Archive | April, 2012


Starry Starry Night: A visit to Lick Observatory

San Jose is a bustling city of just under a million inhabitants. Yet only 25 miles to its east, on the tranquil summit of Mount Hamilton, astronomers cast their view skyward at the Lick Observatory. I visited the observatory, which is operated by the University of California, last week. Lick actually encompasses nine different research […]

Continue Reading

Blue Marbles and Ocean Microbes: A Sea Change at TEDxMonterey

A volunteer placed a translucent, blue marble in my hand as I walked through the door.  Everyone else in the darkened auditorium held a similar token.  Ocean-philes of one kind or another, we were gathering at the Monterey Institute of International Studies for the third TEDxMonterey.  A community-organized event modeled after the popular TED talk […]

Continue Reading
Though naturally rare and found only in the Santa Cruz sandhills, the Santa Cruz spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana) carpets the ground where it grows

Keep (the) Santa Cruz (Sandhills) Weird

I’ve heard that Santa Cruz might be weird. I live in the redwoods above the city and maybe it’s a little strange here too. Sunset Magazine called Boulder Creek, just up the road, “absurdly rural.” In a search for the absurd, I considered visiting the nearby Bigfoot Museum to see if I could scare up […]

Continue Reading
Beach flat (artist rendition) of Ferdi Rizkiyanto from Jakarta in Indonesia (scroll down to see on

Plastic Number Crunching

With recent news of washing machines spilling microplastics into waterways, a greenwashing lawsuit involving plastic water bottle companies, and bans on plastic bags, plastics are everywhere. Literally. They are crammed under our cupboards, spilling from trashcans, and discarded along the road. Most families are engulfed in plastic consumables, and those with good intentions, toss them […]

Continue Reading
Art gallery-goers make origami boxes and cups for jelly beans at the opening of an origami exhibit at UC Santa Cruz. Photo by Marissa Fessenden

Origami: when math and art meet

When I learned to fold a paper crane out of a piece of paper, I thought I had mastered one of the coolest tricks ever. The crane was the most difficult pattern in my little origami book. But origami is more than paper birds, cups and frogs. It is an art form and a way […]

Continue Reading

Let’s Get Personal

Today, I received an email asking what I found most valuable about the UCSC Science Communication program. I could say the internships have given me fantastic on-the-job training; the instructors have made my writing tighter and livelier; I’ve had the opportunity to meet reporters from The New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, the San Jose Mercury News and […]

Continue Reading

RoboSquirrel Lets Loose

Squirrel robots are on the loose near San Jose, and they’re helping scientists at the University of California, Davis understand how their fleshy counterparts interact with rattlesnakes. When squirrels approach rattlesnakes, they wag their tail and use infrared radiation to signal radiation-sensitive rattlesnakes. What exactly they’re conveying is anybody’s guess, but it’s probably safe to say that […]

Continue Reading