A Bird’s Foot: Death in the Forest 

I find a stick and use it to break up the dry twists of coyote scat I have found on the trail. Shit is nature’s obituary page. In each pile are the traces of lives recently lost. In this particular excreta I find a sprinkling of little white brittle bones—bird bones. And then I pull […]

The Last Word

Before the week’s Last Word, a continuing apology: Our software for commenting is still screwed up — you can leave a comment but its publication might take a bit — and we’re still working on it and we’re still sorry. November 28 – December 2, 2016 Helen’s nerves are still shot — whose aren’t? — […]

What’s the Poop?

I have been paying attention to poop and where I find it. This isn’t a passing interest, I’ve been noting for years where animals choose to squat. In the out of doors, you can’t help noticing because they squatted to get your attention, like a billboard that reads GOTCHA! With a little chub of scat […]

Looking Up

About seven years ago, a good friend of mine experienced an unthinkable tragedy. Her 38-year-old cousin—to whom she was extremely close—and the woman’s two young daughters were walking hand in hand to school when a driver, having passed out due to an illness, swerved into them. They were dragged to their deaths. Ever since, my friend […]

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 Great Eucalyptus Debate

The Tasmanian blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, is a magnificent tree. That is perhaps the only thing that everyone agrees on. It is, as Jake Sigg puts it, “a big, grand, old tree.” Tall, gnarled, stripey-barked, with white flowers like sea anemones, blue gum eucalyptus are characteristic of the San Francisco Bay area, despite being native […]

The Last Word

November 21-25, 2016 This week, Erik brings his expertise to bear on the placebo and nocebo effects of presidential election results. What are the public health implications of deep disappointment? Of all the factors, low voter turnout may make those effects more powerful. NIH no longer uses chimps for biomedical research. But the transfer to chimp […]

Fat: What is it good for?

Infant mortality in the Arctic has always been a bit of a mystery. Yes, the usual suspects are present — high smoking rates, overcrowding — but the same is true of many communities in the south where far fewer babies die. Nunavut’s infant mortality rate, for example, is four times that of the rest of […]