The Transhumanist goal of eliminating suffering sounds great on the surface, but the negative consequences aren’t so simple.
I was supposed to attend a conference about love and sex with robots. What actually happened was even weirder.
“How Life Could Help Atmospheric Tides Slow a Planet’s Rotation” Astrobiology (Nov 2018)
Biological life may have altered Earth’s rotation (and other planets like it) in a way that helped life proliferate.
“Yes, space tourism is for the rich. But sending artists to space is good for us all.” Washington Post (Sept 2018)
Sending artists to space acknowledges the importance of both art and space in our culture. (Also, I nominate Bjork).
Scientists think RNA existed before DNA, but what existed before RNA?
Hulu’s new show is frustratingly slow to get off the ground, but that’s realistic.
"Chiral Molecules May Have Hitched Meteor Rides to Planets" Astrobiology (Aug 2018)
Chirality, a property of all molecules associated with life, may have from space and used meteors as transport.
"The U.K. Wants to Become the World Leader in Ethical AI" Slate (Aug 2018)
But what does that actually mean? And is it possible?
"A Historian's Take on Charlottesville: an Interview with Ashley Farmer" IMPACT (July 2018)
Boston University African American Studies professor Ashley Farmer reflects on Charlottesville, as well as existing racial and gender divides
"Bacterial Survival in Salty Antifreeze Raises Hope for Life on Mars and Icy Moons" Astrobiology (July 2018)
Microbes' ability to survive in sub-zero brines raises possibilities for life on Mars and in the oceans of Europa, Enceladus, and even Pluto.
"Habitability of the Young Earth Could Boost the Chances of Life Elsewhere" Astrobiology (May 2018)
Conditions on early Earth were more moderate conditions than previously thought--same goes for other terrestrial planets.
"We Need to Grab Some Rocks from Mars--Let's Just Get On With It" New Scientist (May 2018)
We should fast-track a Mars sample return mission. Here's why.
"Should We Stop Searching for Intelligent Life?" The Smart Set (May 2018)
Even though alien life is probably out there, we haven't found it yet--maybe because it's too intelligent.
"What Does Consent Mean When One of You is a Robot?" Daily Beast (Feb 2018)
Sex-bots are here. If you thought relationships with humans were complicated...
"The Blurring of the Olympics and Paralympics" Daily Beast (Feb 2018)
How can we determine whether a prosthetic device gives an athlete an "unfair advantage"?
"When You Die, You'll Live on as a Robot" Daily Beast (Jan 2018)
Do you want your loved ones to receive texts from you after you die?
"Mars and Earth May Not Have Been Early Neighbors" Astrobiology (Dec 2017)
Some scientists think Mars formed much farther away from the sun and was brought closer by Jupiter.
As a classroom experiment, I had students lock their phones away. Here's how they felt about it.
"Swimming with the Fishes" Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel (Oct 2017)
I pet sharks and stingrays while snorkeling in Belize.
"How Small Businesses are Embracing AI" Chase (Oct 2017)
As prices of AI solutions drop, small businesses seize opportunities
"I Got Naked in -250 Degrees--All in the Name of Health" Vitamin Shoppe (Sept 2017)
What happened when I gave cryotherapy a try.
"Tears for Cassini: Why It's Okay to Well Up Over a Lump of Metal" New Scientist (Sept 2017)
The thought of Cassini's final dive into Saturn makes me teary.
"Going to Mars? Meet Your Robot Therapist." Daily Beast (Sept 2017)
For anyone unable to make it to the therapy couch, robots/AI offer an alternative.
"My Cat is My Life Partner, and I'll Have to Say Goodbye Soon" PawCulture (July 2017)
Zola and I have been together for 20 years. Life without her seems unthinkable.
"Of Course 'Doctor Who's' New Star is a Woman. Sci-Fi Has Always Been About Progress." Washington Post (July 2017)
The Doctor isn't even human. Why all the fuss about the character being played by a female?
"I'm Fed Up with Humanity. It's Time for an Alien Intervention." Cognoscenti (July 2017)
Send an alien race. Send the robots. Send the robot aliens. We humans need help.
"How My Students Have Given Me Hope Since the Election" Catapult (July 2017)
Millennials get a bad rap, but I'd feel lost without them.
