Science Policy and Technological Culture

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

Eyes in the sky 3 May 2013

What the rise of the helicopter tells us about the future of domestic drones.
How to think carefully about the spread of drones.
[Slate]

Warp Factor 1 April 2013

An investigation
The saga of a NASA scientist who claims to be on the verge of faster-than-light travel.
[Popular Science]

Alzheimer’s and space travel 3 January 2013

Does radiation cause Alzheimer’s?
We don’t really know, and it’s not clear how it affects space travel.
[Slate]

Drunk on Gadgets 5 October 2012

Politicians don’t understand science and technology, so they expect it to do too much
Ignorance of science drives politicians to treat it like magic.
[Slate]

Baumgartner’s leap 4 October 2012
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]