Science

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]

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]

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]

Voyager, the Pioneer anomaly, and NASA’s good old days 15 July 2013

The modest, mighty Voyager and Pioneer probes are still generating news today.
An essay on what made the Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft great, with special emphasis on the Pioneer Anomaly, treated in more detail in my new book, The Pioneer Detectives.
[Slate]

Learning Math From Software Is Like Learning Parenting
Skills From Second Life
29 June 2012
Why Johnny Can’t Add Without a Calculator 25 June 2012

Technology is doing to math education what industrial agriculture did to food: making it efficient, monotonous, and low-quality.
How and why graphing calculators, educational software, interactive whiteboards and the like undermine actual learning in elementary, middle and high schools.
[Slate]

Is Science Really Moving Faster Than Ever? 3 April 2012

Why talking about the “pace of technological change” is a meaningless, counterproductive generality.
Part 1 of a debate on Slate with ASU’s Dan Sarewitz.
Part 2 is here>>.
[Slate]

The Other Academic Freedom Movement 11 February 2012

How scientists broke through the paywall and made their articles available to (almost) everyone.
Why extremely profitable scientific publishers lack a future, and why this is good for science as a whole.
[Slate]

Relativity, the Photoelectric effect, and all that 1 January 2005

Modern times
The science of Albert Einstein, on the hundredth anniversary of his miracle year.

Social Networks 30 September 2004

Circles of friends
What maths tells us about us.

Extreme Weather 16 September 2004

Shelter from the storm
What hurricane scientists study when they study hurricanes