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James MacDonald

James MacDonald received a BS in Environmental Biology from Columbia and a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University, spending 4 years in Central America collecting data on fish in mangrove forests. His research has been published in scholarly journals such as Estuaries and Coasts and Biological Invasions. Until his death in the fall of 2019, James worked in fisheries management and outreach in New York.

archaeologists Franck Goddio and his team inspect the colossal red granite statue of a pharaoh of over 5 metres height, weighing 5.5 tons, and shattered into 5 fragments. It was found close to the great temple of sunken Heracleion.

The Lost City of Heracleion

Once a bustling metropolis, this long-lost Egyptian city flooded, sank, and was forgotten -- until archeologists rediscovered it.
Illustration of reservoir in Austrian mountains supplying water for storage in hydroelectric turbines

Renewable Resources Call For Increased Power Storage

Solar and wind power are great renewable options, but to store the energy that's produced, we're going to to need bigger batteries.
A billet of highly enriched uranium

What Is Enriched Uranium?

And what does it mean that Iran has enriched uranium past the 4.5% level?
An illustration of vitamin pills

How Dietary Supplements Can Cause More Harm Than Good

The real problem with useless vitamins and other supplements? A psychological side effect known as "illusory invulnerability."
Sand Octopus (Octopus kaurna)

How to Make Quicksand Like an Octopus

When it comes to camouflage, the sand octopus has some truly amazing techniques.
Hail

The Science of Hail

How does this mysterious precipitation form?
Mount Saint Helens, United States

Could a Trillion Trees Really Save the Planet?

Scientists think that planting trees could reverse climate change, but planting trees isn't as simple as it sounds.
A profile illustration of a child's head filled with science and education icons

Big Brains Are Hard to Grow

Human brains take a long time, and a lot of energy, to grow to their mature state. This may well be an evolutionary tradeoff for having such big brains.
A woman looking out a train window into the sunset with vitamin d pills approaching

How Does the Body Make Vitamin D from Sunlight?

A Curious Reader asks: How exactly does exposure to sunlight cause the the human body to synthesize Vitamin D3?
A giant squid

Why Deep-Sea Creatures Get Weirdly Giant

A giant squid sighting has us wondering all over again: how on earth do deep-sea creatures get so large?
The Mars Curiosity Rover

The Meaning of Methane on Mars

Curiosity rover's recent report of methane on Mars isn't the first time the gas has been indicated. Does it necessarily mean that Mars harbors life?
A bark scorpion in Arizona

How Does a Scorpion Decide When to Sting?

There are actually two decisions to make: whether to sting at all and whether to use prevenom or full venom.
Climbers ascending Mount Everest

Mount Everest’s Death Zone

The zone above 8,000 meters is known among mountaineers as the “Death Zone.” Why do most deaths in the high mountains occur at these extreme heights?
A carnival cruise ship

The High Environmental Costs of Cruise Ships

Cruise ships pose many environmental concerns, from waste disposal to toxic paint to the creation of noise that can harm marine life.
Blue viper snake eating a frog, Indonesia

How Snakes Swallow

A snake’s ability to swallow enormous prey has long been a source of fascination, but the common explanation that they dislocate their jaws is a myth.
Eastern phoebe nest with one brown-headed cowbird egg

The Sky’s Creepiest Parasites

Are you a bird? Is your chick acting weird? You might be victim of a brood parasite.
A tornado in a field

Why Tornadoes Are So Difficult to Predict

Scientists and weather forecasters have been trying to understand tornadoes for over 100 years, but the average advanced warning is still only 14 minutes.
A constellation of satellites

Losing the Night Sky

Does an increase in satellites mean we soon won't be able to see the stars?
An archerfish shooting water at a bug

The Amazing Eyes of the Archerfish

The archerfish has an unusual skill: it spits water directly at its prey, knocking the bugs out of the sky. But how?
A geometrid moth caterpillar

Camouflage Gets Weird

Some animals use chemical camouflage, even altering the way they smell in order to avoid predation.
Scientist viewing plant leaf in a petri dish under a inverted microscope in a laboratory.

Artificial Photosynthesis

What is artificial photosynthesis, how does it work, and why would we need it?
A peacock

Green Birds Aren’t Really Green

Some of the most dazzling coloration you see in birds doesn’t actually exist.
A landfill with smoke in the background

The Lowdown on Municipal Trash Incinerators

Burning household trash in massive incinerators saves landfill space, but it also introduces a host of other waste management issues.
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, Brooklyn, NY

How Urban Agriculture Can Meet Its Potential

New York City's urban agriculture has not been found to provide benefits to either hungry people or the environment. How could city farms work better?
A land snail

The Hidden Extinction Crisis

The extinction crisis might be even worse than we think, because we tend to mostly pay attention to terrestrial vertebrates.