A mostly complete, usually up-to-date compilation of my published writing.
NEWS For the First Time, Genetically Modified Trees Have Been Planted in a U.S. Forest, New York Times, Feb 16, 2023
A biotech company has tweaked a tree to photosynthesize better. But can it be a major climate solution?
FEATURE A pillar of the climate-smart agriculture movement is on shaky ground, December 7, 2022, Food & Environment Reporting Network
Examining the benefits and hype around cover crops
FEATURE Are Trees Talking Underground? For Scientists, It’s In Dispute., Nov 7, 2022, New York Times
The wood-wide web is everywhere. But some scientists believe the public discourse has outpaced the evidence.
FEATURE Urban Oasis, Nov 3, 2022, Science
In Berlin, pioneering research into urban ecology has found surprising biodiversity in the city’s green spaces. Increasingly, the world’s cities are emerging as potential refuges for species losing habitat elsewhere.
NEWS ‘Just madness’: Concerned scientists lobby to save space station’s forest-mapping laser, Nov 11, 2022, Science
NASA plan to scrap device would curtail important climate and biodiversity data, researchers say.
NEWS Racial discrimination has decimated Baltimore’s tree diversity, Oct 19, 2022, Science
Biased housing policies have left neighborhoods with smaller trees and fewer species.
NEWS Powerful physics tool could help scientists understand complex ecosystems, Oct 6, 2022, Science
Approach offers promise for human and environmental health.
ESSAY Are There Better Places to Put Large Solar Farms Than These Forests?, Sept 21, 2022, New York Times
Conflicts over land are rapidly becoming one of the biggest impediments to deploying clean energy.
NEWS Up to 135 U.S. tree species face extinction—and just eight enjoy federal protection, Science, August 24, 2033
Top threats include invasive pests, climate change and habitat loss
OBITUARY Overlooked No More: Regina Jonas, Upon Whose Shoulders ‘All Female Rabbis Stand,’ New York Times, August 19, 2022
The remarkable and long-hidden story of the world’s first woman rabbi.
FEATURE Ditch Your Grocery Store. Go Foraging Instead. Washington Post Magazine, August 15, 2022
A romp through the world of wild foods and the people who forage and cultivate them – and a call for all of us to get to know the amazingly various and fascinating edible plants that we live among.
NEWS This Pushy Plant Is the First Proved to Shove Its Neighbor, New York Times, August 1, 2022
So much for the idea of plants as being nice and friendly – this one shoves its neighbors out of the way.
NEWS Deadly pest reaches Oregon, sparking fears for ash trees, Science, July 20, 2022
Emerald ash borer has breached the Rocky Mountains for the first time, putting at least a half-dozen ash species at risk.
FEATURE A fungal safari, Science, July 7, 2022
I followed a team of “myconauts” into the ancient forests of Chile for the beginning of a quest to map the world’s mycorrhizal fungi — a group of organisms thought to play a key role in sustaining ecosystems and protecting the climate.
ESSAY The D.C. area, with planning, can be a climate refuge, Washington Post, July 1, 2022
The region where I live – a place no one moves to for the weather – may have some surprising climate advantages in the decades to come.
FEATURE Prizes Are Not Always a Win for Science, Physics, June 16, 2022
A proliferation of prizes is boosting both science and scientists. It’s also raising concerns about equity and potential downsides for the research enterprise.
NEWS Is the world’s oldest tree growing in a ravine in Chile?, Science, May 20, 2022
Scientist claims new oldest tree record—and warns that the record-breaker may die without further protection
FEATURE The Universe According to Frank Wilczek, Templeton Ideas, May 13, 2022
FEATURE Bringing Back Fire: How Burning Can Help Restore Eastern Lands, Yale E360, April 7, 2022
Almost every part of what is now the United States used to burn regularly. I reported on people trying to bring fire back, why they do it, and what makes burning in 2022 so hard.
Supported and co-published by the Food & Environment Reporting Network
Republished by Wired and Mother Jones
NEWS To fight climate change, a biotech firm has genetically engineered a very peppy poplar, Science, February 23, 2022
Trees grow fast in the lab, but will they do the same in the forest?
ESSAY Can a Hidden World Be Saved From an Invasive Scourge?, New York Times, February 21, 2022
A collaboration with Leslie Brice to document the valuable yet threatened ash wetlands of Maryland.
NEWS Cropland has gobbled up over 1 million square kilometers of Earth’s surface, Science, December 23, 2021
Farmland expansion poses huge challenge for climate and biodiversity protection, according to a new satellite map
FEATURE Where Berlin’s infamous wall once stood, humans and nature now flourish, Washington Post, December 3, 2021
A travelogue of my bike ride along the 100-mile trail tracing the route where the Berlin Wall once stood.
FEATURE Forest Fight, Science, December 2, 2021
Germany invented “scientific” forestry. But a huge tree dieback triggered by climate change has ignited a fierce debate over how the nation should manage its trees.
FEATURE How can the most endangered ecosystem in the world be saved?, Nat Geo, September 17, 2021
The United States is losing a megadiverse, carbon-capturing ecosystem – and hardly anyone’s paying attention.
Co-published by the Food and Environment Reporting Network as Farming boom threatens Biden’s climate and conservation ambitions
FEATURE A soil science revolution upends plans to fight climate change, Quanta, July 27, 2021
There’s been a dramatic paradigm shift in how scientists understand soil. But many people who hope soils can save the climate haven’t gotten the memo.
