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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.


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

The bacteria that ate our sewers

Concrete sewers are being devoured by their microbial ecosystems and researchers at the University of Colorado are trying to find a way to stop it. (Full disclosure: My husband's cousin Ali Ling is one of the researchers who worked on this project.) Maggie 5

Science is slow, and that's good

Coincidence and fallacy are instantaneous. But science creeps along very slowly. Deep Sea News has a nice discussion of what happens when those two forces crash into each other. Maggie 2

Study calls for placebo-controlled trials of parachute effectiveness

This may be one of the best joke research papers I've ever seen. Via David Ng.

History's weirder theories about dinosaur extinction

Scientific consensus suggests that dinosaurs died out thanks to the combination of an asteroid impact, massive volcanic eruptions, and climate change. But there have been other ideas on the subject. Brian Switek has cataloged some of the odder theories, from poor eyesight to deadly farts to overactive pituitary glands. Maggie 7

Can homeschooling make you more tolerant?

A new study of students at a Christian college found that the kids who had been homeschooled were more willing to extend basic civil liberties to their political/cultural opposites than those who had gone to public school. At The Conversation, scientist Robert Kunzman critiques this study and explains how it fits into the larger context of what we know about home schooling. Maggie 49