Science and Technology

Scientists didn’t just “reverse time” with a quantum computer 14 March 2019

Amazing headlines about time machines are a long way off the mark.
Debunking some bunk science journalism.
[MIT Technology Review]

Zuckerberg’s new privacy essay shows why Facebook needs to be broken up 7 March 2019

Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t understand what privacy means—and he can’t be trusted to define it for the rest of us.
Why his claims to be re-orienting Facebook towards the protection of privacy don’t add up.
[MIT Technology Review]

It’s only a matter of time before a drone takes down a passenger plane 21 December 2018

And no, technology can’t fix the problem.
Why swarms of drones pose a threat to commercial air traffic.
[MIT Technology Review]

Robots at the Front 26 June 2018

“Army of None” Review
Autonomous weapons are becoming a common feature of modern war, raising practical and philosophical issues that remain to be solved. This book doesn’t do much to help solve them.
[Wall Street Journal]

The Future of the International Space Station 12 June 2018

NASA’s leader wants to privatize it. That’s a remarkably terrible idea.
There’s a case for killing the space station. There’s no case for turning over the keys to a private company.
[Vox]

In order to better serve you 24 May 2018

Updates to My Privacy Policy
In advance of the new General Data Protection Regulation.
[Slate]

The Saudi prince who took a joyride on the space shuttle
and other space misadventures
30 March 2017

International Collaborations in Space Always
Reflect Politics on Earth

A brief history of the countries that send people to space, and why.
[Slate]

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]