"From Fascination to Apathy: Our Feelings About the Moon" now.space (June 2017)
Back in the 1960s, the moon was the holy grail. But humans haven't been there in over 40 years. What happened?
"Ashes to Ashes" Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel (May 2017)
Tracing the journey of ashes from Pompeii to Mount St. Helens to 9/11 to cremation to an Icelandic volcano.
"Should Robots Have Rights?" Daily Beast (May 2017)
If you'd have told me ten years ago that I'd write an article promoting robot rights, I wouldn't have believed you.
Here's my interview with the SpareMin's Matthew DeMello about robot rights:
TEDx WalthamED: "Science Fiction as a Looking Glass: Teaching Students to Save the World"
"'Are We Alone?' Top Scientists at Cambridge Science Festival Weigh In" now.space (April 2017)
Astronomers, physicists, biologists, chemists, and all-around scientific geniuses answer humanity's biggest question.
"Morality in Asimov: Laws of Robotics vs. Laws of Humanics" Critical Insights: Isaac Asimov, Salem Press (April 2017)
Nerd alert! My love of Asimov takes a scholarly (and somewhat misanthropic) turn.
"Mars: A Food Odyssey" Zillamunch (April 2017)
What will astronauts eat on Mars? Farm-to-table on the Red Planet.
"Why Humans Love Robots Like People" Daily Beast (March 2017)
Even though they can't love us back, humans can become quite attached to robots.
Here's my interview with the SpareMin's Matthew DeMello about our affection for robots:
"TRAPPIST-1 is Only 40 Light Years Away. Wait. What?" Cognoscenti (March 2017)
Only 40 light years, says NASA. But how far away is that, really? And can we actually get there?
"If I Only Had a Brain: How AI 'Thinks'" Daily Beast (Feb 2017)
Machines seem pretty smart, but they have their limitations. Will understanding human intelligence provide the key to overcoming them?
Here's a clip from my radio interview about machine learning with John Fugelsang on "Tell Me Everything":
"Why Closing the Arecibo Observatory is a Blow for Science and Imagination" now.space (Feb 2017)
Visiting the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is the closest I'll ever come to aliens.
"The Skeptic vs. The Believer: Two Minds, Two Men, and Two Nights in Mexico" Misadventures (Feb 2017)
When you can't quite tell what someone's motivations are, but you stay along for the ride anyway because you can't not.
"Science Fiction for the New Year (and the New Administration)" Ploughshares (Dec 2016)
Important lessons from sci-fi, which has never been more relevant (it feels as though we're trapped in an episode of Black Mirror, doesn't it?)
"Where Robots Cage-Fight to the Death" Daily Beast (Dec 2016)
Robot wars have evolved since the 1990s--could they be preparing us for the future?
"Can Robots Make Moral Decisions? Should They?" Daily Beast (Nov 2016)
Self-driving cars and other robots make decisions--should those decisions be based on logic, morality, or randomness?
Here's the audio clip to my WBAL radio interview about robots and morality:
"The Next Generation: Children in Science Fiction Understand What Adults Can't" Ploughshares blog (Nov 2016)
Children are often the source of hope in sci-fi because they haven't been conditioned like us poor adults.
"Never Say Never" Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel (Nov 2016)
The history and significance of hákarl, Iceland's putrefied shark dish, is even more memorable than its taste.
"A Former Charter School Teacher Wades Into the Debate" Cognoscenti (Nov 2016)
I taught at a magnificent charter school for five years, and it turned me into a believer.
"Sci-Fi Suggests that We Can't Run Away From Our Problems, Even if We Go to Space" Ploughshares blog (Oct 2016)
Would colonizing Mars (or anywhere else) only spread humanity's dysfunctions?
"Robot Nurses Will Make Shortages Obsolete" Daily Beast (Sept 2016)
How would you feel about a giant mechanical teddy bear taking your pulse?
"And Their Eyes Glazed Over" Aeon (Sept 2016)
My college students have a problematic appetite for distraction.
"The Humanoid Robot Space Explorer" Daily Beast (Sept 2016)
This robot will likely walk on Mars before any humans do. Robots in spaaaace!
"Aliens in Sci-Fi: What's 'Out There' Has Always Reflected What's 'In Here'" Ploughshares blog (Sept 2016)
Aliens in sci-fi have changed in appearance and origin over time, but reflect a fear of ourselves.
