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Maggie Koerth-Baker

Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.

Maggie goes places and talks to people. Find out where she'll be speaking next.


Why are diamonds clear, but coal black?

Maggie Koerth-Baker answers a new Science Question from a Toddler.

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What happens to Peeps in a vacuum?

First, inflation. Then, collapse. You really don't want to be a Peep in space. Maggie 19

Scurvy contributed to failure of town founded by Columbus

The first European settlement in the Americas was founded in what is now the Dominican Republic. That is, to say, it was founded on a warm, fruit-growing island. And, yet, scurvy was apparently a major reason that settlement failed. Maggie 6

The 'marijuana will rot your brain' debate: neurological differences don't necessarily mean impairment

There's a new study out that's being touted as proof that marijuana makes you dumb. But, while the results do show differences in the brains of people who smoked pot, the conclusion about what that means is seriously flawed, writes Maia Szalavitz at The Daily Beast.

Most of the time, it's difficult to explain why scientific research or a conclusion about research results is flawed. That's not the case here. You only have to understand two concepts: "normal" and "healthy".

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The rings of Saturn are either giving birth to a moon, or destroying one

In a series of photos dating back to May 2012, NASA scientists have identified a bright object at the edge of Saturn's outermost ring. Nicknamed "Peggy", the object is a kilometer across and could be a moon about to calve off the rings. Or, alternately, it could be a moon that got too close to the rings and is in the process of disintegrating. Maggie 5

Eccentric axe uses physics to make splitting firewood easier

If you've ever tried to split your own firewood, you know it's kind of a pain in the tookus. Swinging the axe with enough force to drive the wedge into the wood and also split said wood (rather than just getting the axe head stuck) is not easy. That's why lumberjacks have big arms.

So Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä redesigned the axe. Instead of working as a wedge, his axe is a lever. And it's sort of mesmerizing to watch.

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Center for Public Integrity smacks down ABC bid to tag along on their Pulitzer

Remember in school, when you had to do group projects, and there was always that one kid who showed up late, only worked on part of the project, half-assed what they did do and then demanded full credit that other people earned? Yeah, that's apparently Nightline. Maggie 12

Check your neuroskepticism

I have been increasingly skeptical of the value of brain imaging studies and the scope of what they can actually tell us. This report from the University of Pennsylvania and the Hastings Center is a nice counterpoint that's making me skeptical of my skepticism. Maggie 6

Space cherries hit puberty early

It normally takes 8-10 years for a cherry tree grown from a seed to blossom. But some seeds that went to space aboard the ISS are producing trees that flower far, far earlier. One in as little as two years. Nobody knows why, or whether the effect actually has anything to do with the time the seeds spent in orbit. Maggie 16

Millennia-old canoe discovered in museum hallway

A canoe found by the shores of Lake Minnetonka in 1934 is not 264 years old, as previously thought, but closer to 1000. It is in remarkably good condition and, until recently, sat in the corner of a hallway at the Western Hennepin County Pioneer Association museum.

Scientists begin investigating possible health impacts of e-cigarettes

A study released in January found that e-cigarette vapor can promote the development of cancer in certain types of human cells — at least, when those cells are in a petri dish. These are early findings, and they don't yet undermine the idea that e-cigs are healthier to smoke than regular cigarettes. But they do prompt some questions about second-hand smoke and the health of people you smoke e-cigarettes around. Maggie 84

List of people who have mysteriously disappeared

My new Wikipedia list obsession: List of people who have mysteriously disappeared. Some of the "mysteries" are not as mysterious as you might hope (some Romans and ancient Gauls who disappeared in the midst of war, for instance) but the list goes back to 71 BC and there's enough interesting entries to warrant some high-quality time suck. Maggie 28

Funny gene names

Turn off the maggie gene in fruit flies and larvae will never mature into adults. It's just one of the genes on Joe Hanson's list of best funny gene names. Maggie 5

Measles outbreaks have potential to spread farther, and through more people, than we thought

People fully vaccinated against measles could lose some of that protection as they get older. That means teenagers, college students, and adults could, potentially, contract and pass along measles in outbreaks that begin with younger, unvaccinated children. Maggie 12

Punishments for scientists who don't make research open access

The National Institutes of Health requires research it funds to be put into the public access PubMed Central database within a year of publication. Now, it's witholding grant money from scientists who fail to comply with that rule. Ditto the Wellcome Trust in the UK. Maggie 10