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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.


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

In space, everyone can drink your pee

Coming soon to space: A urine recycling system that turns pee into both water AND the electricity necessary to power the water purification system. Maggie 9

A visit to a legal recreational marijuana store

I had kind of expected to find that, following the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, Boulder's head shop business would merge with the newly created legal pot business, to create a sort of Super Head Shop — where one could purchase both Grateful Dead teddy bear T-shirts and the substances necessary to make those shirts seem cool.

I was wrong.

Read the rest

"Mystery Pooper", "Hash Bash" front page stories in Ann Arbor

And now, the news from Lake Erie.

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Two possible explanations of mysterious earthquake lights

Centuries of humans have reported strange lights moving along the ground before an earthquake strikes. Now, two different teams of scientists have two competing theories that could explain where those lights come from and how they're made. Maggie 6

Fish don't need no stinking eyes

Meet the Mexican blind cavefish, which has no eyes, and instead echolocates through the power of fishface. Maggie 9

Watch freaky oarfish frolic in the Sea of Cortez

Oarfish are freaky sea dragons. You might remember them from the beaching incidents last fall, when two oarfish turned up on the coast of California within a week. That's a big deal, because the fish usually live far down in the ocean — at depths up to 3000 feet. It's relatively rare to catch them at a depth where humans have easy access. In this video, you can see tourists with a Shedd Aquarium travel program interacting with a couple of 15-feet-long oarfish in the Sea of Cortez. Definitely stick around to about 1:40 in the video, where you get some stunning underwater close ups of the oarfish.

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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