Science Policy and Technological Culture

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]

What Economists Get Wrong About Science and Technology 17 May 2012
“Privatizing” Space 16 May 2012

Companies Shoot for the Stars, but Uncle Sam Still Pays the Bills
Why the false dichotomy of public versus private isn’t the real story with SpaceX’s launch. What really matters is competition.
[Zocalo Public Square]

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]

Building a laboratory on a hill 15 March 2012

A review of Jon Gertner’s “The Idea Factory”
A new book about Bell Labs succeeds in evoking the excitement of the place, though falls short on its exposition of the underlying science.
[Foreign Policy]

The Death of the Research Works Act 28 February 2012

Scientists’ Victory Over the Research Works Act Is Like the SOPA Defeat
Darrell Issa and Carolyn Maloney withdraw their support from a bill which would have limited public access to scientific papers.
[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]

NASA needs one “highest priority” not 16 of them 1 February 2012

More numbers, more problems
The flaws of a new National Research Council report on what direction NASA should take
[Slate]

Promise me the moon 31 January 2012

The emotional appeal of Gingrich’s space policy
The Republican presidential candidate wants to build a base on the moon. So do I.
[Huffington Post]

Phobos-Grunt, grunt. 11 January 2012

The U.S. Didn’t Shoot Down Russia’s Mars Probe. But It Could Have.
Strange accusations from the head of Russia’s space programme, and why they matter.
[Slate]

The competition mirage 9 January 2012

No One Can Win the Future
It’s wrong to pit U.S. and Chinese scientists against each other in a research arms race.
[Slate]

The 40-year itch 5 October 2011

How to build a really awesome spaceship, maybe
Would-be space explorers, scientists, and a couple of crackpots gather at DARPA’s 100-Year Starship Symposium to try to get interstellar travel unstuck.
[Slate]