Our Vanishing Sky

For the “Nature” print issue of The Nib, Maki Naro and I pointed out that space is a natural resource that should not be hogged or polluted. Our comic is now available for free on the Nib website!

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The End of Night

comic panel depicting an alien flying over a light-polluted Earth, reading "Companies based in wealthy countries disproportionately produce light pollution and space junk, just as they pollute the air and water around the world."
Panel from “The End of Night”, with words by me and art by Maki Naro

Read the rest at The Nib

Space is for everyone, except if you don’t fit the gender binary

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NASA’s Embarrassing Pronouns Fumble

Employees are frustrated and mad that a pilot program meant to foster inclusivity was abruptly ended.

for Slate:

The gesture from the leadership at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland was simple: as of a few weeks ago, employees could add their pronouns to their official identification for meetings. On calls and chats, the information would appear alongside their names and internal ID number. The addition of a formal field for pronouns was a show of support to gender minorities and their allies.

But it didn’t last. On Monday of this week, representatives from NASA Headquarters called a meeting to abruptly end the new features in their system, which they said had been rolled out as part of a pilot program. Officials told Goddard employees who attended the meeting that they hadn’t determined if including pronouns was appropriate in a professional context, and needed to consider broader impacts of displaying the pronouns, an explanation that left many feeling frustrated.

Read the rest at Slate

Can the Nobel Prize be fixed?

Yesterday, the 2019 Nobel Prizes were awarded, but the lack of women science laureates was both predictable and conspicuous. As I point out in my new comic with Maki Naro for Vox, only 19 women have won Nobels in chemistry, medicine/physiology, and physics out of 607 total awardees — a far lower rate than the actual representation of women in science. What is the source of this gender imbalance, and can it be fixed?

[ This blog is dedicated to tracking my most recent publications. Subscribe to the feed to keep up with all the science stories I write! ]

Why are so few Nobel Prizes awarded to women?

The 2019 Science Nobel award winners are out. Where are the women?

panel from a comic by Maki Naro and me

While Nobel Prizes are hardly the only award in science, they’re by far the highest profile. By awarding almost no women, the Nobels help perpetuate the problem of gender imbalance in science. [Credit: Maki Naro (art)/moi (words)]

Read the whole thing at Vox!

P.S. Do you like this comic? If so, please pledge to Maki’s and my forthcoming comics collection Who Owns an Asteroid? (from Unbound), which will include many such nonfiction science comics in full color!

Albert Einstein: Physicist and Social Justice Warrior

[ This blog is dedicated to tracking my most recent publications. Subscribe to the feed to keep up with all the science stories I write! ]

From left: Former Vice-President Henry A. Wallace, Albert Einstein, Lewis Wallace, and Paul Robeson. Einstein had invited Wallace (who was running for President in 1948) and singer/actor/civil-rights activist Robeson to his house to discuss anti-lynching activism. Robeson asked Einstein to co-chair his  organization, American Crusade Against Lynching (ACAL). [Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images]

From left: Former Vice-President Henry A. Wallace, Albert Einstein, Lewis Wallace, and Paul Robeson. Einstein had invited Wallace (who was running for President in 1948) and singer/actor/civil-rights activist Robeson to his house to discuss anti-lynching activism. Robeson asked Einstein to co-chair his organization, American Crusade Against Lynching (ACAL). [Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images]

How Albert Einstein Used His Fame to Denounce American Racism

The world-renowned physicist was never one to just stick to the science

For Smithsonian Magazine:

By the spring of 1933, the most famous scientist in the world had become a refugee.

Einstein was a more fortunate refugee than most. By that time he was already a Nobel Prize winner and media celebrity, recognizable around the world. That fame made him a high-profile enemy for the new Nazi government in Germany, but it also guaranteed him safe places to go. Ultimately he ended up in America at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he would spend the rest of his life.

Einstein saw racism as a fundamental stumbling block to freedom. In both his science and his politics, Einstein believed in the need for individual liberty: the ability to follow ideas and life paths without fear of oppression. And he knew from his experiences as a Jewish scientist in Germany how easily that freedom could be destroyed in the name of nationalism and patriotism. In a 1946 commencement speech at Lincoln University, the oldest black college in the U.S., Einstein decried American racism in no uncertain terms.

“There is separation of colored people from white people in the United States,” said the renowned physicist, using the common term in the day. “That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.” [Read the rest at Smithsonian Magazine]

Does thinking we live in a simulation say bad things about us?

[ This blog is dedicated to tracking my most recent publications. Subscribe to the feed to keep up with all the science stories I write! ]

Panel from "Are We Living in a Simulation?", featuring Elon Musk as Link. Art by Maki Naro, script by me.

Panel from “Are We Living in a Simulation?”, featuring Elon Musk as Link. Art by Maki Naro, script by me.

I’m obviously a science writer by profession. However, I’m also a lifelong comics fan, starting from reading Peanuts before I got the jokes, continuing through He-Man and the Masters of the Universe mini-comics that came with the action figures, up to today when I read a wide cross-section of comics titles, genres, and media. So, I’ve always wanted to create my own comics, but have been hampered by my lack of drawing ability. (I know, lack of drawing ability hasn’t stopped Scott Adams, but neither has being a misogynistic jerkmobile. But I digress.)

Panel from "Are We Living in a Computer Simulation". Art by Maki Naro, script by me.

Panel from “Are We Living in a Computer Simulation”. Art by Maki Naro, script by me.

The obvious answer is…find an artist to collaborate with. I’m thrilled and privileged to announce a comics collaboration with Maki Naro, one of the better science comics artists around. I wrote and Maki drew a comic for The Nib, about a recent provocative statement tech billionaire Elon Musk made. Musk said it’s most likely that we — and our entire reality — are actually part of a simulation run by a more advanced version of ourselves. Read the comic here, to see why I don’t think this is an optimistic scenario, and why Musk may not be the most objective person when he talks about it.

He recently contributed a regular comic series to Popular Science, along with The Nib and his own long-running science comic Sci-ence. He also writes the award-winning slice-of-life comic Sufficiently Remarkable. Please throw a little money his way.