Author Archive | Kelly Servick

photo: Thomas Lersch/Wikimedia commons

Hominids will be hominids

Lately, I’ve had great apes on my mind. Psychiatrist Martin Brüne’s work treating psychopathy in retired laboratory chimps – the topic of my Q&A article – got me thinking about some even slipperier issues. Brüne opened his talk at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in February with what he called…

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Kerosene isn't sustainable, but many in rural areas have no other options. (Credit: RanjithSiji/Wikimedia Commons)

“Why Cheap Science?” Part II: Lean and Green

While covering Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project symposium last fall, I learned a term that has been bouncing around in my head ever since: Gandhian engineering – the development of technology to benefit the world’s poorest citizens. The concept led me to a growing trend in engineering and design, often called frugal innovation. Here’s…

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The Moon's magnetic "crazy-quilt." Photo credit: Mark A. Wieczorek, Wikimedia Commons

“Why Cheap Science?” Part I: Moonshots

I’ve been doing a lot of haphazard story-sniffing lately, and I noticed a common fragrance: scientists and engineers doing fascinating work on a microscopic budget. They’re not just scraping by with meager funding, they’re showing that cheaper projects can have real advantages. Here’s the first in a series of posts on the power of low-cost…

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Photo by jpmckenna, via Flickr Creative Commons

Gray whales again, for the first time

In Georgia, bird watching kept me in touch with the seasons. The winter woods near my house were dominated by the high trill of Pine Warblers. When Swamp Sparrows fattened up for migration and cleared out of the fields around the banding station where I volunteered, I knew more colorful summer residents were on the…

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Photo by Kelly Servick

Alan Alda says science and romance aren’t so different

“What’s hard to say?” This was Alan Alda’s first question to an audience full of particle physicists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory on October 25. Alda’s talk, “Helping the Public Get Beyond a Blind Date with Science,” started by evoking the types of conversations, both personal and professional, that leave us fumbling for the…

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Caramelization of sugar: my all-time favorite chemical reaction. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists say: play with your food

I have a passion for cooking that’s uncommon for someone with so little culinary talent. Recipes involving chemical changes to ingredients (in other words, endeavors beyond assembling a sandwich), have a fail rate of about 25 percent in my kitchen. But it recently occurred to me that cooking is one of the primary ways I…

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