Moon Mysteries

The early days of the Earth were violent times. Today, our solar system is relatively quiet and sedentary, presided over by an aging star that is long past its stormy youth. But 4.5 billion years ago, our sun was just forming its planetary progeny, and things were far from quiet. Huge masses of rock and […]


‘Omics’ has been a science buzzword for the past few years, as well as the butt of many jokes; a certain genomics center includes a badomics generator on its website, which puts the suffix on random words to create fake but strangely compelling journal publication titles. University of California, Davis professor Jonathan Eisen regularly announces […]

Research On Research

Every few months, the media catches wind of a new scientific discovery and headlines everywhere pronounce that the world’s problems have been solved. The cure for autism, cancer, depression, and other maladies; the proposed results sound promising and exciting, but upon reading further into the literature, implications of the data become more and more hazy. […]

Long Sorry Short

Etgar Keret has been called the “hippest Israeli writer,” but I think he is Israel’s sorriest writer. This may come as a surprise. For a long time he has been the darling of the European literati, a sweetheart of American Jewish audiences, and a favorite of students of Hebrew everywhere. His language is easy to […]

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 […]