Category Archives: Latest Articles

Using math to find ET

Searching for aliens may sound like science fiction. Yet for many scientists, it has become serious business. Here we meet three who are using math in their quest to find other living beings in our universe. One is calculating the likelihood of finding life on other planets. Another is trying to figure out where best to beam a “hello” to E.T. The third is looking for a common language with extraterrestrials — and it will likely be numbers.

Read the rest of my story for Science News for Students — the latest in their “cool jobs” series — here.


If we could talk to the aliens …

Ever been to a party and wondered why no one was talking to you? That’s kind of how SETI scientists feel — but on a cosmic level.

For more than half a century, astronomers have been listening to space. They use powerful radio telescopes, hoping to pick up signals from civilizations in distant space. They call this project the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, or SETI. The trouble is, they’ve never heard a single ping, beep or “howdy.” The number of aliens who want to talk to us seems to be exactly zilch.

So how can we get the conversation started? Scientists disagree.

Some want to follow your mom’s advice: Introduce yourself nicely. They think Earthlings should start beaming signals out into the universe. Maybe it would improve our chances of hearing back from aliens if we let them know we’re friendly and want to chat.

Read the rest of my story for Science News for Students here.


FLSA salary rules

Hawaii companies are scrambling to comply with a federal rule that doubles the minimum pay for salaried employees to $47,476 a year. It takes effect Dec. 1, and many companies still don’t know how they will cope. An estimated 57,000 salaried workers statewide are affected because they are currently making less than the new minimum.

Read the rest of my story from Hawaii Business magazine’s November 2016 issue here.


Thank you!

My article “Change Agents” was named one of Hawaii Business magazine’s top-10 stories of 2016. Read the complete list here.


Solving a solar mystery

Sunbeams — what a drag. That’s the conclusion of physicists trying to solve a longstanding mystery: why the sun’s surface rotates more slowly than its inner core. The team argues that energy radiating outward from the sun pushes back slightly as it is expelled, providing just enough resistance to put on the brakes. The hypothesis is supported by a new observation: that the thin “skin” of the sun rotates more slowly than layers just beneath.

Read the rest of my story for Science here.


Two years after shutdown, California oyster farm remains a community hot-button

Conventional wisdom has it that oysters are one of the most environmentally friendly animal proteins. Not only do bivalve shellfish require no nutrients or marine ingredients to be added to the water, as filter feeders they actually clean the water column, removing pollutants and impurities to reduce turbidity. So when one of California’s oldest oyster farms was shut down amid reports that it was degrading the environment, local observers took notice. Two years later, the case is still far from closed in the eyes of the farm’s supporters and its critics.

Read the rest of my story for the Global Aquaculture Advocate here (free log-in account required).

Also posted in Environmental

A catalog of Hawaiian star names

ni-1-02You don’t find many linguists at the International Astronomical Union’s General Assembly, the world’s largest annual gathering of astronomers. But at last August’s event in Honolulu, John Kaipo Mahelona was there. He’d co-authored the definitive catalog of Hawaiian star names and knowledge, Nā Inoa Hōkū, the culmination of three decades of research with co-author Rubellite Kawena Johnson.

Read the rest of my story for Hana Hou here.


Business break-ups


Whether parting ways with a troublesome client, letting go of a contractor or splitting from a partner, ending an important business relationship can feel as stressful and difficult as a “real” breakup. The blending of close business relationships into personal friendships can make a split even more painful. Compounding the possibility of hurt feelings are fears that a nasty separation could mean lost income, lawsuits and bad blood that could harm you and your business far into the future.

Read the rest of my story for Hawaii Business here.



“China’s Relentless Campaign to Pave the Coast”


From Holland’s famous dikes to the construction of New Orleans on a former swamp, humans have a long history of “reclaiming” flooded coastal lands for their own purposes. But in recent years, as the value of wetlands has been better understood, the trend has been moving in the opposite direction, with increasing protection for coastal zones and efforts to restore wetlands to their natural state. But this is not so in China, where rapid growth of both the economy and the population, especially along the coasts, has led to coastal reclamation projects on a massive scale.

Earlier this year, a team of researchers published the results of a satellite survey that tracked changes in China’s coastline between 1985 and 2010. They found that in this period, nearly 7,700 square kilometers of coastal wetlands—about the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined—were lost to land reclamation projects.

Read the rest of my story for Hakai magazine here.


My first byline in Discover


Buff and mahogany swirls and starbursts form distinctive patterns on the shells of hawksbill sea turtles, once common in tropical oceans worldwide. But their numbers dropped because demand for jewelry, hairpieces and other ornaments crafted from their shells made them one of the most widely trafficked species. Now, those same shells can provide critical information about their dwindling populations.

A team of scientists in Hawaii has developed a way to chart the chronology of a turtle’s life using the growth lines in its shell, much like the life span of a giant sequoia might be measured in tree rings.

My story “A Better Turtle Timeline” appears in the August issue of Discover. Read the rest here.


Where were the whales?


Each fall, Pacific Ocean humpback whales migrate from their summer feeding grounds near Alaska and Russia to the warm waters further south. In these places, the whales spend their winters finding mates, breeding, and giving birth to and rearing calves conceived the previous winter. Or, they normally do. This past winter, the whales, by and large, failed to show up.

Whale researchers from around the Pacific are reporting that far fewer whales showed up in their usual wintering grounds than normal. Those that did make it arrived later, departed earlier, and appeared to be far less active than usual, spending less time at the surface and making longer dives.

Read the rest of my story for Hakai here.


“Cool Jobs: Getting to know volcanoes”


In my latest “cool jobs” story for Science News for Students, I profile a vulcanologist who studies magma, an infrasound scientist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory, and an atmospheric scientist at the University of Hawaii who helps predict the spread of vog. Read the full story here.


Thank you, readers!

I was thrilled to see that my reporting on “rejections” in the aquarium-fish trade was among the most-shared stories in Hakai magazine’s first year. Thank you for reading and sharing my work, and read more of Hakai‘s most popular stories here!