FEATURE AI Promises Climate-Friendly Materials, Physics, July 8, 2021
Behind the new technologies needed to slow climate change are new materials that need to be developed. Some scientists think AI and robots could be key to rapidly discovering and deploying these technologies.
FEATURE Marshes on the Move, Science, June 17, 2021
What does the future hold for coastal wetlands, our most valuable ecosystems? Despite the threat of sea level rise, one scientist sees a surprisingly optimistic future.
NEWS Answers to these botanical mysteries could help a climate-stressed world, National Geographic, June 16, 2021
Have you ever wondered where your turnips, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, brussels sprouts, bok choi, tatsoi, rapini or canola oil came from? Scientists now have the answers.
FEATURE How the pandemic saved Glut, an odd, beloved Maryland food co-op, Washington Post Magazine, June 14, 2021
The story of a worker-run food coop that’s still going strong after more than 50 years.
FEATURE New internet woven from ‘spooky’ quantum links could supercharge science and commerce, Science, June 3, 2021
It’s been hyped as an unhackable communications network and national security priority, but what can a quantum internet really do?
FEATURE ‘Forest gardens’ show how Native land stewardship can outdo nature, National Geographic, April 23, 2021
A growing number of recent studies document how Indigenous people often enhance biodiversity more than other land managers, and even “nature” itself.
FEATURE There’s a Booming Business in America’s Forests. Some Aren’t Happy About It., New York Times, April 19, 2021
An investigation into how wood pellets became one of the world’s most controversial climate solutions and split communities and environmentalists in North Carolina and beyond.
OP-ED Invasive Insects and Diseases Are Killing Our Forests, New York Times, February 8, 2021
It’s not just humans. Trees also suffer plagues. And if we want forests to protect us, we need to protect them.
FEATURE Planting crops — and carbon, too, Washington Post, January 22, 2021
With growing farmer and corporate interest and endorsement from Biden, soil carbon sequestration is having a moment. But some worry its potential to fight climate change is being exaggerated.
NEWS Dismay greets end of U.S. effort to curb devastating forest pest, Science, January 8, 2021
The fight against emerald ash borer shifts from containment to wasps.
FEATURE A fight for forest equity in Southeast D.C. takes on new urgency amid pandemic, Washington Post, December 5, 2020
A nonprofit advocates for woods access for all.
FEATURE Some tropical forests show surprising resilience as temperatures rise, National Geographic, November 19, 2020
Could tropical forests be tougher than we think? The last few years have seen a flood of alarming reports about the future of tropical forests. But scientists are also finding intriguing hints of hidden resilience.
FEATURE Can an ambitious breeding effort save North America’s ash trees?, Science, November 12, 2020
A scientist who refused to accept doom and gloom narratives and may be on the cusp of reviving one of North America’s most important trees.
FEATURE A Physicist’s Approach to Biology Brings Ecological Insights, Quanta, October 14, 2020
Long ago, I started wondering what physics can say about big environmental and ecological questions, such as how so many species can coexist stably in ecosystems. I wrote about one physicist trying to answer such questions.
NEWS Study: U.S. commodity farmers imperil biodiversity for ever-lower yields, Food and Environment Reporting Network Ag Insider, September 24, 2020
Ever-expanding corn, soybean and wheat fields are putting biodiverse corn, soybean and what fields.
NEWS Plant trees or let forests regrow? New studies probe two ways to fight climate change, Science, September 23, 2020
Seems like everyone wants to use trees and forests as a climate solution, but some worry the hype has outpaced the science. Two new studies put some hard numbers to how much trees can cool the planet.
NEWS Mangrove loss has fallen dramatically, but the forests are still in danger, Washington Post, September 12, 2020
New research using satellites and ancient soil seek to reveal the future of some of the world’s most important forests.
NEWS Global Warming Could Unlock Carbon From Tropical Soil, New York Times, August 12, 2020
Warming soils in the tropics could cause microbes to release carbon from storage. One scientist called the finding “another example of why we need to worry more.”
NEWS To save the hemlock, scientists turn to genetics and natural predators, Washington Post, August 1, 2020
A hopeful story for one of our most troubled trees.
FEATURE Will Climate Change Upend Projections of Future Forest Growth?, Yale E360, July 7, 2020
There’s growing evidence that growing forests may not yield the climate benefits hoped for.
NEWS How Small Family Forests Can Help Meet the Climate Challenge, Yale E360
A new program seeks to store carbon in privately owned forests.
NEWS Deadly imports: In one U.S. forest, 25% of tree loss caused by foreign pests and disease, Science, May 12, 2020
FEATURE Human Activity Devastated the American Chestnut. Can We Bring It Back?, New York Times Magazine, April 30, 2020
I tell the story of an attempt to rescue a great tree through genetic engineering.
FEATURE Can ‘Carbon Smart’ Farming Play a Key Role in the Climate Fight?, Yale E360, March 31, 2020
A lot of hype — and money — is going into the idea of fighting climate change use farm soils. But some scientists are skeptical.
Co-published by the Food and Environment Reporting Network: Is carbon farming a climate boon, or boondoggle?
And republished by Grist.
NEWS Scientists plant ‘sentinel trees’ to warn of devastating pests, Science, March 25, 2020
Trees get pandemics too. Scientist pioneer a way to prevent them.
OP-ED Don’t cancel the outdoors. We need them to stay sane., Washington Post, March 24, 2020
Parks and natural spaces provide a crucial, health-enhancing outlet at a stressful time.
