Science writing from physics to ecology

I write about science and the environment from Mount Rainier, Maryland, just outside the nation’s capital. I’ve written for science and general-interest publications including Science, Nature, the New York Times, Johns Hopkins Magazine, Inside Science, Science News, Wesleyan Magazine, Slate, Discover and Quanta.

Selected Recent Work

FEATURE STORY Breaking the Waves, Science, November 13, 2015
Scientists are starting to put hard data behind calls for a softer approach to shoreline protection.

FEATURE STORY A Twisted Path to Equation-Free Prediction, Quanta Magazine, October 13, 2015
Ecologist George Sugihara uses chaos theory to find hidden order in some of the world’s most complex systems: fisheries, stock markets, genetic networks, brains. Can his methods make our crazy world more predictable?

Reprinted at Wired

FEATURE STORY Fortunate encounter, Johns Hopkins Magazine, Fall 2015
The endpieces of DNA, known as telomeres, were supposed to help scientists cure cancer and end aging. Turns out not so much. But researchers have discovered an expected link between telomeres and lung disease that could actually save lives.

PROFILE Educator Middy Tilghman kayaks on the “roof of the world”, Wesleyan Magazine, September 15, 2015.
A kayaking adventure in Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains leads to an innovative summer camp and an opportunity to help a war-torn nation heal.

FEATURE STORY Battling a giant killer, Science, August 21, 2015
An afternoon hiking among dead eastern hemlocks in Georgia led to more than two years of research and reporting, and ultimately to this story on the long, hard fight to save this beautiful and important tree.

FEATURE STORY Seventy years later, atomic bombs still influence health research, Inside Science, August 5, 2015
Seventy years later, radiation safety standards are still based on atomic bomb survivor studies. Scientists say it’s past time for an update.

NEWS Trailblazing cancer–physics project accused of losing ambition, Nature, August 5, 2015
Some scientists say a National Cancer Institute program to fight cancer with physics has lost its mojo.

PROFILE Improving lives with physics, APS News, July 1, 2015
Profile of development engineering pioneer Ashok Gadgil.

FEATURE STORY Weighing the world’s trees, Nature, June 30, 2015
Using everything from humble tape measures to state-of-the-art satellites, scientists are trying to figure out how much carbon is stored in the world’s forests–and how long it will stay there.

FEATURE STORY Bold experiments will put general relativity to the test, Discover, April 2015
Powerful telescopes and huge gravitational wave detectors will test the theory Albert Einstein worked out a century ago with pencil and paper.

ESSAY Winter paradoxes, Blog, February 20, 2015
I seem to write an annual winter essay. This one was inspired by a ski trip around my neighborhood near Washington, DC.

OP-ED Cities as havens for trees, New York Times, December 25, 2014
A beautiful eastern hemlock tree in my neighborhood got me thinking about whether cities can help preserve trees that are threatened in the wild.

FEATURE STORY Karl Alexander’s decades-long study shows the long shadow of a poor start, Johns Hopkins Magazine, Winter 2014
Sociologist’s 25-year study of urban poverty challenges the notion of equal opportunity in America.

ESSAY These Women Should Win a Nobel Prize in Physics, Slate, October 6, 2014
As of today, only two women have won the Nobel Prize in Physics. I profile 10 who deserve consideration.

PROFILE Making a career of putting numbers on nature, APS News, October 2014
Profile of the freewheeling physicist-turned-ecologist-turned-British science advisor Robert May.

FEATURE STORY On the Edge, Science, September 25, 2014
Profile of Dutch mathematical ecologist Marten Scheffer, who in the 1980s found ecological tipping points in lakes, and has since extended the idea to climate, forests, and even migraines and depression. (login required for full story)

ESSAY The human and the tree: a love story, Blog, February 25, 2014
Trees can prevent flooding, store carbon and harbor biodiversity — if we let them.

FEATURE STORY Tomorrow’s catch, Science News, Jan 13, 2014
Can chaos theory can help manage fisheries sustainably?


My Writing

Why tell stories about science? Science, like any other endeavor, has characters, plot, intrigue and heartbreak. But perhaps unique among human pursuits, it inevitably progresses: We always know more than we did before. I try to shed light on that process, showing what scientists know, what they hope to find out and why it matters.

Writing – A nearly complete listing of my published work.

Editing – I have edited science stories, books, reports, blog posts and more.

Blog – Occasional essays and original reporting on a wide range of topics. Most touch on issues related to the environment and sustainability.

Multimedia – In 2012 I produced a series of pieces for the Perpetual Notion Machine, a science radio show in Madison, Wisconsin. I have also developed innovative posters, brochures, and videos on topics in physics and science education.

Music and Dance – I play traditional music and organize old-time music and dance events.

Check out my work, read more about me, and please contact me if you would like to discuss a project. You can also subscribe to my writing.