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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.


A biologist trying to go to Mars

Biologist Chris Patil is one of the 1058 people chosen (from more than 200,000 initial applicants) to participate in the second round of Mars One astronaut selection. That is, to say, he is one of 1058 people who are angling for a chance to go to Mars and never come back. He's keeping a blog about the experience and you can read it. Maggie 16

This is the system Apple used to test iPhone software in 2006

The Wall Street Journal has a story about the birth of the iPhone (which I am still a little startled to realize is only seven years old ... I think my memory is merging iPhones and iPods into a sense of the presence of a single iThing). In an accompanying blog post, they shared this photo taken by Apple engineers, showing the system that was used to test out prototypes of iPhone software before its release. According to the blog post, the system "tethered a plastic touch-screen device – code-named “Wallaby” – to an outdated Mac to simulate the slower speeds of a phone hardware."

The side-effects of surviving HIV

There are side-effects to being an HIV controller — a person whose body naturally suppresses the virus without medication. They have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and more ... all linked to an over-active immune system. Now, researchers think they may have a solution that can keep those patients more healthy. Maggie 2

Violinists can't tell a Stradivarius from a modern violin

Ever wonder if Stradivarius violins are really better than other violins, or if the name just makes them seem better? A recent study blindfolded professional violinists and found that they couldn't tell the difference between violins constructed by 18th-century Italians and those made by modern manufacturers. The results back up the results of a similar study conducted in 2010. Maggie 21

The geology of Westeros

This Stanford project imagines 500 million years of planetary evolution on the planet of Game of Thrones, using a combination of book details and the principles of Earth-based geologic physics. Also dragons and White Walkers. Maggie 3

Scientists begin studying annual bee death rates in a really substantive way

For the first time, the European Union began closely monitoring the deaths of bees during the course of a year. The results have been somewhat encouraging, with death rates lower than expected in 2012-2013. Maggie 2

An ad for radium-laced cooking utensils

Here's to your health! I liked scientist and blogger Danielle Lee's take on this ad, others like it, and the history that they represent.

They teach us about how we as a society respond — eagerly — with the prospect of a new innovation, any, especially if it solves a problem. Today we know that Radium is dangerous. So why were these sold to the public before it was thoroughly vetted first? Well, it was vetted - to the best of science's ability then. And as a result of the new info & mistake discovered hindsight, we change course. But let's be clear - SCIENCE isn't the reason for this ad or marketing this product as the best thing ever. That's ECONOMICS. Often, the beef people have with innovation is due to the marketing and politics surrounding how society (we) will use them. The discovery itself isn't usually problematic. Just things to keep in mind as we continue to debate next steps in navigating life on this shrinking planet.

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Where do tectonic plates come from?

Well, kids, you see, when one chunk of Earth's crust loves another very much, they slam together and one chunk is forced underneath of the other. A new study suggests that this process of subduction is sufficient to explain the formation of the tectonic plates we know today. Maggie 5

Nobody wants a push-button orgasm

In 2001, a scientist inadvertently discovered that a pain-relief implant could double as an automatic orgasm-maker. Press a button, receive orgasm. Strangely, he continues to have trouble finding both volunteers to test and perfect this system and funding to study and market it. Who would have guessed that instant climax would turn out to be such a business failure? Maggie 54

How to: Make a baby with no sex

Here's a Christmas season leftover that I stumbled across recently and thoroughly enjoyed: Three scientific theories that could explain a "virgin" (or, even, possibly virgin) birth. Maggie 24

The worst thing about feeding mosquitoes on your own blood

It's the fact that they eat so damn slowly, sometimes, writes Ed Yong. Seriously, mosquitoes. When a scientist offers you their arm, the least you can do is hurry it up. Maggie 5

Lightning might have a connection to outer space

It's possible that lightning wouldn't exist without cosmic rays from space. Scientists have set up one of the largest experiments in physics to figure out whether this is true. Maggie 10

The "butter is good" study has some serious flaws

You may have heard that science proves saturated fat is good for you — or, at least, that it's not the devil. That claim is based on a meta-analysis, a study of studies that reviews a wide variety of research on a given subject. Meta-analyses are a great way to get a big-picture view of what science says about a subject and the results of one of these papers means a lot more than the results of a single study, on its own.

Trouble is, this particular meta-analysis has a lot of flaws, writes James McWilliams at the Pacific Standard. Chief among them: The authors left out a couple of key studies that came the opposite conclusion and they misrepresented the results of a third. That doesn't mean butter IS the devil. But it does mean that you should pause before declaring this particular paper the final word on what is and isn't healthy to eat.

Image: "Butter" by Last Hero :: CC Attribution-ShareAlike License

Scientists capture seven particles of stardust

After a years-long mission, a NASA spacecraft captured seven particles of interstellar dust as those bits whooshed around the solar system at speeds of tens of thousands of kilometers per hour. Then, it returned the dust to Earth. Scientists are now studying those grains for clues about the birth of our solar system. Maggie 10

How personal genomics solved a family's tragic health mystery

Laura and Rob Sheppard lost three children the same way — all were born with brains that stopped developing a little less than halfway through pregnancy. The deaths might have remained a mystery, but for the power of personal genomics and connections the Sheppards were able to make between scientists in different parts of the country who were studying disorders nobody realized were really the same thing. Maggie 12