FEATURE Green Revolution 2.0, Moonshot Catalog, March 9, 2020
Feeding humanity as the climate changes will require crops that are more productive, hardier, and more diverse than ever. Scientists around the world are using modern tools to spark Green Revolution 2.0.
FEATURE What Is Really Killing Monarch Butterflies?, Scientific American, March 2020
Many scientists have pointed the finger at milkweed loss, and by proxy Roundup and Monsanto. But not everyone agrees.
FEATURE Germany’s Ruhr valley beckons with converted coal mines and a unique industrial heritage, Washington Post, February 21, 2020
A travel story about “Germany’s Appalachia.”
FEATURE The Green Miles, Washington Post Magazine, February 13, 2020
Eastern Kentucky was devastated for decades by mountaintop removal. Now scientists have figured out a way to undo the damage — one tree at a time.
OP-ED We don’t need to just plant trees. We also need to take care of them. Washington Post, January 30, 2020.
An obsession with tree planting but little money for keeping them alive.
NEWS Aphid-munching beetle could help save hemlock forests, Science, January 22, 2020.
A rare success for biological control – but much work remains before hemlock trees are safe.
NEWS Forests Could Turn from Allies to Enemies in the Fight Against Climate Change, Inside Science, November 27, 2019
Climate change may cause trees to live faster and die younger, releasing their carbon into the atmosphere.
NEWS Guyana refutes findings that deforestation skyrocketed after REDD+ payments stopped, Mongabay, November 25, 2019
Mixed results from evaluation of major test for climate-change-fighting program
NEWS For D.C. students, lessons in growth, of the garden variety, Washington Post, November 15, 2019
D.C.’s first school-based food forest feeds students’ bodies and minds.
NEWS A mysterious disease is striking American beech trees, Science, November 15, 2019
While scientists debate its cause, beech leaf disease spreads rapidly.
NEWS Scientists Can Now Predict Which Invasive Insects Will Wipe Out Forests, Inside Science, November 4, 2019
Surprisingly, it’s the trees, not the bugs, that matter.
FEATURE Catchy findings have propelled this young ecologist to fame—and enraged his critics, Science, October 24, 2019
I profile the scientist behind the message that tree planting is the world’s best climate solution.
FEATURE Waiting for the Quantum Simulation Revolution, Physics, October 21, 2019
There’s a lot of hype, but chemists and materials scientists say quantum computers have a ways to go before becoming useful.
NEWS Warming Tropical Soils May Release Huge Amounts of Stored Carbon, Inside Science, September 26, 2019
Innovative method yields alarming findings highlight danger of climate feedbacks.
FEATURE Soil’s Microbial Market Shows the Ruthless Side of Forests, Quanta, August 27, 2019
Innovative science reveals that the underground world may not be as beneficient as often claimed.
BOOK REVIEW The Overstory: Admirably ambitious but ultimately overrated, August 26, 2019
My somewhat belated review of a best-seller on trees.
FEATURE Better Batteries or Climate Bust, The Moonshot Catalog, August 17, 2019
Learn why we need new, never-before-seen materials to decarbonize the economy and build a survivable future.
NEWS Forecasters fear 5G wireless technology will muck up weather predictions, Science, August 7, 2019
A remarkable inter-agency squabble pits telecoms against meteorologists.
ESSAY What All the Affection for Monarch Butterflies Misses, Atlantic, June 4, 2019
Monarch butterflies are an outlier species whose success we have enabled. What about all the other less famous insects?
OP-ED Want to understand the biodiversity crisis? Look at the trees in your backyard., Washington Post, May 23, 2019
The loss of ash trees makes clear that mass extinction is neither remote or abstract.
NEWS ‘Wood wide web’—the underground network of microbes that connects trees—mapped for first time, Science, May 22, 2019
Climate-driven changes in forest fungi could unleash carbon bomb.
FEATURE Data sharing and how it can benefit your scientific career, Nature, May 13, 2019
Open science can lead to greater collaboration, increased confidence in findings and goodwill between researchers.
OP-ED Why Journalists Are Wrong to Say Trump Is at War With Science, Undark, April 11, 2019
By endorsing rhetoric that science is under siege, we play into the narrative that the media is just another partisan actor.
NEWS Map of mangrove height reveals carbon-rich forests, Inside Science, February 22, 2019
Critical ecosystem’s first global height measurement could aid climate change fight. Also, 65-meter-tall trees!
FEATURE How scientists can team up with big tech, Nature, January 29, 2019
Tech companies get lots of criticism these days, but for scientists, the industry has emerged as a major funding stream.
NEWS Shutdown Hammers Early-Career Scientists, Eos, January 25, 2019
Early-career scientists were among those hit hardest by the government shutdown.
NEWS Decades after Reagan’s ‘Star Wars,’ Trump calls for missile defenses that would blast warheads from the sky, Science, January 22, 2019
One of the more troubling stories I’ve written. With little apparent justification, the Trump administration is resurrecting expensive and dubious nuclear missile defense ideas repeatedly rejected by experts.
FEATURE How much can forests fight climate change?, Nature, January 15, 2019
Forests take carbon out of the air, so they’re often touted as climate change fighters. But trees influence climate in lots of other ways that are rarely accounted for. I dove into the complex (and controversial) science.
OP-ED The federal government is silencing its scientists, Washington Post, December 16, 2018
Obstructive media policies have made it all but impossible to speak with scientists at many federal agencies.
FEATURE How US Corn Farmers Adapted to Climate Change, Inside Science, December 14, 2018
Changing weather and planting practices have massively increased corn yields. But whether the good times will last is another question.
