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 the New York Times, Nature, Science, Johns Hopkins Magazine, Inside Science, Science News, APS News, Wesleyan Magazine, Slate, Discover, Quanta and the Washington Post.

Selected Recent Work

FEATURE Researchers Unpack a Cellular Traffic Jam, Quanta, August 16, 2016
How theoretical physics could help shed light on cancer’s deadliest act.

FEATURE Collaborations: Partners in knowledge, Nature, July 27, 2016
How to make collaborations between scientists and indigenous people effective and inclusive.

OP-ED The battle to save Dueling Creek, Washington Post, July 8, 2016
Why even a battle-scarred little suburban park is worth saving.

PROFILE Edward Bouchet continues to inspire, APS News, June 2016
Edward Bouchet, the first African-American to earn a physics PhD, didn’t get nearly enough recognition in his lifetime, but he’s a pretty big deal today.

NEWS Advancing beyond Advanced LIGO, APS News, May 2016
Gravitational wave physicists celebrate a success and plan for the future.

PROFILE Traditional musician and storyteller Anna Roberts-Gevalt ’09 blazes a modern trail, Wesleyan Magazine, April 5, 2016
A profile of one of the most creative and forward-looking people in traditional music.

NEWS Battling the emperor of maladies, APS News, April 2016
Physicists and oncologists team up to make progress on cancer

FEATURE For some, Einstein’s space-time ripples have yet to break their silence, Inside Science, March 25, 2016
LIGO made the headlines recently, but how else are physicists looking for gravitational waves? (with a photo credit!)

OP-ED The ups and downs of the Bradford pear, New York Times, March 18, 2016
Of all the environmental evils in our world, is an ugly pear tree such a bad thing?

Followup blog post on gaining perspective on the Bradford pear

NEWS Reshaping the Chesapeake Bay, one living shoreline at a time, Washington Post, March 14, 2016 (with a photo credit!)
Scientists seek to re-envision coastal protection so it helps ecosystems instead of harms them.

NEWS Satellite alerts track deforestation in real time, Nature, February 23, 2016
System uses Landsat data to issue warnings just hours after tree loss is detected.

BROCHURE Physics in your future, American Physical Society, February, 2016
Profiles of 15 women physicists in a wide range of careers.

NEWS A break in the trees, Inside Science, February 17, 2016
Physicists write equation describing how all trees break in storms; biologists protest.

NEWS Gravitational waves spotted, confirming Einstein’s ripples in spacetime, Inside Science, February 11, 2016
A long search hits the jackpot, opening up a new window on the universe.

OP-ED Chasing the rabbit in D.C., Washington Post, January 22, 2016
Why square dancing can make the world a better place. (OK, not everything I write is about science!)

FEATURE STORY The physics of life, Nature, January 5, 2016
From flocking birds to self-organizing molecules, physicists are seeking to understand “active matter” — and looking for a fundamental theory of the living world.

PROFILE Sensing the planet, APS News, December 31, 2015
I profile three physicists who develop remote sensing technology that’s helping answer global-scale questions about forests and climate change.

PROFILE Steve Rolston wants to start a quantum revolution, Wesleyan Magazine, December 7, 2015
Fifty years after Richard Feynman said no one understands quantum mechanics, Steve Rolston is using it to achieve unprecedented control of atoms and light.

NEWS Indigenous people could be key to storing carbon in tropical forests, new report concludes, ScienceInsider, December 2, 2015
Too many times scientists have discounted indigenous knowledge, but on climate change the two communities are aligning. Indigenous leaders are attempting to use science to advocate for a stronger voice at the Paris climate talks.

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, 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.

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.

FEATURE STORY Weighing the world’s trees, Nature, June 30, 2015
Using everything from simple 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
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. My writing sheds light on that process, showing what scientists know, what they hope to learn, 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 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.