In 2004, I started a blog called “The Loom.” It has been hosted by National Geographic, Discover, and other fine folks over the years, but I’m now in the midst of bringing the whole compendium back home to my own web site. Since there are many of hundreds of posts to gather here, this will remain a work in progress for some time. For now, it is still incomplete and still carries some formatting glitches. Nevertheless, you are welcome to peruse it now, or use the search bar above to hunt for particular topics. And if the spirit moves me to write something new, I’ll post it here.

I was asked to give the keynote talk at “Science, Journalism, and Democracy: Grappling With A New Reality” at Rockefeller University on September 6, 2017 (video). This is what I said.

We’re here at this meeting to talk about science, journalism, and democracy. So let me begin by telling you about a newspaper article on a scientific experiment, an experiment that would end up having a major influence on government policy on a vital issue.

The vital issue was food. The experiment was carried out on wheat. Some varieties of wheat are known as spring wheat. They’re planted in the spring and grow soon afterwards. Winter wheat, on the other hand, is planted in the fall but does not produce its flowers till the spring. Winter wheat has the advantage of a much bigger yield. But there’s a catch. Continue reading “Let’s Not Lose Our Minds”


The skeleton of Harry Eastlack

Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva is an incredibly rare disease, striking just one out of every two million people. It’s also an incredibly astonishing disease. A single mutation to a single gene causes muscles to spontaneously turn into new bones. Over time, people with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP for short) grow a second skeleton–one that can cut their lives short.

I wrote about FOP in “The Girl Who Turned to Bone” in the Atlantic in 2013. At the time, FOP served as a microcosm for the struggles of people with rare diseases. (In the United States, almost 30 million people have rare diseases of one kind or another.) Continue reading “Fighting the Second Skeleton”