NEWS Space laser to map trees in 3D, Science, December 14, 2018
Lidar instrument will peer down at forests from International Space Station — but the dream of a long-term global dataset remains elusive.
PROFILE Educational Innovation, City by City: Ilene Rosenthal ’74, Wesleyan Magazine, December 4, 2018
FEATURE Forests Emerge as a Major Overlooked Climate Factor, Quanta, October 9, 2018
Yes, forests store carbon, but emerging research shows that they also influence global climate and weather in other important and far less obvious ways.
NEWS Congress Throws Tropical Forest Research Program a Lifeline, Eos, October 5, 2018
Scoop: Congress rescues another climate-related research program after Trump administration tries to throw it in the dumpster.
FEATURE Eyes in the Sky, American Forests, Fall 2018
Lasers in space are mapping how well forests are fighting climate change.
NEWS To save iconic American chestnut, researchers plan introduction of genetically engineered tree into the wild, Science, August 29, 2018
If approved, it would be the first use of genetic engineering to restore a native tree to the forest.
NEWS Surprise! Trees Are Gaining Ground Globally, Inside Science, August 8, 2018
Satellite images reveal widespread forest growth, but new trees won’t halt climate change and biodiversity loss.
NEWS An arboreal murder mystery: What is killing beech trees?, Washington Post, July 30, 2018
There’s a new disease attacking beech trees. If it spreads, it could be ecological apocalypse: Beech is the most common tree in DC and is near the top in many states. My story is the first report in a national news outlet.
NEWS Quantum physics gets attention—and brighter funding prospects—in Congress, Science, June 13, 2018
Spooked by foreign investment, Congress members consider spending big on quantum physics research despite uncertain payoffs.
NEWS D.C. says its tree canopy is growing. Federal researchers disagree, Washington Post, June 10, 2018
Two methods for measuring D.C.’s urban forest come up with conflicting results.
FEATURE Technology and satellite companies open up a world of data, Nature, May 29, 2018
Scientists, long accustomed to turning to the government for data, are being wooed by private companies.
PROFILE The policy entrepreneur, Wesleyan magazine, May 9, 2018
A master of law and policy, Sara Rosenbaum helped millions of Americans get health care. Now she’s fighting to protect them.
NEWS DOE’s maverick climate model is about to get its first test, Science, May 3, 2018
Energy department’s 4-year, $80-million effort runs at high resolutions, but some climate scientists are unimpressed.
FEATURE Can Green Infrastructure Save America’s Capital from Overflowing Sewage?, Inside Science, April 25, 2018
Ambitious plan aims to keep waste out of rivers with plants and permeable pavers rather than massive new pipes.
NEWS Einstein’s ‘spooky action at a distance’ spotted in objects almost big enough to see, Science, April 25, 2018
Quantum mechanics is usually about atoms and light and other really tiny things. Now, two research groups have quantum-entangled objects just about visible with the naked eye.
NEWS US government considers charging for popular Earth-observing data, Nature, April 24, 2018
Discussions underway about whether mega-popular Landsat and NAIP programs should charge for access.
FEATURE Ultra-Accurate Clocks Lead Search for New Laws of Physics, Quanta, April 16, 2018
How the world’s best clocks could point the way to new laws of nature.
FEATURE Honoring trees, Orion, Spring 2018
A unique art exhibit for grieving scientists.
FEATURE Cancer and the artillery of physics, Johns Hopkins Magazine, March 26, 2018
A biologist asks whether he can use physics to understand cancer and find new ways to stop it.
PROFILE An Agitator for Science Reform Walks a Fine Line in the Era of Trump, Undark, February 15, 2018
Daniel Sarewitz aims to put his ideas in front of power players without enabling a president who seems as likely to destroy science as to reform it.
NEWS OSTP Emphasizes Quantum Computing, APS News, February 6, 2018
Usually science-averse Trump administration adds quantum information expertise amid calls for a coordinated approach to quantum research and major investments by other countries.
NEWS First New Species of Temperate Conifer Tree Discovered in More Than a Decade, National Geographic, January 30, 2018
The Ulleungdo hemlock, found on a small Korean island, is likely already endangered, but it may hold the key to fighting invasive species.
NEWS Prestigious Climate-Related Fellowships Rescinded, Eos, January 19, 2018
Cuts and delays to federal postdoc funding programs are imperiling early-career climate scientists at a critical career stage.
FEATURE Step aside CERN: There’s a cheaper way to break open physics, Nature, January 10, 2018
How tabletop experiments could find evidence of new particles, offering a glimpse beyond the standard model.
NEWS At age 16, A Maryland student is working with NASA on a serious project, Washington Post, December 31, 2017
A local high school sophomore has been working with NASA scientists for almost two years to map and conserve mangroves using satellite data. I would not be surprised if she becomes one of her generation’s star scientists!
NEWS Major Federal Tropical Research Project to Cease 7 Years Early, Eos, December 11, 2017
A signal of the Trump administration’s plans for US science: the early termination of a DOE research program to improve how climate models simulate tropical forests.
NEWS Revealing the Methods of Climate-Doubting Blogs, Inside Science, November 30, 2017
A group of scientists dive into the murky climate blogosphere to reveal how climate skeptics operate.
FEATURE Research in action, Nature, November 21, 2017
US states, counties, cities and indigenous governments offer sound career opportunities for putting science to use.
FEATURE Physicists Take Their Skills to the Great Outdoors, APS News, November 2017
Profiles of three physicists putting their expertise to study and conserve nature.
