Thorium as a new green nuke fuel

With nearly a year gone since Fukushima, I took a look at one possible alternative for nuclear fuel called thorium. Proponents haven’t had much luck getting either private industry or the U.S. labs to build a thorium reactor, but they’re hoping for some help from Congress to get it off the ground. Here’s my report in this Tuesday’s Washington Post.

Scott’s Scientific Discoveries

There’s been lots of ink spilled over the past two months as the centennial of the discovery of the South Pole – and the race between Amundsen and Scott – is remembered. What sometimes is forgotten is that Scott’s expedition, even though it turned out to be a disaster, was primarily a scientific one. His colleagues returned with thousands of samples, new findings and even new theories about the origins of Antarctica. Here’s more in a piece for the Washington Post’s Health/Science page.

Swimming With the Sharks

My first travel piece appeared today in the Washington Post, an account of our recent trip to Holbox Island, Mexico, which is just off the Yucatan Peninsula, not too far from Cancun. We had a great time, and I really have to recommend the food, nature and of course, the chance to get up close with a 24-foot whale shark. Read it here:

Ice, Whales and Fallout For The Washington Post

Here are some recent reports I’ve filed for the Health/Science page at The Washington Post:

Do It Yourself Radiation Monitoring (3/21/11)

King Crabs Invade Antarctica (3/20/11)

Digging for Ancient Whales In a Virginia Quarry (3/14/11)

Tractor Caravan Supplies South Pole Scientists; Robot Replacements Considered (2/8/11)

IceCube Opens Up A Window on Energy In the Universe (2/8/11)




The New Hipsters

The decision whether or not to get a new hip is a tough one. Implant technology, surgical techniques and recovery methods are all much better today then they were even a decade ago, making it easier and faster for patients to resume a normal life. Doctors also know that staying active, rather than hobbling around with hip pain, is important for maintaining overall health. The problem comes when younger patients – those in their 40s and 50s for example – decide to have a hip replacement, they’ll need a second one, called a revision in another 15 or 20 years. These second surgeries carry a slightly higher risk. There’s more in a piece I wrote for today’s Washington Post Health/Science section, including a monster graphic.

Pulsar Kids

Pulsars are the deep-space beacons that many astronomers believe can serve as galactic GPS transmitters – helping to give dimensions to the universe. A group of higher student students from West Virginia, Virginia and several other states are sifting through data from the Green Bank Telescope in a treasure hunt for pulsars. The Pulsar Search Collaboratory has found two pulsars so far, both from underclassmen in West Virginia – one sophomore got to meet President Obama at the White House. Here’s my report for the Washington Post on this great project for future scientists.

Getting Malaria for Cash

Even though summer is officially over this weekend, we’ll probably still have mosquitoes in our backyard for a few more weeks. Imagine if every time you went outside, a bite could make you sick. Malaria kills about a million people a year, mainly in Africa and Asia, and most of them are children. At Walter Reed, volunteers get bitten by malaria-carrying mosquitoes and are then monitored during the “human challenge model” at a Bethesda hotel. Here’s my piece on the program in today’s Washington Post .

Ants on the Attack

My fingers have smushed dozens if not hundreds of tiny odorous house ants (Tapinoma sessile) this summer in my kitchen, and so have lots of Washingtonians. It’s a record year for ants because of the luxuriant plant growth and resulting aphid explosion. Aphids make something called honeydew, a sweet carbohydrate excretion that ants really love. That’s why they look for sugary substances on your kitchen counter. So, more aphids equals more ants. I put this piece together in today’s Washington Post. The print edition has a nice graphic illustration and photo as well. My first newspaper piece in a couple of years. I felt bit of nostalgia this morning walking out onto the lawn, picking up the paper and seeing my byline.