Redux: You’ve got mail, you idiot!

This post originally ran on October 26, 2011, back when Donald Trump was relentlessly propagating an easily debunked conspiracy theory about President Obama. As we ponder the triumph of “alternative facts,” it’s worth considering what makes bullshit so appealing and why it’s so hard to debunk.Earlier this month, I gave an Ignite talk at the National Association of […]

The Problem with Good People

Writing about people who are a normal mixture of good and bad is already hard.  Writing about good people is close to impossible. I wrote a profile once about a doctor who was just plain good.  He wasn’t a do-gooder – “I’m not a missionary,” he’d say; he was just a man who needed to […]

Conversation: Mike Lemonick & the Perpetual Now

I’ve known Mike Lemonick for several thousand years, ever since he assigned me to write a news story.  And I was then, as I still am, congenitally unable to write news stories.  All I remember is that I blew the news story and Mike had to completely rewrite it. I don’t remember the story, I […]

What I Learned From a Year of Drawing [almost] Every Day

I’ve made a lot of attempts at drawing in my life. I took required art classes in high school and a non-required one in college. Every few years through my adult life, I’d get together some pencils and paper, do some drawings, and, within a week or two, drop it, frustrated by my lame attempts. […]

A Science Journalist After the Election

Well, there it is. The people have spoken and now the Electoral College has spoken and we have our new president, Donald J Trump. I strongly believe in the importance of an unbiased media – even if it’s just an ideal that we strive for and never really achieve. As journalists, I believe it’s crucial that […]

What Should We Do About Comments?

I have a policy: never read the comments. This rule applies to most of the publications where my work appears online, such as FiveThirtyEight, Slate and The Washington Post. (LWON is the exception. Comments left here require approval before they’re posted, and I read them all.) It might seem unfriendly to ignore people who are […]

The Othering of Tom Hayden

I need you to know this: I had my name before he was famous. And though my family moved from Detroit to Saskatoon during the Vietnam War years that made him so, I need you to understand that my father was never a draft dodger. I have no quarrel with the decisions, to flee conscription […]

The Eternal Toil of the Motor Protein

A few days ago, I stumbled across this particularly arresting GIF while scrolling through my Facebook feed. The animation shows a stringy figure with huge feet lugging a rippling green sphere along a ribbed beam. “Look at that little guy plodding along,” I thought. “That looks like hard work.” Here’s the thing: That “little guy” is a […]