On My Way to Burning Man

I’ve just returned from Burning Man, a Mad Max bacchanalia in the desert of western Nevada. I went to see what my civilization was up to, what fiery pinnacle we’ve invented. I also wanted to see it in context, which is why my time at this 69,000-person conflagration was only part of a larger journey. […]

To America by Boat, Sans Columbus

  Last week, 12 Siberian Yup’ik men motored into the Bering Sea with two aluminum skiffs to visit relatives on the US side of the Bering Strait. Their journey retraced a route that has been used since the Ice Age, one of the most important lines of travel in human history. Leaving the Russian coast, […]

From the Edge of Beringia

In the Cold War, a U.S. Air Force telecommunications network was erected in Western Alaska, a series of gray metal radio-towers like obelisks on a hilltop over the town of Nome. Each points a different direction, meant to bounce tropospheric messages from the Russian border to the US. Last used in 1985, the network has […]

The Long Now of the Tiburón Bighorn

In the spring of 2012, botanist and graduate student Benjamin Wilder was camping on Tiburón Island, a large island in the Gulf of California whose flora he has studied for most of a decade. Wilder wanted to find out more about the evolutionary history of the plants on Tiburón, so he was looking for fossil […]

Seattle: Land of Amazon, Boeing, and Ancient Mammoths

On February 16, 1961, the Seattle Times reported that geologists had dug out the roughly 10,000-year-old bones of a giant sloth from a peat bog near the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Two years later, alongside an article about Boeing’s plans for a supersonic jet and an ad for “Ladies’ Days” bargains on bedspreads and cribs, the newspaper […]

What Luis Alvarez Did

Ben:  OK, everyone. Forget Tesla. It’s time to start obsessing about Luis Alvarez. [That’s Luis Alvarez in the photo, standing in front of the Great Artiste. This post began, as so much in life does, with a Twitter conversation.  Ben Lillie, a physicist and writer, began it; other people added to it.  One of those […]

Guest Post: Interspecies Dating Tips for Neanderthal Men

We are obsessed with the idea that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals interbred. But really, would the two species be compatible? Homo sapiens are flaky artists; Neanderthals are all business. Nevertheless maybe a Neanderthal guy found himself falling for a Homo sapiens gal. Here’s some belated advice: 1. A well-tailored set of animal skins is certainly a turn-on, […]