NEWS Explaining tropical forests’ astonishing biodiversity, Inside Science, October 12, 2017
A new chapter in a longstanding science mystery.
FEATURE Rise of Distorted News Puts Climate Scientists on Their Guard, Eos, October 2, 2017
How scientists are responding to the alt-right/fake news industry’s climate “coverage”.
NEWS Tropical forests may be carbon sources, not sinks, Nature, September 29, 2017
Clever use of satellite data confirms that tropical forests are not doing well.
PROFILE Earth forms and fossils, art/sci, Fall/Winter 2017
Beverly Saylor’s research illuminates both geological transformations and human evolution.
NEWS Quantum computer simulates largest molecule yet, sparking hope of future drug discoveries, Science, September 13, 2017
FEATURE Bacteria Use Brainlike Bursts of Electricity to Communicate, Quanta, September 5, 2017
Supposedly simple cells can organize themselves into complex societies and negotiate with other colonies. Is there anything we can do that they can’t?
(Republished by Scientific American)
NEWS Nature videos help to calm inmates in solitary confinement, Nature, September 1, 2017
Pioneering ecologist Nalini Nadkarni has found that nature videos help solitary confinement inmates feel less stressed and reduce violent incidents. Some applaud the work as a humanitarian initiative; others see it as a band-aid on a cruel and counterproductive practice.
OP-ED Cure yourself of tree blindness, New York Times, August 27, 2017
A meditation on the joys and sorrows of learning your trees.
PROFILE Threat Assessment, Wesleyan Magazine, Summer 2017
Nick Rasmussen, the nation’s top counterterrorism official, stays above the fray
FEATURE Going Nano, fields, August 15, 2017
The world’s strongest magnetic fields are helping scientists study some of the universe’s smallest objects.
NEWS Massive El Niño sent greenhouse gases soaring, Nature, August 10, 2017
Tropical forests drop 3-billion-ton carbon bomb. Reported from the Ecological Society of America conference.
NEWS Primordial particle soup smashes spin-speed record, Inside Science, August 2, 2017
Plasma that formed just after Big Bang is the universe’s fastest-spinning fluid.
NEWS Surprise! The proton is lighter than we thought, Science, July 20, 2017
New experiment puts proton on a diet
NEWS Singing animals reveal forest facts, Inside Science, June 27, 2017
Ecologists propose using animal song to measure forest health.
NEWS Solar System survey casts doubt on mysterious ‘Planet Nine’, Nature, June 22, 2017
NEWS China’s quantum satellite achieves ‘spooky action’ at record distance, Science, June 15, 2017
Time to start preparing for unbreakable encryption and a quantum internet.
PROFILE Creating a “pacemaker” for the brain, UMBC Magazine, May 26, 2017
Kafui Dzirasa brings a physics and engineering approach to neuroscience.
NEWS Earth-observing companies push for more-advanced science satellites, Nature, May 23, 2017
As the Trump administration tries to cut Earth science funding, private companies are building ever fancier satellites for scientists to play with.
FEATURE Can expensive, ultra-green homes sell in a gritty suburban Maryland town?, Washington Post Magazine, May 18, 2017
A profile of two young, ambitious developers building one of the country’s greenest homes — right next door to where I lived and worked for three and a half years.
PROFILE The Outlier, Wesleyan Magazine, Spring 2017
Pagan Kennedy charts an uncommon literary course.
PROFILE Hyungsoo Kim is making time accessible–and fashionable, Wesleyan Magazine, Spring 2017
A watchmaker makes it possible to “touch your time.”
NEWS Reports of Universe’s Fine-Tuning May Be Exaggerated, Inside Science, May 12, 2017
On whether stars could burn and life could evolve in other universes. Complete with They Might Be Giants song lyrics!
NEWS How just one data point could predict the collapse of an entire ecosystem, Science, May 9, 2017
Study on algae forests could be applied to fisheries, forests and beyond.
FEATURE Swirling Bacteria Linked to the Physics of Phase Transitions, Quanta Magazine, May 4, 2017
A look at how physicists are explaining the strange and wondrous world of bacteria
Republished at Wired
FEATURE How Scientists Can Team Up With Indigenous Groups To Protect Forests and Climate, Smithsonian Magazine, May 3, 2017
A collaboration between Smithsonian researchers and the Emberá people of Panama aims to give indigenous communities a say in the environmental future and decolonize science.
PROFILES NIST and the Nobels, May 2, 2017
Profiles of the 5 laureates who did their Nobel-winning work at NIST. (I was the primary reporter and writer on the profiles of David Wineland and Dan Shechtman, and did extensive reporting and rewriting on the other three. Work completed in winter and spring of 2016.)
NEWS APS Meetings Go Social, APS News, April 2017
Twitter and other platforms bring meeting attendees and outside audiences closer together.
NEWS Chaos Theory May Help Predict Red Tides, Inside Science, March 22, 2017
Puzzling out ecology’s hidden causation
NEWS Little Boy and Fat Man Cast Shadows Over April Meeting, APS News, March 2017
As nuclear threats grow, physicists are urged to lend their expertise.
NEWS Solar Eclipse Offers Up a Scientific Bonanza, APS News, March 2017
Physicists seek a better understanding of the solar corona and space weather
NEWS Gravitational Waves: Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid, APS News, March 2017
LIGO team continues to look for new events and radio telescopes join the search.
NEWS Split decision in first-ever quantum computer faceoff, Science, February 21, 2017
Ions get the right answer more often, but superconductors are faster.
