Devout Unbelief, Part 4

In the Mormon temple ceremony, Joseph Smith put forward a bold vision of what it means to be human: Men and women are gods in the making. Properly schooled and empowered, they can become anything, or, rather, everything, they can imagine. Smith’s vision for society was no less radical: With his fellow saints, he would […]

Devout Unbelief, Part 3

When a fellow mathematician asked the uncommonly brilliant John Nash how he could believe he was being recruited by aliens, Nash replied, “Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously.” How about Joseph Smith? Was he a crook, madman, […]

Devout Unbelief, Part 2

Why believe in the first place? How could an educated, otherwise skeptical person with a sense of humor believe in angels bearing golden plates? How could someone like Mormon genius, polymath, and liberal social critic Hugh Nibley, my intellectual mentor until I found unbelief in Berkeley, believe the story of Joseph Smith, and not just […]

Devout Unbelief, Part 1

Thirty-one years ago this month, I sat down one Saturday afternoon as a faithful Latter-day Saint to read the Book of Mormon. When I got up a few hours later, I was an unbeliever, and not just in Mormonism. That afternoon I became a born-again atheist. I am an atheist still. But that afternoon also […]

Voting On Science

With another Nov. 4 come and gone, some statewide science ballot items deserved national attention. This time another two states, Colorado and Oregon, voted on the mandatory genetically modified organisms (GMO) labeling initiative. As in California and Washington in 2012 and 2013, Proposition 105 (Colorado) and Measure 92 (Oregon) aimed to require the food industry to label […]

When Worlds Collide

We’re all familiar with the TV episode where characters dream up an alternate universe, and wake up to their familiar one where everything goes back to ‘normal.’ This is typically regarded as a scientific plot device, though from a hard science point of view parallel universes are nothing to be scoffed at, as the study […]

Open Access’ Future

As the largest scientific society currently existing, the American Chemical Society (ACS) serves many purposes for chemists, as well as scientists in other disciplines. It organizes national and regional meetings where researchers can present and share their data, provides members with job listings, offers educational training opportunities. Perhaps most importantly, it publishes a wide range of […]

Taking Stock of Bonds

Every fall semester, nearly a thousand bright-eyed freshmen take their seats for Chemistry 111, and told that throughout the course they will learn the story of the electron. It makes for a great cohesive semester (though famously challenging for the students), as the professors move through electron properties, atomic structure, and molecular orbitals to arrive at […]

“The Sagan/Tyson Problem”

I like to play a game whenever meeting someone new. I try and guess what the reaction will be when it’s discovered I am a chemist. The most common response is a look of terror and disgust, and the inevitable, “Oh I hated chemistry in high school!” The other most likely alternative is: “Does that mean […]

Chemistry’s Sweet Side

As Halloween approaches it seems like an appropriate time to have some fun and celebrate confectionery chemistry. We rarely think about chemical concepts when indulging a sweet tooth, but as chemistry is in everything, it’s time to explore our favorite treats in depth: Marshmallows: These squishy goods are produced by mixing gelatin, egg white, corn syrup, […]