Category Archives: Publications

Clam Chowder Memories

Brad and I on the California coast in 2010.

Brad and I look for snails amid on the rocky California coast in 2010.

I perched on a porous boulder at the edge of California’s Monterey Bay with my three-year-old son, Brad. The September sun warmed our backs – local’s weather, as it is fondly called, when the summer rain and mist lift after the tourist season quiets down. A huge Styrofoam cup balanced on the rock between Brad and me. We took turns spooning out thick, creamy clam chowder, blowing to cool each bite.

Clam chowder was my son’s favorite food back then, and we visited the Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf every Monday morning for a year to share a cup of chowder, our weekly ritual while his dad was at work. Just my son and I on the rocks. But we were a nomadic military family. We would be leaving Monterey and its chowder soon for the East Coast. And like every other move, home would be where the Army sent us.

Read more at Brain, Child.

I took Brad camping at Assateague Island in October 2013.

I took Brad camping at Assateague Island in October 2013.


Alligators Bellow Their Size, And So Do You

Alligators use their deep bellows to broadcast their size, like shouting their measurements into a megaphone, according to a study published this month inThe Journal of Experimental Biology. The research adds to what science already knew: birds and mammals—including you—use sounds to let everyone around them know how big they are.

Read more at Modern Notion.

Were You There?

A 10th-grader perches on the edge of her chair as her biology teacher lectures on evolution. She listens intently. The years she’s spent in Sunday school and church services have prepared her for this very moment. Her hand shoots up, and the teacher calls her name. Breathless, she asks a question.

“How do you know evolution really happened? Were you there?”I was that student, and I remember the knot that formed in my stomach whenever my high school science teacher directed class discussion toward that dreaded E-word. I remember the day I asked him if he was there when an ape evolved into a human. Some of my classmates rolled their eyes. I wasn’t even trying to make a joke about his age. For me it was a serious question, almost sacred.

Terry Wortman was my science teacher from my sophomore through senior years, and he is still teaching in my hometown, at Hayes Center Public High School in Hayes Center, Nebraska. He still occasionally hears the question I asked 16 years ago, and he has a standard response. “I don’t want to interfere with a kid’s belief system,” he says. “But I tell them, ‘I’m going to teach you the science. I’m going to tell you what all respected science says.’ ” Read more at Slate.

Be Careful What You Flush: Common Meds Could Ruin Your Summer Clambake

The drugs we take daily—Advil, Innopran, Prozac and the Pill—harm the marine life that forms the base of the aquatic food chain, and those effects could move right up the chain to us.

Luciane Alves Maranho of the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Sao Paulo, Brazil, exposed bristle worms—segmented critters that live in the oozy sediment on the bottom of a lake or ocean—to trace amounts of drugs prescribed for seizures, pain relief, heart conditions, depression and birth control. Maranho found that our common medicines changed enzymes in the worms’ central nervous systems and adjusted their cellular energy. The study appears in the August 2015 issue of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.

Read more at Modern Notion.

The Colour of Music

Timbre, in contrast to the other fundamental elements of sound, is defined by what it is not. It is not the pitch, loudness, intensity, or duration of sound. It is everything else. Timbre is the color of sound. Every instrument, for example, has its own shade, its own nuances. Obviously, the colors are not visual. A clarinet does not sound green or purple, but a clarinet does have a unique auditory texture or color that psychoacousticians, scientists who study sound perception, call timbre.

Read the full text on Your Brain Health blog.

The Psychology of Anti-Vaxxers

Image credit: Tom and Katrien, flikr CC 2.0

Image credit: Tom and Katrien, flikr CC 2.0

Skyler Smoot, a cooing, smiling 12-week-old baby, is in danger. His brown eyes sparkle, his toes wiggle, his hands wave, but his health lies at the heart of a controversy between parents and doctors.

“I’m just afraid, you know?” his mother, Jacklyn, says. “I’m afraid of what could happen to him.”

Skyler isn’t vaccinated.

Read the full story in The Atlantic

Back to school prep for parent volunteers

As summer vacation comes to a close, students are not alone in their back-to-school preparation. Parents are readying their committee phone trees and snack schedules (nut-free, please) in an effort to stay involved with their children’s education. But the world of school volunteers has morphed over the last 15 years. Security concerns, technology shifts and shrinking education budgets have made volunteering harder, easier and more important than ever.

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Fairness in Education: Helping Boys Catch Up to Girls

Girls have surpassed boys in the educational arena. Girls earn better grades, beginning in kindergarten. More girls who enter college finish college, and women hold a majority of college degrees in the United States. In fact, the educational gender gap favors women so heavily that educational research has flipped from focusing on how to promote educational success for girls to why boys fell behind.

Women battled for this victory. Brave women fought to be valued in challenging academic fields that had long been dominated by men. This success in education presents an opportunity to continue to level the gender pay gap.

Still, in the spirit of leveling any gender gap, the fair-minded reaction to boys falling behind girls in school is a determination to help. After all, women are the mothers and teachers of boys and the partners and friends of men, and women have enjoyed the support of enlightened men in their own struggle. So after a toast to the women who made such lofty educational success possible, the boys deserve attention.

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Traditional Colleges Offer Best Options for Online Degrees

While unemployment creeps back from the brink of catastrophe and the economy gingerly takes steps toward recovery, the world of higher education, unfazed and even bolstered by the financial ups and downs of the last decade, welcomes ever-growing numbers of hopeful students into its fold. Educational institutions have met the glut of students seeking a degree with an excessive array of options, especially in the form of online degrees. While such degrees garnered little respect in the past, more students now choose the online route because they prefer the flexibility in scheduling and location. A breakdown of the types of online degrees as well as the pitfalls and dangers of online educational institutions shows that advantageous online options exist alongside risky and even illegitimate options.

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Intelligence Squared hosted a debate on April 2, 2014, with the motion More Clicks, Fewer Bricks: The Lecture Hall is Obsolete. Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX and professor at MIT, argued for the motion. Jonathan Cole, Provost and Dean Emeritus at Columbia University, argued against the motion.

Listen to the full debate on Intelligence Squared’s website.

Our Children Need Safe Schools, Not Prisons

Every child deserves to feel safe at her school desk. Gun control may divide the nation, but educators, parents, and politicians place a high premium on the safety of our school children. Unfortunately, consensus on the best way to ensure safety in our schools eludes everyone involved; proposals from arming teachers to continuing the status quo enflame each side. Installing armed security officers in every school emerges as the most popular solution, but even this answer draws ire from some corners. The discord boils down to one basic question: What should schools change in order to ensure the safest possible environment for students?

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