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Best American Science and Nature Writing
These are essays reprinted in Best American Science and Nature Writing that you can choose from for your Reading Journal assignments. Questions or broken links? Email Haley (firstname.lastname@example.org).
"A Journey Into the Animal Mind" ("What the Crow Knows") / Ross Andersen
From The Atlantic: The idea that animals are conscious, long unpopular in the West, has lately found favor among scientists who study animal cognition. Now even some insects are thought to have interior lives. A journey into the depths of the animal mind. (HINT: click the Full Text PDF tab to see the version with images)
"Sleep No More" / Kelly Clancy
From Wired: When Sonia Vallabh discovered what killed her mother at 52, she and her husband began a tireless crusade to find a cure.
"What Remains" / Daniel Duane
From California Sunday Magazine: For the past 148 years, Yosemite’s Lyell Glacier has taught us about the Earth — how it was created, where it was going, and now, how it might end.
"With a Simple Twist, a ‘Magic’ Material Is Now the Big Thing in Physics" / David H. Freedman
From Quanta Magazine: The stunning emergence of a new type of superconductivity with the mere twist of a carbon sheet has left physicists giddy, and its discoverer nearly overwhelmed.
"The Eighth Continent" / Rivka Galchen
From The New Yorker: The new race to the moon, for science, profit, and pride.
"Younger Longer" / Adam Gopnik
From The New Yorker: Can the infirmities of aging be postponed?
"Right Under Our Noses" / Sara Harrison
From Wired: For ages, the sense of smell has been underestimated and poorly understood. Now scientists are trying to crack the code of how it works - and create robots that can sniff out the world's secrets like a dog.
"The Search for Alien Life Begins in Earth's Oldest Desert" / Rebecca Boyle
In the Martian landscape that is the Atacama desert, astrobiologists are learning how to recognize extraterrestrial organisms.
"Jambusters: Why Paper Jams Persist" / Joshua Rothman
Jams emerge from an elemental struggle between the natural and the mechanical.
"This Sand is Your Sand" ("Drawing a Line in the Sand over Water Rights") / Chris Colin
On the banks of California's Russian River, a cold war has erupted among neighbors and boaters over private beach access.
"The Brain, Reminagined" / Douglas Fox
Physicists who have revived experiments from 50 years ago say nerve cells communicate with mechanical pulses.
"The Endling: Watching a Species Vanish in Real Time" / Ben Goldfarb
On the frontlines of extinction in the Gulf of California, where the vaquita faces its final days.
"The Great Rhino U-Turn" / Jeremy Hance
After 17 years, researchers finally unlock the mysteries of Sumatran rhino reproduction
"The Fading Stars: A Constellation" / Holly Hayworth
How the new astronomy obscured the traditional night sky
"Saving Baby Boy Green" / Eva Holland
Neonatal medicine tries to save a baby born at 24 weeks
"Deleting a Species" / Rowan Jacobsen
We are on the brink of being able to genetically engineer an extinction. Should we?
"The Insect Apocalypse is Here" / Brooke Jarvis
Mass extinction of insect species (HINT: click the Full Text PDF tab to see the version with images)
"No Heart, No Moon" / Matt Jones
The space race killed the sparrow. Of course, there were other factors.
"Life on a Shrinking Planet" / Bill McKibben
With wildfires, heat waves, and rising sea levels, large tracts of the earth are at risk of becoming uninhabitable.
"The Story of a Face" / Rebecca Mead
A trans woman finds the surgery she needs to just be herself.
"The Professor of Horrible Deeds" / Jordan Michael Smith
Fred Berlin has done decades of pioneering research on pedophilia — and outraged a lot of people along the way
"Welcome to the Center of the Universe" / Shannon Stirone
For the men and women who use the Deep Space Network to talk to the heavens, failure is not an option.
"The Hidden Toll" / Linda Villarosa
Why are black mothers and babies in the United States dying at more than double the rate of white mothers and babies? The answer has everything to do with the lived experience of being a black woman in America.
"When the Next Plague Hits" ("The Next Plague Is Coming. Is America Ready?") / Ed Wong
The epidemics of the early 21st century revealed a world unprepared, even as the risks continue to multiply. Much worse is coming.
"Paper Trails: Living and Dying With Fragmented Medical Records" / Ilana Yurkiewicz
Patients too often undergo duplicate procedures — or fail to get them at all — because their medical history is incomplete. Why?
"Female Scientists Report a Horrifying Culture of Sexual Assault" / Marie Claire
Research labs and field sites are swarming with men who sexually harass and assault their colleagues. But when women come forward, the perpetrators aren’t punished—the victims are.
"Pleistocene Park" / Ross Andersen
In Siberia, a plan is under way to repopulate the grasslands with ancient grazers, including, in the near future, genetically engineered woolly mammoths. (HINT: click the Full Text PDF tab to see the version with images)
"The Squeeze" / Sophie Brickman
Silicon Valley reinvents the breast pump.
"The Starship or the Canoe: Where Will Our Future Adaptations Be?" / Kenneth Brower
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope verified the biggest batch of Earth-sized planets ever detected around a single star.
"Firestorm" / Douglas Fox
Inside the dangerous and unpredictable behavior of wildfire. (HINT: click the Full Text PDF tab to see the version with images)
"When Your Child Is a Psychopath" / Barbara Bradley Hagerty
Psychopathy has long been considered untreatable. But a new clinical approach offers hope. (HINT: click the Full Text PDF tab to see the version with images)
"Exposure Therapy and the Fine Art of Scaring the Shit Out of Yourself On Purpose" / Eva Holland
Inspired by new research on "facing your fears" as a cure for PTSD and phobias, I set out to see whether climbing a mountain could cure my fear of heights.
"Greetings, E.T. (Please Don't Murder Us)" ("To Whom it May Concern") / Steven Johnson
An ambitious new initiative to beam messages into space may be our best shot yet at learning whether we're alone in the universe. (HINT: click the Full Text PDF tab to see the version with images)
"Of Mothers and Monkeys" / Caitlin Kuehn
Wrestling with one's humanity as an animal medical researcher
"David Haskell Speaks for the Trees" / Paul Kvinta
What arboreal secrets are hidden in the canopies of ordinary trees?
"How Civilization Started" ("The Case Against Civilization") / John Lanchester
A life of hunting and gathering had advantages over one of farming and settlement.
"A behind-the-scenes look at Scott Pruitt's dysfunctional EPA" / Rachel Leven
Career employees at the agency say political appointees are shutting them out of decision-making. They worry that the public will suffer.
"Tragedy of the Common" / JB MacKinnon
The extinction crisis extends far beyond rare and endangered species.
"The Invasion Equation" / Siddhartha Mukherjee
Will a tumor spread? That may depend as much on your body as on your cancer.
"The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy" / Barack Obama
President Obama outlines the four reasons that make him believe the trend toward clean energy is irreversible.
"A Science of the Soul" / Joshua Rothman
A philosopher's quest to understand the making of the mind.
"Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them" / Kathryn Schulz
They may not exist, but they tell us a lot about the human mind.
"The Detective of Northern Oddities" / Christopher Solomon
When a creature mysteriously turns up dead in Alaska, veterinary pathologist Kathy Burek gets the call. Her necropsies reveal cause of death and causes for concern as climate change frees up new pathogens and other dangers in a vast, thawing north.
"The Island Wolves" / Kim Todd
The longest-running study of predator-prey dynamics in history, what it means to eat and be eaten, and how the battle to survive shapes the land.
"Tiny Jumping Spiders Can See the Moon" / Ed Yong
An unexpected rain of spiders led to a lovely Twitter geek-out between astronomers and arachnologists.