Here’s a selection of my science writing for io9. A complete archive of my work for the site can be found here.
The Ultimate Field Guide to Subatomic Particles
Physics backgrounder. September 16, 2010.
Muons, neutrinos, supersymmetric partners, the infamous Higgs boson – with so many different subatomic particles flying about, it’s no wonder theoretical physics can be so confusing. That’s why we made this (reasonably) simple guide to all the different elementary particles.
This is, as you might imagine, a pretty big topic, so we’re splitting it into (at least) two posts. Today we’re going to deal with just the particles that physicists are certain (or, at least,reasonably certain) exist, and then tomorrow we’ll get into the even stranger world of particles that have been hypothesized but may or may not actually exist. I’ve also made a handy cheat sheet listing all the elementary particles and their vital statistics, which you can find here. But to understand what all of that means, you’ll really want to read on.
Technologies that we’ve lost – and the quest to find them again
Historical science feature. February 1, 2012.
Greek fire. Damascus steel. These are two technological innovations whose secrets are said to be lost to time. Even the original schematics for the Apollo missions have disappeared into the mists of history, forever hidden inside hopelessly obsolete computers. How do we lose technologies that were once so important? Some say that they aren’t really lost, and are working on rediscovering them.
Certainly, the specific techniques and materials required to construct some of the famed inventions of the ancient world (and the late 1960s) can be lost. And it’s definitely true that people can forget how some ancient invention works for hundreds, even thousand of years. But the history of technology is very much the history of ideas, and as you’ll see, ideas are pretty much indestructible – even in the face of truly terrible record keeping.
Everything You Need to Know About the Arctic Ozone Hole
Current news analysis. October 13, 2011.
Last week, we learned that an ozone hole had formed above the North Pole for the first time ever. But what exactly is an ozone hole, why are they so dangerous, and what can we do to fix them?
To find out the answers to these questions, we went right to the source, and interviewed some of the researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who discovered the ozone hole that formed last winter in the Arctic Circle. We asked them all our burning questions about the ozone layer and what’s happening to it. Now, with some expert assistance, we’ve got the answers.