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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 new virus identified in China

Mojiang paramyxovirus — found in rats infesting a copper mine where three workers died from severe pneumonia in 2012 — may or may not be dangerous to humans. It's related to Hendra, a virus that kills horses and humans and that is a major focus of research into zoonosis (aka, the process of diseases jumping from animals to humans). Maggie 6

The people who walk away from society

All this week Pacific Standard will be publishing profiles of people who have "opted out" — from hippie homesteaders to anti-government survivalists. Maggie 7

Is everything you know about the Black Death wrong?

A helpful, short post that adds some context to overly excitable headlines. Maggie 13

Archaeologists vs. The National Geographic Channel

Archaeologists and historians came out on top yesterday in a battle against The National Geographic Channel. The channel was promoting a new show — all about treasure hunters, metal detectors, and collectibles salesmen digging up World War II graves in Eastern Europe. Called, classily, Nazi War Diggers, the show appeared to violate some pretty key tenets of scientific archaeology. Video clips and press materials for the show featured body parts being yanked out of the ground (and misidentified), rather than carefully excavated. And, despite promises that the relics uncovered would go to museums, there's evidence that an American Nazi memorabilia dealer was selling some of things that were found. In general, the show seemed to involve a lot of behaviors that, while legal in Poland and Latvia where the filming was done, are viewed as horribly unethical by the folks who do this kind of work professionally.

Yesterday, The National Geographic Channel bowed to criticism and put the show on "indefinite" hiatus.

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The bionic owl

Gentlemen, we can rebuild this bird. All we need is some bamboo sticks, quick-dry epoxy, and feathers from another owl. Maggie 5

An end to Japanese whaling programs

The International Court of Justice ruled this morning that Japan's whaling program isn't actually contributing to scientific research, as that country has long claimed. The ruling is basically a "cease and desist" order on whaling for Japan, which says it will abide by the decision. Maggie 36

Why it's hard to find a plane in the ocean

The Washington Post published this handy demonstration of the scale of Flight MH370 on March 18. The problem has only gotten larger. Maggie 4

Dosing cancer patients with psilocybin

NYU is beginning research with using psychedelic drugs to improve the emotional/psychological health of people with cancer. An upcoming study with 32 volunteers will be the largest study of psychedelic medicine in more than 40 years. Maggie 11

A visit to the Antarctic telescope where scientists study gravitational waves

For the scientists who live and work at BICEP2, McMurdo Sound is just a stopover on the way to the even-more-isolated Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Maggie 1

Wealth and climate change are increasing the cost of disaster cleanup

Political scientist Roger Pielke Jr. is right when he says that one reason we now spend more on disasters than we did in the past is that we are wealthier than we were in the past. But he's wrong in claiming that climate change has nothing to do with the increased cost. Physicist and climate scientist John P. Abraham explains a couple key flaws in Pielke's argument at The Huffington Post. Maggie 17

The mystery of the fossil spider footprints

How scientists figured out that a set of 260 million-year-old footprints were probably made by an arachnid and why those footprints are still shrouded in mystery. Maggie 6

Pterosaurs: Winged, awesome, and surprisingly rare

Pterosaurs weren't birds. They weren't dinosaurs, either. And they are definitely more than just pterodactyls. As an order, the pterosaurs contained a huge amount of diversity. Sordes pilosus looked like a flying monkeyduck. Quetzalcoatlus northropi was an extra in The Dark Crystal. Thalassodromeus sethi looked like something your brain would invent after watching Froot Loops commercials on acid.

But, despite that wide variety (and, from what scientists can tell, their ubiquity on every continent), it's incredibly rare to find pterosaur fossils. In fact, all the freaky pterosaurs we can recreate in pictures probably only represent a fragment of the order's true diversity. There are many more pterosaurs whose fossil remains aren't well-preserved or numerous enough for us to get a good idea of what they looked like. Why? This video from the American Museum of Natural History explains it.

Bonus: The museum has a whole pterosaur exhibit opening April 5.

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Liquid water discovered on the surface of Minnesota

Next up, searching the area for extremophile life forms. Maggie 15

What we lose if we lose antibiotics

This is about more than just the ability to treat an infection, important as that is, writes Maryn McKenna. If antibiotics no longer work, we also lose organ transplantation, cancer treatments, kidney dialysis, safe childbirth, many types of surgery, and cheap meat. Maggie 20

Autism linked to second-trimester fetal brain development

Scientists found differences in the brain structures of kids with autism compared to kids who don't have autism. Those specific structures form during the second trimester of pregnancy, suggesting that autism is something that is present long before birth. Maggie 22