Science, Nature, Tech

Pixelborn as an Evil Robin Hood

      My friend Larry called to warn me about the “evil Robin Hood” he had discovered furthering “the degeneration of societal norms.” Larry owns an art gallery and is tuned in to all manner of associated subjects, from Braque’s congruence with Picasso, to prison art, to intellectual property issues. The thing he saw […]

A Cicada Left This Letter

    Kindly allow me to apologize for my behavior Saturday morning. I now know there is a loud, throbbing machine that sends shock waves through the grass into the ground. I mistook this phenomenon for a love song from what surely must have been a fine male specimen—and promptly humiliated myself. A lady tried […]

We Judge Even Animals by the Color of Their Skin

    In European folklore, a black cat was a dire omen and, later, a witch’s familiar. A white deer was an extraordinary creature, poised to shapeshift into someone’s lover or sister. Medieval myths—yet black cats are last to be adopted, even now. And in St. Ansgar, Iowa, a white deer so captivated the townspeople […]

Empathy, It Seems, Is Overrated

    A heart willing to welcome someone else’s pain inside. A brain with the superpower of unlocking other psyches. Skin so tender, anybody’s mood will brush against yours—then penetrate. Empathy seems a noble trait, potent and generous, an instant cure for injustice and xenophobia. I watch “empaths” on my husband’s beloved Star Trek and […]

How Color Left Nature Behind

    Artists select their palettes ever so carefully, but an old piece of parchment with all the colors, circled in a wheel or disciplined into a grid, their names inked gracefully beneath them? I can pore over those antique charts for hours. Seeing the colors ranged next to one another, like somebody pinned a […]

Surveillance at the Compost Dump

    “You are under surveillance,” intones a disembodied voice. I look up, startled. My scalp tingles with honest sweat, and the sun warms my shoulders as I sling last fall’s leaves and broken tree limbs into a compost pile at the park. “You are under surveillance,” the voice repeats, its intonations flat. The pitch […]

Breakthrough Research Connects Genes, Personality, and Health

    Once upon a time, our parents’ social standing fixed us in place. Then our genetic inheritance. Then our environment. Nature, nurture, nature, nurture—back and forth the pendulum swung, which should have been a clue that the right choice was both. Even after we figured that out, though, we still thought in terms of […]

Why Are We Still So Confused About COVID?

  This is what it is like to be a layperson in the Years of COVID. “So my primary care doc said the vaccine loses effectiveness after six months.” “That’s what my pharmacist said, too. But nobody’s saying anything about a new booster.” “If you’re healthy, you don’t need a booster anyway, right?” “But I […]

Moths Are Not Romantics

    Humans are the ones who fly straight into the flame. Lost causes, unrequited loves, crazy gambles, consuming addictions, dangerous exploits—we live bent, one would guess, on self-destruction. All the poor moths want to do is set a flight path. When their light sources were the moon and stars, all went well. But our […]

Why Dust Matters

    The stuff is everywhere. Bunnies dancing in the corners. Midair sparkles in a shaft of sunlight. A fuzzy white coating on my bookshelf, like thrush on a tongue. We were made from dust, or so it is said. Stardust lives in our bodies. How could anything so important seem so irrelevant? A swirl […]