Friday, November 25, 2011

I've moved!

My rambling is now over at

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Click here to add link

There's lots of talk about linking. Link, link, link – it's what Bora Z calls the "currency of the web" and a fundamental element in journalism these days. Link out to sources, to scientific papers, to interesting videos or more comprehensive explainers. Linking establishes credibility, trust, and with everything online, it's easier to do than ever before.

So linking is important, got that. But sometimes the writer of a story doesn't either a) know the best places to link, or b) care enough to fill his/her story with useful links. So why is there no easy mechanism for other people (not the original author), to add links themselves, after the story has been published? Someone could be reading the piece an think - oh! I know a great explanatory blog post on exactly that topic, or man, I know a great infographic that illustrates exactly that point, or wow, I wished she had linked to the original study, it took me 15 min to track it down. This wouldn't have to be a free-for-all link fest littering stories with useless spam – it could be moderated by the author.

Kinda like Facebook and photo tagging. Facebook lets you tag yourself or friends in photos that you didn't take, and the request goes to the original photographer, who then approves the tag or not. Couldn't links work the same way?

"So-and-so wants to add a link to your story." [Accept] [Don't Accept]

Seems simple enough to me, and for all I know this already exists in some way shape or form. But as long as stories can be edited and updated after the fact (they certainly can online) and as long as the author wants to make his/her story the most useful as possible, there should be some sort of "add link" mechanism, in addition to regular comments. Now... who knows how to make this happen?

All Wired, all the time.

The past few weeks have been, well, just slightly insane. I started working at Wired (a name that quite aptly matches the intensity of the office atmosphere), and getting used to deadlines that approach by the hour instead of the week has been, let's just say, a learning experience. Not to mention that satellites and DARPA aren't exactly my specialty. But now that my hands have finally stopped shaking, it's a blast. Learning something totally – I mean totally – new every day and having something published by the end of it is pretty cool (especially when I can Photoshop the picture). Here are some of the articles I've written so far.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Patricia Churchland's science of morality

> It all began with a very adorable vole...

I've got a new post up at Rationally Speaking about what neuroscience can tell us about morality. I'll have more to say when I make it to the final chapter of Churchland's book (where she talks about religion). Here's the beginning:
A few weeks ago I went to a talk by philosopher-turned-neuroscientist Patricia Churchland about her new book Braintrust. The talk begins with the moderator turning to a packed audience in Columbia’s Havemeyer Hall and asking quite pointedly: “With a show of hands, can science tell us right from wrong?” 
Only about four hands go up. 
“All right,” he says, beckoning Churchland to the stage, “let’s see what you all think afterwards.” 
Presumably Churchland is about to change a few hundred minds on the science of morality. But as she proceeds through her lecture, it becomes increasingly clear that even she wouldn’t answer the moderator’s question wholeheartedly in the affirmative. She is providing the “yes” to another question, something more like “Can science tell us about right and wrong?” While the question is slightly less interesting (because it seems so obvious) her answer is fascinating. 
It all begins with me. Ok, not me, but the self. Each one of us is equipped with a neural circuitry that ensures our own self-caring and well-being — values in the most fundamental sense. As Churchland likes to say “we’re all born with systems that are very deep in the values business.” Neurons in the brainstem and hypothalamus monitor the inner state of our bodies to keep us alive; they also cause us to run from predators or eat when we’re hungry. Without these life-relevant feelings we wouldn't survive very long, let alone reproduce. 
The next step is to move from self-caring to other-caring. In mammals, this shift occurs not by some radical new engineering plan, but by slight adjustments to the neural mechanisms that are already in place. Modifications to the emotional, endocrine, stress and reward/punishment systems motivate new values, namely, the well-being of certain others. It’s as if the “golden circle of me” expands to include offspring, mates, friends and eventually even strangers.
The rest of the post is here.

Image: manual crank, flickr. com 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Less or equal to?

I love love love this. A huge, controversial, political, philosophical, racial, social and legal topic captured in three single marks. 

Less or equal to?


Apr 19, 2011 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
20 Cooper Square, New York, NY
NYU Journalism 7th Floor Commons

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Radiation Explained

Spent a good part of last week working on this radiation level infographic, for Studio 20's Building a Better Explainer Project. Check it out over at the Scientific American Guest Blog!

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's been a-lot-of-coffee kind of month...

Here's my past few weeks or so of blogging and writing! On the nature/nurture debate, musical epigenetics, bias (or not) in political psychology, and why we do science in the first place. 

So, what's science good for? How doing science can make you a better person. 
March 7, Rationally Speaking

Political – or politicized – psychology? Scientists combat the charge of ideological bias.
March 8, Scienceline

The tangle of the nature-nurture debate. The false dichotomy and why it persists. 
March 10, Nature Education

The sound of epigenetics. Using musical software to explain the expression of our DNA.
March 16, Nature Education

Image: Philipp Hilpert,