Thursday, a study in Science predicted that if global carbon emissions continue on their current “business-as-usual” trajectory, climate change will extinguish one-sixth of the species on earth. The figure comes with the usual caveats, which you can read about here and here. As a rough estimate of what lies ahead, though, the study is useful—and […]

A Sense of Many Places

In the past half year, I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve always traveled a lot. Until recently there’s been a heavy emphasis on longer trips: going to live in a foreign country or hang out on a ship for a few weeks or months. In the five and a half years I was freelancing, time was […]

Remnant of Eden

A summer not long ago I went for a grueling 3-day backpack through GMO cornfields in Iowa, camping among walls of waxy green leaves that sawed against each other in the breeze. I wanted to see what besides corn and soybeans lived out here. Not much, I found. Spiders and ants were few and only […]

The Amazing Lives of Fan Li and Xi Shi

Gather round, my children and allow me to regale you with the wonderful tale of the adventures of Fan Li and Xi Shi – military strategist, femme fatale, and all-around badasses. Fan Li was born in a town called Yuan Sanhu sometime in the late 6th Century BCE in a kingdom called Yue, near the modern […]

Behind the Curve

The Keeling Curve—the sawtoothed upward slope of atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations—may be the world’s most famous scatter plot. The data that form the curve have been accumulating since the 1950s, when scientist Charles David Keeling set up his instruments at a geophysical observatory high on Mauna Loa, one of the massive volcanoes that form the Big […]

Guest Post: The Resilience of The Citified Bobcat

If you were a bobcat, all tufted ears and oblique green eyes and lush spotted coat, you might find a lot to like about life in the Santa Monica Mountains. In the low, rugged range that bisects metropolitan Los Angeles, you would feast on the hordes of rats that frequent the unkempt middens of slovenly humans. You […]