Maggie Koerth-Baker

Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at From August 2014-May 2015, she will be a Nieman-Berkman Fellow at Harvard University. You can follow Maggie's adventures in the Ivory Tower by subscribing to The Fellowship of Three Things newsletter.

Sixth grader's internet-famous science project misleadingly promoted as "new"

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 9.36.56 AM

This is scientist Zack Jud, posing with a lionfish he caught in a estuary river in 2010 — four years before 6th grader Lauren Arrington, who is now being credited with the discovery.

Read the rest

When a black woman becomes a white man online

Blogger Mikki Kendall is black, female, and receives a daily deluge of violent, threatening invective. When she temporarily "became" a white man, all that changed.

How does a brain-eating amoeba eat brains?

Is "brain eating" a metaphor or exaggeration of how the amoeba works? No, actually. It really does literally eat brains. Here's how.

This is a 19th-century breastpump

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 10.43.24 PM

From the Wellcome Image Collection, this is how you pumped your breasts 150 years ago. Via the fantastic Twitter feed of Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris.

If correlation doesn't imply causation, what does?

Open science advocate Michael Nielson writes about how scientists can infer causation in situations where it's not possible to do a randomized controlled trial.

The Apollo program was not always popular

It holds a singular place in the American imagination today, but there was a lot of opposition to the Apollo program as it was happening.

How sandstone arches form


It's not caused by erosion. Instead, the rock, itself, forms the arch and the erosion just washes away everything else around it.

Read the rest

Giving up on saving the world

Grist has an interview with activist and writer Paul Kingsnorth, a former environmentalist who has decided that the right way to deal with the end of the world is to just accept its inevitability.

Read the rest

Metalhead visits neurologist

In a rare complication of being a metalhead, a 50-year-old Motorhead fan developed a brain bleed after combining enthusiastic headbanging with a benign cyst.

The limits of animal life on Tatooine

Maggie Koerth-Baker on why the megafauna of George Lucas’ parched desert world makes no sense. It’s not the dry heat that’s the problem; it’s the food supply.

Read the rest

Baby blood samples stored for research without parent permission

If you had a baby in Indiana after 1991, chances are your child's blood and DNA samples are being stored by the state. Originally meant for research, no samples have been used because consent of parents was never obtained.

After smallpox find, big questions about safety in federal research labs

Popular Science has a nice follow up to the news about the discovery of decades-old smallpox samples — including the fact that scientists found 327 vials of other forgotten disease samples in the same place.

Behind the science of stress, the hand of Big Tobacco

Stress does affect the body in numerous ways. But how we think about what stress is, what it does, and its connection to pop psychology, have all been shaped by cigarette companies.

When food has an offensive name


The "kaffir" in "Kaffir lime" is actually a racial slur. At National Geographic, Maryn McKenna struggles with how to deal with foods that have offensive names.

I ran across a campaign, launched initially on Twitter, to rename the kaffir lime, a bumpy-skinned fruit from Southeast Asia with deeply perfumed leaves. “Kaffir” is a slur: In apartheid South Africa, whites hurled it against blacks. Writer Mark Mathabane, who was born in a Johannesburg shantytown during apartheid, used it to title his memoir, Kaffir Boy. In modern South Africa, uttering the word is scandalous hate speech, and defamation suits have been brought and won over it. Just this week, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a man’s sentence (of a fine and a year in jail) for using it, saying in a unanimous opinion: “The word is racially abusive and offensive… its use is not only prohibited but is actionable as well.”

Image: Some rights reserved by robynejay.

Malaysia Airlines crash kills AIDS researchers

A particularly depressing addendum to the story of a passenger jet shot down in Ukrainian air space: Of the 298 people on board, roughly 100 were people flying to an international conference on AIDS research.

Read the rest