Plant a Geiger counter in your garden.

Nature has always served as Mankind’s early warning system — the canary in the coal mine, and possibly, the spiderwort in the nuclear plower plant. You may not think of garden plants as particularly active, but many have unique “behaviors” that are somewhat entertaining, and at times even useful. The ephemeral blooms of Tradescantia, also known as spiderwort, among other […]

Rooting out wildlife’s frenemies: How human hubris can victimize–or save–a species.

As we note the death a hundred years ago this week of Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon, I’ve been thinking about how the mindset of the time contributed to the extinction of a species that was once the most abundant in North America. Despite growing evidence to the contrary, people of the Victorian era deluded themselves with the twin fallacies that […]

My kids isolated the hemochromatosis genes.

Narcissism runs strong in most kids, so to teach them science, it helps to make it all about them. On a recent trip to The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, kids of all ages were excited to make a robot read their names, design their own roller coasters, create sound circles with their fingers, and see infrared shadow images of […]

ICYMI: “Everything you think you know about… leprosy is probably wrong.” Including one fact in this NYT article.

This article about leprosy in the New York Times earlier this month did a good job summing up the basic conundrums about the disease that have confounded researchers. But the writer got carried away in stating that most of the 200 cases of leprosy diagnosed annually in the US are thought to stem from contact with […]

A typical day in Yellowstone: melting roads, gushing geysers, and ‘gnarly, ancient cones.’

Over the weekend the U.S. Park Service closed Firehole Lake Road in Yellowstone because the underlying volcanic caldera coupled with the summer sun had turned it into a soupy mess. This is a common occurrence in the Lower Geyser Basin, which after all sits atop a “supervolcano.” But the roads were firm enough two weeks ago when my family was cruising this […]

Do marmots really like garlic bread?  

In Polly Horvath’s novel Mr. and Mrs. Bunny–Detectives Extraordinaire!, marmots love garlic bread. (Read that book–it’s funny!) I didn’t have garlic bread when I was hiking in the Grand Tetons and even if I did I wouldn’t have been allowed to feed them because the Grand Tetons is a national park and you’re not allowed to […]