Dusting Off Metaphors

As a science writer, I trade in metaphors. It’s not just how many dump trucks to fill the Grand Canyon or how close whale intestines would get to the moon if stretched out – that’s amateur hour. No, professional metaphors are the ones you barely notice, they are so woven into the text. Better yet, […]

Hot Times in the Cotswolds

One morning last month a friend and I took a train from London to the city of Gloucester, in southwestern England. The next morning after breakfast we started walking on the Cotswold Way, one of the UK’s National Trails. On its way to Bath, 60-some miles away, the trail passes through quiet beech forests, open […]

Guest Post: Confession of a Climate Coward

I recently learned that my colleagues think I am a coward. And even more recently, I learned that I might agree with them. It all began in 2007. That was a magic year for science writers. That was the year the IPCC released its crushing assessment on climate change, just after the surprise hit of […]

Election Hangover

Hello world. Yesterday was election day in America. One guy won and another guy lost. But the race was hard fought, and our already divided country remains as polarized as ever. Did you listen to the last episode of This American Life? We don’t just disagree, we barely see each other as human beings. And […]

Carbon (Spin) Cycle

We’ve got a lot of dead trees in the Rockies. More than usual. As the region has warmed, bark beetle populations have exploded, and they’ve been killing off massive swaths of pine and spruce. It’s hard to miss the damage, and when British landscape artist Chris Drury visited the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie, […]

Guest Post: Guilt & Shame & Climate Change

The six undergrads that trickle into the Aquatic Ecosystems Research Laboratory at the University of British Columbia are unsure about what they’re in for. The room they enter is all black from the carpet to the walls and the ceiling. A conference table partitioned into six sections is illuminated in the middle. They each take […]

Ignorance: The Elevator Speech

Ever since I reviewed Ignorance: How it Drives Science, a charming new book by the Columbia neuroscientist Stuart Firestein, I’ve been thinking about ignorance. And I tell you, it’s been a bit of a headache. Firestein teaches a popular science class at Columbia, also called Ignorance, in which he invites scientists from different disciplines to talk […]

Evolve or Die

Several years ago, on a soggy but majestic mountain afternoon, I hiked into the Yosemite backcountry to meet UC-Berkeley mammalogist Jim Patton. Patton and his colleagues at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology were retracing the steps of renowned naturalist Joseph Grinnell, who surveyed California’s wildlife early in the last century — and obsessively documented his work in […]