FEATURE How magnets and boiling kettles encode the secrets of reality, New Scientist, February 15, 2017
A strange symmetry links mundane phenomena with unsolved questions. Are physicists finally cracking its code? (cover story)
FEATURE Mayans Have Farmed The Same Way For Millennia. Climate Change Means They Can’t, NPR, February 3, 2017
An innovative, indigenous farming and climate solution.
OP-ED The Free Flow of Scientific Information Is Critical for Democracy, Scientific American, February 3, 2017
Communication channels between government scientists and journalists must remain open.
FEATURE What it would take to reach the stars, Nature, February 1, 2017
How to get away from it all — really really away from it all.
NEWS The Best Way to Protect the World’s Forests? Keep People In Them, Smithsonian, December 28, 2016
Indigenous leaders and conservationists argue for a new way to protect forests.
PROFILE America’s most innovative rancher, Wesleyan magazine, December 30, 3016
Anya Fernald blazes her own trail in the sustainable meat world. (cover story)
NEWS In Temperate Forests, Edges Hold More Carbon than the Middles, Inside Science, December 19, 2016
A “green lining”: Edges of some temperate forests grow faster and absorb more carbon.
ESSAY What the death of an oak tree can teach us about mortality, Aeon, December 6, 2016
Trees are not like us — and we can learn from that.
FEATURE Scientists are close to building a quantum computer that can beat a conventional one, Science, December 1, 2016
Private companies big and small place their bets on a future quantum computer.
FEATURE Can community-based logging fight climate change?, Discover Magazine, November 4, 2016
How logging done right could save the forest and the climate.
NEWS Nature lovers may risk loving nature to death, Inside Science, November 3, 2016
Study quantifies threats to plants and points the finger — at us.
NEWS Your future smartwatch might be printed with an inkjet printer, Science, November 1, 2016
Carbon could challenge silicon in the realm of flexible electronics.
FEATURE Warning to forest destroyers: this scientist will catch you, Nature, October 4, 2016
Profile of geographer Matthew Hansen, who is shining a light on the dark world of deforestation.
OP-ED Update the Nobel Prize, New York Times, October 3, 2016
In which I suggest a way to modernize the world’s most famous science prize.
NEWS Peru signals space ambitions with Earth-monitoring satellite, Nature, September 15, 2016
Spacecraft could help scientists track logging, natural disasters and illegal mining.
BOOK REVIEW The socially savvy tree, Science, September 15, 2016
Review of The Hidden Life of Trees, a runaway German bestseller now available in English.
FEATURE Researchers Unpack a Cellular Traffic Jam, Quanta, August 16, 2016
How theoretical physics could help shed light on cancer’s deadliest act.
Republished at Wired
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 Physicist makes thin films for tough conditions, APS News, July 2016
For those not attracted by academia, there are plenty of intellectual challenges in the private sector.
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.
PROFILE A life in physics, Art/Sci, Spring/Summer 2016
Robert Brown enjoys a varied career as a physicist and medical imaging entrepreneur.
NEWS Advancing beyond Advanced LIGO, APS News, May 2016
Gravitational wave physicists celebrate a success and plan for the future.
NEWS HAWC charts the extreme gamma-ray sky, APS News, May 2016
Astronomers produce high-energy sky map after year of observations.
NEWS Science meets politics: A complicated relationship, APS News, May 2016
A debate over the role scientists should play in an increasingly nasty political arena.
NEWS Attracting new ideas for measuring big G, APS News, May 2016
Program managers seek fresh approaches for measuring nature’s most elusive fundamental constant.
PROFILE Traditional musician and storyteller Anna Roberts-Gevalt ’09 blazes a modern trail, Wesleyan Magazine, April 5, 2016
I profile 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
NEWS Physicists, the brain is calling, APS News, April 2016
At the APS March Meeting, neuroscientists encourage physicists to get involved.
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 about gaining perspective on the Bradford pear
NEWS Reshaping the Chesapeake Bay, one living shoreline at a time, Washington Post, March 14, 2016
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 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.
NEWS The physics of sliding on ice, Inside Science, December 21, 2015
A new mathematical model could answer puzzling questions about frozen water, one of Earth’s most common and strangest materials.
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.
REPORT Feeding the World in the 21st Century: Grand Challenges in the Nitrogen Cycle. Writeup of National Science Foundation workshop held Nov 9-10, 2015.
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 Petar Maksimovic, on the hunt for new physics, Johns Hopkins Physics and Astronomy publication, Fall 2015
PROFILE Exploring math’s foundations, Art/Sci, Fall 2015
Colin McLarty melds philosophy, mathematics and history.
NEWS Elisabeth Werner wins faculty research award, Art/Sci, Fall 2015
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.
NEWS Fourteen percent of U.S. coastline is covered in concrete, Science, August 18, 2015
Scientists report the first national estimate of coastline infrastructure
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.
NEWS Gamma-ray method flags up nuclear stashes, Nature, April 11, 2015
Physicists propose a safer, better way to screen cargo for nuclear material.
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.
FEATURE STORY Night skies get the blues, Physics World, March 2015 (available in print only)
LEDs could help reverse the global growth in light pollution, but only if they’re used correctly.
NEWS A more finely tuned universe, Inside Science, February 20, 2015
New simulations seek to determine how well our universe is “tuned” for carbon-based life.
FEATURE STORY Moore’s Law is about to get weird, Nautilus, February 12, 2015
Some unconventional ideas that could help computers stay fast and powerful as our semiconductor technology reaches its limits.