"What Should We Do If Aliens Try To Contact Us?" Slate (Sept 2016)
Even though the signal was probably terrestrial interference, it got me thinking about responding to aliens.
"How We Colonize Mars is More Important than When" The Space Review (Sept 2016)
With all the recent talk of manned missions to Mars, I updated and republished this piece--and got props from astrobiologist David Grinspoon.
"The Evolution of Artificial Life in Science Fiction" Ploughshares blog (Aug 2016)
Before there were robots, there was Frankenstein's monster.
"What if 'Internet for Everyone' Isn't Such A Good Idea?" Cognoscenti (July 2016)
I'm worried about the consequences and skeptical of the motives behind Facebook, Google, and Microsoft's push to get everyone online.
"As a Teacher, I Know Plagiarism When I See It" The Guardian (July 2016)
Stealing someone else’s words is an even more serious offense outside of school, but Melania Trump still gets an F.
"How My Dad's Death Brought His Ex Back to Life" Full Grown People (July 2016)
The last thing we expected after my dad died was to have to battle his ex-wife.
"Cycling on Roads Can Make You Lose Faith in Humanity" The Guardian (June 2016)
It shouldn't need to be said: cyclists (even the annoying ones) are humans too.
"Robots Are Taking White Collar Jobs, Too" Daily Beast (June 2016)
Robo-lawyers will overrule your objections.
Here's my radio interview with WBAL Radio and Maryland's Morning News about the article:
"Contagion: Trump's Anger And The Souring of America's Collective Mood" Cognoscenti (May 2016)
I'm too angry to not write this piece. Is it November yet?
"Bartending Robots Are Coming For Your Cocktail" Daily Beast (May 2016)
Is there an algorithm for mixing the perfect drink?
"Studying 'Ultra-Cool' Stars in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life" Cognoscenti (May 2016)
Next comes the mashed potato sculpture.
"Cyborgs Aren't Just For Sci-Fi Anymore" Daily Beast (April 2016)
From prosthetics to superhuman upgrades, the man-machine merging has begun.
"Ding Dong, It's the Pizza Delivery Robot" Daily Beast (April 2016)
No tips necessary (at least, not until the robots wise up).
"The Next Picasso is a Robot" Daily Beast (March 2016)
Think art will always separate humans from machines? Think again.
"Why Scientists Want to Study Robot Roaches" Daily Beast (March 2016)
Robot roaches > real roaches.
"Would You Vote for a Robot?" Daily Beast (March 2016)
In this election, I think I just might.
"My Super Tuesday Dilemma: What Would Dad Do?" Cognoscenti (Feb 2016)
Hillary or Bernie? I'd give anything for my dad's advice right about now.
"Don't Pass Go: AI Will Beat You at Pretty Much Everything" Daily Beast (Feb 2016)
Why you shouldn't invite robots to your game night.
I loved season 1, but as a woman and a writer, I have some problems with season 2.
"RIP To the Godfather of Robots" Daily Beast (Jan 2016)
My tribute to Marvin Minksy.
"My New Year's Resolution Not To Be Vegan" Entropy (Jan 2016)
I argue for and against veganism at the same time. I should be in politics.
"The Stars Are Not For Man" Full Grown People (Jan 2016)
How Childhood's End taught me that loss can prompt evolution.
Arthur Clarke raises important questions in one of my favorite books (even if the Syfy miniseries is only so-so)
"Will Mining Celestial Bodies Ruin Space?" Cognoscenti (Dec 2015)
The Asteroid Resources Property Rights Acts may have negative long-term consequences.
"The Worst Driving City in the Country Needs Driverless Cars" Cognoscenti (Sept 2015)
Driverless cars have to be better than human drivers in Boston.
"Ambivalence About Having Kids Has Pushed Me Down An Existential Rabbit Hole" Full Grown People (August 2015)
To be a parent or not to be a parent--that is the question.
"Why I Broke Up With My Novel to Write a Memoir" LitHub (June 2015)
I used to be a fiction writer. Then the fiction got real.
"Who's Watching the Children? Everyone." geekpuff (May 2015)
I engage my dystopian thoughts about what Facebook knows about our kids.
