Your Penis Is Getting in the Way of My Science

Earlier today, scientists announced they'd discovered an insect with a new kind of female sex organ. It looks a bit like a penis, and is called a gynosome. But almost every news outlet covered the story by describing the insects as "females with penises." This isn't just painfully wrong — it's bad for science. » 4/17/14 5:06pm 4/17/14 5:06pm

Why Does It Matter If Homo sapiens Had Sex With Neanderthals?

Evidence has been piling up for a while that early humans in Europe had children with the Neanderthals who had been living there for probably 500 thousand years before humans arrived. Very few Neanderthal genes are left in humans today, so what difference does it make? A lot, both genetically and philosophically. » 4/02/14 8:48pm 4/02/14 8:48pm

How We Won the War on Dungeons & Dragons

Thirty years ago, a war raged between the dorks who played Dungeons & Dragons, and the conservative parent groups who believed that gaming was debauched at best and Satanic at worst. Lives were ruined. People died. And now that war is over. I still can't believe we won. » 3/26/14 2:51pm 3/26/14 2:51pm

Economic study suggests we're heading for a Blade Runner future

Earlier this month, a group of economists released the results of a massive study looking at the economic prospects of people from across the United States. What they found was that the U.S. is like a patchwork quilt of different countries, where some regions offer people the economic prospects of a typical developed… » 2/19/14 3:55pm 2/19/14 3:55pm

This video of a honeybee swarm reveals why humans can't form consensus

Every so often, a honeybee queen leaves the hive where she was born to found a new colony. Along with thousands of workers, she has to figure out a good place to live. But how does this huge group decide where to locate their new home? This video reveals their process — and sheds light on human consensus-building too. » 2/13/14 2:43pm 2/13/14 2:43pm

The robotic future won't look anything like what you imagine

In late autumn, I walked through drifts of crunchy leaves in Berkeley's warehouse district to find a strange lab on the shores of San Francisco Bay. Inside, on a work bench surrounded by tidy coils of wire and electrical tape, two geeks were building the next robot revolution. But there were no Google-esque dog armies … » 1/28/14 5:18pm 1/28/14 5:18pm

We who spoke LOLcat now speak Doge

In the internet meme war between cats and dogs, the dogs are currently winning. The "doge" meme features an image (often of an adorable shiba dog), annotated with distinctive phrases representing the thoughts of the dog — or the dragon, or whatever is being depicted. What has the internet gained in its move from LOLcats… » 12/11/13 2:40pm 12/11/13 2:40pm

Viral Journalism and the Valley of Ambiguity

» 11/13/13 2:43pm 11/13/13 2:43pm

Once you've worked as a writer and editor in the world of social media for a decade, the way I have, you start to notice patterns. For example, there are some stories that will never go viral, even if they are brilliant in every measurable way. That's because they lie in the "valley of ambiguity," which is sort of like… » 11/13/13 2:43pm 11/13/13 2:43pm

This is how scientific romances should be done

I can't help myself anymore – I have to talk about my obsession with the Showtime series Masters of Sex. It is the epitome of a scientific romance, exploring the messy overlap of science and social science, as well as personal and professional passions. Plus, it's about sexology. » 10/29/13 1:35pm 10/29/13 1:35pm

How science fiction could get climate change right

We've all seen how terrible things can get when science fiction tries to tackle environmental issues. There's The Day After Tomorrow, with its super ice-hurricanes, and The Host, starring fish monsters created by pollution. Still, there's no reason you can't have disaster porn and accurate representations of climate… » 10/23/13 2:17pm 10/23/13 2:17pm

How did crows develop a social safety net?

A lot of crows come to my backyard looking for peanuts, but this group of five was different. They were scrappy, with tattered white bits of down sticking out from between their black feathers. One of them made a cry more like a bleat than your typical caw caw! And then I discovered them doing something extraordinary. » 10/01/13 4:06pm 10/01/13 4:06pm

Do we need a Space Party?

We've got a Green party to advocate for environmental causes on Earth. But what about a Space party? With a burgeoning private space industry, and the International Space Station in full flower, maybe it's time for space advocates to represent their interests politically. What would that look like? Let's do a thought… » 9/24/13 12:42pm 9/24/13 12:42pm