FEATURE STORY Learning Curve, Johns Hopkins Gazette, January-February, 2015
How an innovative grants program (and Belgian beer mixers) fuel discoveries about the human brain at Johns Hopkins.
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.
NEWS Cloud monitor to hitch a ride on the space station, Nature, December 12, 2014
New NASA instrument could help improve climate predictions and the International Space Station’s image.
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 seriously challenges the American equal opportunity myth.
NEWS Ensuring Quality: NIST Suggests New Purity Test for Biotech Products, NIST Tech Beat, December 2, 2014
NEWS Device cools itself in the blazing hot sun, Physics World, November 27, 2014
A new way to stay cool without using energy.
NEWS Can we eavesdrop on E.T.?, Inside Science, November 19, 2014
What are the odds of intercepting communications between distant civilizations?
NEWS A few long jumps can make an epidemic, Physics World, November 5, 2014
Theoretical model shows how important random long jumps are in disease and biological invasion spread.
BLOG POST Making passion projects happen, National Association of Science Writers website, October 19, 2014
NEWS Strengthening Thin-Film Bonds with Ultrafast Data Collection, October 17, 2014
ESSAY These Women Should Win a Nobel Prize in Physics, Slate, October 6, 2014
Only two women have won the Nobel Prize in Physics (as of today). Plenty more deserve consideration.
PROFILE Making a career of putting numbers on nature, APS News, October 2014
Profile of physicist-turned-ecologist-turned-British science advisory Lord 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)
FEATURE STORY Harnessing the potential of spin, Johns Hopkins University Physics and Astronomy publication, Fall 2014
NEWS Breaking Beautiful, Inside Science, August 25, 2014
Thin-film cracks make spirals, crescents and Keith Haring-like art!
NEWS Going mobile with NMR spectroscopy, Physics World, August 13, 2014
Formerly cabinet-sized electronics shrunk to fit on grain-sized silicon chip.
PROFILE Ian Garrick-Bethell ’02 takes a moon shot, Wesleyan Magazine, July 16, 2014
Lunar scientist finds new ways to approach old problems.
NEWS A watery surprise from Earth’s depths, EARTH Magazine, July 14, 2014
First finding of water from the mantle’s transition zone. (login required)
ESSAY Farewell invertebrates, we hardly knew you, Last Word on Nothing, July 1, 2014
A lament for the National Zoo’s Invertebrate House.
NEWS New NIST metamaterial gives light a one-way ticket, NIST Tech Beat, July 1, 2014
Metal-and-glass sandwich gives metamaterials a new trick.
NEWS Qubits team up to detect errors, Physics World, June 17, 2014
Physicists stitch together seven ions and inch toward a working quantum computer.
NEWS Quantum math could explain irrational reasoning, Inside Science, June 16, 2014
Blame your irrational decisions on quantum theory!
NEWS Thin-film peeling is not always smooth, Physical Review Focus, June 6, 2014
New theory provides nanoscale look at gecko adhesion.
NEWS Lithium sulfur: a battery revolution on the cheap?, NIST Tech Beat, June 3, 2014
A mix of common ingredients could provide the long-sought mix of energy density and cycle life.
PROFILE Finding the epigenetic keys to prostate cancer, Johns Hopkins Magazine, June 2, 2014
Johns Hopkins researcher seeks clues to a modern epidemic.
NEWS Physicists lock in on proton’s magnetic moment, Physics World, June 2, 2014
New, ultra-precise measurement could help explain why matter outweighs antimatter.
MUSEUM REVIEW National Museum of Mathematics is antidote to math phobia, Science News, May 31, 2014
Museum aims to make math fun for the whole family.
NEWS Deepwater Horizon methane lingered longer than thought, Science News, May 31, 2014
A deep-sea methane mystery.
NEWS New chemical blend helps plastic heal itself, ScienceNOW, May 8, 2014
Hole-sealing chemistry could lead to self-repairing airplane wings.
NEWS Why does time flow forward?, Inside Science, April 30, 2014
A mind-bending tale of memory, entropy, the Big Bang and two definitions of time!
NEWS Major step taken toward error-free computing, Science News, April 23, 2014
Quantum information passes a major stability threshold.
FEATURE STORY Plight of the Butterfly (pdf), American Gardener, March/April 2014
Gardeners and scientists join forces to save a threatened migration.
NEWS Voter model works for US elections, Physical Review Focus, April 18, 2014.
A computer simulation reproduces red-blue electoral maps. Are our voting decisions really that simple?
NEWS Ocean bacteria may have shut off ancient global warming, Science News, April 14, 2014.
Carbon-munching microbes may help regulate Earth’s temperature.
NEWS Cracking bacteria’s code, Inside Science, March 24, 2014
Computer model predicts how antibiotic resistance evolves.
FEATURE STORY Cloudy forecast, Science News, March 7, 2014
To predict global warming precisely, scientists still have to figure out clouds.
NEWS Nanomaterial may be future of hard drives, ScienceNOW, March 7, 2014
Scientists slap two materials together and get a magnetic surprise.
MOVIE REVIEW Catching Particle Fever, Science News, February 22, 2014
A behind-the-scenes glimpse at the men and women who found the Higgs boson.
NEWS Magma spends most of its existence as sludgy mush, Science News, Feb 18, 2014
Crystals open a window into volcanic depths.
BOOK REVIEW The Sixth Extinction, Science News, Feb 11, 2014
The science of extinction, by New Yorker reporter Elizabeth Kolbert.
NEWS Filament of cosmic web set aglow, Science News, Jan 20, 2014
Astronomers spot universe’s hidden structure — maybe.
