Of Time and Turtles

On Tuesday two people who I met a few years ago posted similar pictures. One still lives in the town of Kiruna, north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, where I briefly lived; the other, last I heard, had moved even farther north, to somewhere in the Norwegian wilds. Each posted a picture showing the […]

Secret Satans: Biology

For the holiday season, we here at LWON discussed a series of Secret Santa posts: we would assign one another posts about our own areas of specialization so, say, archeology might be assigned to an eco-writer.  Fear erupted. What if I get biology? What if I get physics? Count me out!  Then we realized: we could confront […]


When Iben Hove Sørensen flew to Ghana for her work with Dansk Ornitologisk Forening, a partner of BirdLife International, she couldn’t help but think about the birds. The passerines that she was headed south to study follow a similar course that her plane took to their wintering grounds–over the Mediterranean, sometimes through cloud-choked skies, for […]

Fatherhood: Trying to Raise a Tomboy Princess

A while back, I was giving my three-year-old daughter, Brynn, a bath when she laid back in the tub and announced, “Look, Daddy, I’m a princess!” When I asked what that meant, she replied that it was her job to just lounge around until some prince (any prince would do) came along to save her. […]

Trust no one, and other lessons I learned from physics reporters

As I’ve been thinking about the challenges facing science journalism, a little voice in my head has been murmuring, “Yes, but isn’t all this navel-gazing a bit biology-centric?” Number one on my list of lessons from the “limits of DNA” story is that datasets are getting bigger, and few of us reporters are well-equipped to […]

Is passion for science a heritable trait?

My dad and I share an obsession with endurance sports. We don’t just love to get outside and ride our bikes, we actually feel antsy and anxious if we go too many days without working up a sweat. As I’ve written elsewhere, our compulsion for exercise has a genetic basis. Dad and I probably have […]

Question of the Year: What is Life, Anyway?

As we near the end of 2010, everybody’s talking about the biggest science stories of the year. I’ve been thinking about these four: May 20: Craig Venter’s team synthesizes a bacterial genome in the lab, sticks it into an empty bacterial cell, and watches it replicate. Venter calls it the “first synthetic cell“; many headlines prefer […]

Biological Astronomy

I haven’t had anything to do with biology since I wrote an article years ago about sleeping pills.  I found out that the drugs used by 60-gazillion insomniacs to put themselves to sleep are not the chemicals the brain uses to put us to sleep naturally.  Can’t neuroscientists just find those brain chemicals and sell […]