Science and Technology

A Hundred Million Invaders 1 February 2017

NY/NJ Baykeeper’s War on Microplastic
A multimedia piece on the impact of plastic refuse in oceans generally, and New York harbor in particular.
[Primer Stories]

Bad Math Props Up Border Wall 18 October 2016

Estimating the cost (in dollars) of Donald Trump’s proposed border wall
It would be many times more expensive than he claims.
[MIT Technology Review]

Cosmic Certainties 19 September 2016

More trouble with string theory, an attempt to do away with inflation, and a novel theory of dark matter, critiqued.
A review of “Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe” by Roger Penrose.
[Wall Street Journal]

New Directions 24 June 2016

On the way to Desert Storm, U.S. troops stopped in California in order to buy consumer GPS units at local stores.
A review of “Pinpoint” by Greg Milner and “Finding North” by George Michelsen Foy.
[Wall Street Journal]

The All-American iPhone 9 June 2016

What would it take to make iPhones in the US?
A thought experiment; doing so profitably is possible.
[MIT Technology Review]

What Justin Trudeau got wrong about Quantum Computing 18 April 2016

A video of the Canadian Prime Minister giving an apparently impromptu riff on quantum computing had a few mistakes in it.
This is a critique not so much of his minor errors, but of the media storm which treated his lecture as a sign of genius.
[Washington Post]

Drone-based film-making 16 November 2015

Why good drone art is necessary
A review of the New York Drone Film Festival.
[The Economist]

Drone strikes and international law 22 April 2015

Fallout reaches the ivory tower
NYU law school students react to Harold Koh’s support for targeted killings.
[The Economist]

Civil disobedience in the air 15 April 2015

A man landed a gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn
Some thoughts on why this sort of thing shouldn’t be prevented by computer software.
[Washington Post]

Beware the ‘Big Data’ Gospel 27 February 2015

More debunking of the idea that ‘data’ can always be a tool for rigorous & disinterested analysis
A follow-up to my earlier CNN article, responding to a couple of poorly reasoned critiques
[Weekly Wonk]

The big dangers of ‘big data’ 2 February 2015

Don’t fall in love with every bit you meet
An essay about how the obsession with data is undermining social structures in government, business and life.
[CNN]

A small step backward for mankind 5 November 2014

Why America needs to embrace a culture of risk in order to build the next-generation space program.
How and why to be resilient in the face of failed spacecraft, and the loss of life.
[Foreign Policy]

How Gobbledygook Ended Up in Respected Scientific Journals 27 February 2014

The IEEE and Springer published dozens of algorithmically generated articles
What a slew of nonsensical publications says about the state of science.
[Slate]

Responding to the New York Times off-base math education editorial 10 December 2013

Math doesn’t have to be boring, but it does have to be math
The New York Times editorial board doesn’t understand the first thing about mathematics, and this is a big problem.
[Slate]

Chang’e 3 5 December 2013

The Second Space Race
Short voiceover of a photograph of China’s lunar rover.
[The Weekly Wonk]

PR Stunts 2 December 2013

Amazon Prime Drone Delivery? It’s Hot Air
Why Amazon won’t be delivering packages with drones by 2015.
[Slate]

How many nuclear weapons does China have? 11 November 2013

Consensus: China Offers Limited Deterrent
Probably fewer than 300.
[Aviation Week and Space Technology–Subscription Required]

Bard of Folly 21 October 2013

Book Review: ‘Command and Control’ by Eric Schlosser
A fantastic new book about nuclear weapons, and what it says about technology more generally.
[The American Prospect]

How High the Moon? 4 October 2013

Book Review: ‘Dreams of Other Worlds’ by Chris Impey and Holly Henry
Where the Milky Way’s missing arms went and other tales of astronomical discovery.
[Wall Street Journal]

America’s Last Nuclear test 3 October 2013

A photograph of divider
And the wacky names for other nuclear tests; a short voiceover.
[The Weekly Wonk]