"Artificial Intelligence, Real Emotion?" Slate (April 2015)
Ex Machina explores the question of whether a robot likes you, is programmed to like you, or is pretending.
"I Went on a Blind Date Pretending to Be a Pirate" XoJane (Jan 2015)
My first internet date was an interesting one.
"Science Fiction and the Loss of Technology" Screen/Read (Nov 2014)
What science fiction gains from eschewing technology.
I'm now the oldest person in the hostel.
What can we learn from the fictional torture of robots and aliens?
"How We Colonize Mars Is More Important Than When" Slippage (Issue 3, Summer 2014)
I'm not sold on the idea of colonizing Mars--here's why.
"Nothing To Worry About: On Living With Phobias" The Toast (July 2014)
I'm terrified of spiders, but they're not going anywhere.
“Hockeytown” Praxis Magazine (April 2014)
Hockey is a lot more than men crashing into each other while wearing skates.
“The Most Terrifying Kids' Book” Slate (March 2014)
Why I don't think we should encourage our kids to pursue immortality.
“What My Cat Taught Me About Love” Praxis Magazine (March 2014)
I may never have a human life partner.
What will it take to get NASA more money?
"Linked In, Tuned Out: Why Travelers Should Limit Their Tech" Clever Magazine (Dec 2013)
I debate whether to bring an iPad to Portugal.
"How About a Pop Culture Litmus Test?" The Toast (Nov 2013)
Students keep getting younger and I keep getting older.
"Insert Your Belief Here" Killing the Buddha (Oct 2013)
Why Unitarianism is a saving grace.
"Isaac Asimov Would Love Pacific Rim's Robots" Slate (July 2013)
Robots and humans: collaborators or competitors?
"The Art of Complaining" Praxis Magazine (July 2013)
Who doesn't love a good rant about work, especially in haiku form?
"What the Mind Forgets, the Body Remembers" Cognoscenti (June 2013)
Anniversaries can be physical as well as emotional.
"Deliverance: A Holy Bus Journey to Bosnia" BootsnAll (June 2013)
About the amazing man I met on the bus to Sarajevo.
"How Farfetched Is the Clone Conspiracy on BBC America's Orphan Black?" Slate (March 2013)
Is it possible to clone a human?
"What Would Aldous Huxley Say About Our Always-Connected Society?" Slate (Jan 2013)
Most of us are connected to the internet by more than one device.
"A Sort of Homecoming" Barely South Review (Sept 2012)
An essay about death, coming home, and Don DeLillo's White Noise.
"Implanting Memories like in Total Recall: Could it Happen?" Slate (July 2012)
Remember that? Are you sure?
Spoiler: it would pretty much suck if this happened.
"Heartbrake" Praxis Magazine (April 2012)
Someone stole my new bike. There is a circle of hell reserved for this person.
"Falling Short" Northwind Magazine (April 2012)
A short story about cruelty and teenage love.
"Should've Known Better" Praxis Magazine (September 2011)
My first crush was Richard Marx. Stop laughing.
"Gringo's Dilemma" Praxis Magazine (April 2011)
How do we travel without contributing to cultural appropriation?
"How I Spent My Free Will" Minnetonka Review (Winter 2011)
In which Albert Camus and Kazuo Ishiguro argue about philosophy.
"Finding Fathers" Ducts (Dec 2010)
About politics and fatherhood.
"Making Luck" Paradigm (Sept 2010)
About living through 9/11 and the nature of luck.
"The War and the Roses" Guernica (Feb 2010)
An essay about Sarajevo, the city that stole my heart.
"Letters to Ray Bradbury" Konundrum (Sept 2009)
I tell Bradbury how amazing he is and what his work has done for me.
"I Went to Psychotherapy and All I Got was This Lousy T-Shirt" Defenestration (Sept 2009)
And a whopping bill, of course.
"Freedom & Absurdity: The Stranger in the Classroom" Briarpatch (Sept 2009)
Teaching Albert Camus to a bunch of high schoolers. What could go wrong?
"Cousin Paul and Mr. T" Defenestration (May 2009)
Flash fiction about two weird and awesome dudes.
Self Park, an ekphrastic collaboration of poetry and art (Summer 2008)
Poetry and paintings--what's not to like?