FEATURE STORY Tomorrow’s catch, Science News, Jan 13, 2014
Can chaos theory can help manage fisheries sustainably?
PROFILE Physicists give renewable energy the Silicon Valley treatment, APS News, Jan 2014
Two young energy entrepreneurs seek to upend electricity generation and storage.
FEATURE STORY The next scientific revolution: big data, Johns Hopkins Physics & Astronomy Publication, 2013
Big data science has transformed astronomy and is poised to do the same for every other field.
Galaxies’ missing mass may hide in gas clouds, Science News, January 13, 2014
Materials’ light tricks may soon extend to doing math, Science News, January 9, 2014
Unusual three-star system promises new test of gravity, Science News, January 6, 2014
Sun’s rotation driven by enormous plasma flows, Science News, December 5, 2013
ISON appears to have broken up after brush with sun, Science News, December 3, 2013
Methane emissions may be far higher than estimated, Science News, November 25, 2013
Surprising metals found in microbes, Science News, November 12, 2013
Historical events linked to changes in Earth’s temperature, Science News, November 10, 2013
Dark Energy Search Gets Murkier, Science News, October 31, 2013
Oort Cloud Tosses Astronomers a Cometary Curveball, Science News, October 25, 2013
Material Looks Cool While Heating Up, Science News, October 25, 2013
New Limit Placed on Physical Constant, Science News, October 15, 2013
Higgs Field Prediction Lands Nobel Prize in Physics, with Andrew Grant, Science News, October 8, 2013
Australian Cats and Foxes May Not Deserve their Bad Rep, ScienceNOW, August 23, 2013
Circuits for Light, Physical Review Focus, August 16, 2013
Right Fish, Wrong Pond, Johns Hopkins Magazine feature article on Rachel Carson’s experience at Johns Hopkins, Summer 2013
Ocean Wave Breaking Stirs Up Atmosphere, Physical Review Focus, May 3, 2013
Trees Call For Help–And Now Scientists Can Understand, National Geographic News, April 15, 2013 (this story got picked up by NPR’s Weekend Edition; listen to their piece here)
Predicting Collapse, ScienceNOW, April 10, 2013
Marc Kamionkowski profile (pdf), Johns Hopkins University Physics and Astronomy publication, 2012
PhysTEC News, Winter 2012 (pdf). I wrote all articles except “The Big Picture” and “1ook in 10”.
Tackling the scientific meeting, National Association of Science Writers website, October 29, 2012
Texas Hosts Lively Teacher Preparation Conference, APS News, July 2011
2006 Blewett Recipient Now on Tenure Track, APS News, June 2011
Four Funded Sites Join APS Teacher Education Program, APS News, June 2011
Physics Sheds Light on Cancer and Bacteria Evolution, APS News, May 2011
Physicist Takes a Look at TIMSS, APS News, April 2011
Minority Serving Institutions Take on Teacher Preparation (pdf), APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics/Committee on Minorities Gazette, Spring 2011, pp 7-8
Community Values APS’s Education Research Journal, APS News, November 2010
Program to Aid Minority Transition to Grad School, with Sara Webb, APS News, August/September 2010
Recruiting Physics Students in High School, APS Forum on Education Newsletter, Summer 2010
PhysTEC Scholarship Program for Future Physics Teachers, APS Forum on Education Newsletter, Summer 2010
Task Force Calls Physics Teacher Preparation Massively Inadequate, APS News, April 2010
Kavli Plenary Session Examines STEM Education, with Calla Cofield, APS News, March 2010
Andrew Noble – profile of a physicist turned ecologist, PhysicsCentral, 2010
Sam Wurzel – profile of a physicist turned entrepreneur, PhysicsCentral, 2010
Arthur Ashkin – profile of a laser pioneer (who was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics), LaserFest.org, 2010
Are Plants Energy Efficient?, with Neil Zimmerman, PVF Newsletter, September 2009, pp 2-3
“Physics First” Battles for Acceptance, APS News, July 2009
March Meeting Highlights Energy Storage, Generation, APS News, May 2009
Lithium-ion Batteries, PhysicsCentral, 2009
Fiddle Physics, PhysicsCentral, 2009
Mary Lee McJimsey – profile of a high school physics teacher, PhysicsCentral, 2009
Press Release: PhysTEC Addressing National Physics Teacher Shortage, EurekAlert, October 2008
From February 2009 to May 2011, I wrote a bimonthly column called the Education Corner. A sample is available here.
Scientists Greater than Einstein: The Biggest Lifesavers of the Twentieth Century, Quill Driver Press, 2009
Scientists Greater than Einstein profiles ten scientists, mostly non-famous ones, whose discoveries have saved millions of lives, possibly including yours and mine. Though not one of the primary authors, I did a lot of the research and editing for this book, as well as some of the writing. It was a fascinating journey into public health and medical history — and surprisingly, a bit of agronomy and insect toxicology as well.
Selected Web Content
Ethics Case Studies, a page that hosts a set of ethical case studies specific to issues in physics research
Resources for Undergraduate Physics Faculty, a page to help physics faculty members develop their undergraduate programs
Resources for Undergraduate Physics Students, a page to help undergraduate physics students access career and financial resources
PhysTEC Key Components, a set of pages documenting the key components of the PhysTEC project
History of APS Involvement in Education, APS, September 2012
I wrote the PhysTEC project’s annual reports for the National Science Foundation from 2007 to 2011. Reports are available in the right column here. I also wrote the project’s status reports from 2007 through 2010.