Blog

The world’s littlest birds

Around sunset not long ago, a hummingbird flew into our house. As a bit of backstory, I’ve always wanted to live in a cabin with nothing but wilderness for miles. That never happened and instead, our house is in the middle of American Suburbia. It’s comfortable, but the closest we get to 'wilderness' is to throw open the patio doors now and then. In all the years we’ve lived here we’ve never had a bird fly in. Bugs, yes; a mouse or two. An alligator lizard. Never a bird.

Science to fiction

When I left research in 2018 to try my hand at fiction, it felt like I was making a huge course change in life. The decision itself, the one to leave research, was simple. After all, the science of climate change—which I’d been working on—was settled, and more research would bring ever-diminishing returns on that. On the other hand, putting energy into fiction as a means of making climate science more enjoyable to talk about was a way to keep working toward greater sustainability. Still, I had no idea what challenges I’d face, and that uncertainty made the switch itself feel very dicey.

Four very hot years

Last year was the fourth warmest year on record. 2016 was the warmest and 2017 the second warmest. Four of the five hottest years on record have happened since 2014.  The science on climate change is settled, has been for a long time. Articles in the 1800s  describe the effect of civilization on the environment--how the emission of carbon dioxide into the air creates a greenhouse effect. Articles from almost 200 years ago!

All the little beasties

Recently, a friend remarked to me about the microbes in our guts. She mentioned that the small intestine has no bacteria, that only the large intestine does. (that's wrong.) I think that’s a misconception she has because of this idea 'out there' of gut overgrowth—the idea that too many bacteria (or yeast) flourishing in the small intestine is an unhealthy sign. I don’t know much about overgrowth in the small intestine. But I for sure know about the human microbiome. It’s a fascinating topic and the numbers of bacteria and archaea in and on us are staggering. The mass is staggering, and their roles in our bodies (and in the world) are too.

Puzzles and Science

When I was a kid we used to get something in the mail called Games, which is now online. My mom was so excited when she first discovered that magazine. We might have even gotten the inaugural issue, I don’t remember for sure, but I do know we got Games every month for years, and that she really looked forward to it. Hard. It was filled with puzzles. Mom had always done the crosswords and acrostics and riddles and whatnot that the newspaper sometimes put in after the funny pages, but this magazine was different. Thick. Filled. She went straight for the crosswords, and then the logic puzzles, and then whatever else looked good.