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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. He currently works in fisheries management and outreach in New York.

French bulldog puppy sleeping on the carpet

Why Do We Sleep?

A growing consensus among those who hold this view is that sleep is needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, not necessarily a brain.
Tuna fish

What Makes Fish Swim Fast

How do fish swim? Having fins and tails help, But it takes more than that to be fast and avoid danger. Diving into fish physics.
Cat playing Peek a Boo in a box

The Ig Nobels: The Lighter Side of Scientific Research

What exactly are the Ig Nobels? And what can we learn from the Journal of Irreproducible Results and the Annals of Improbable Results?
A dwarf epauletted fruit bat flying

Why Human Echolocators Will Never Be As Precise As Bats

Research seems to indicate that human echolocation is surprisingly sophisticated, and may aid a deeper understanding of hearing and sensory perception.
tattoo artist

Why Doesn’t the FDA Regulate Tattoo Ink?

Are there serious adverse effects to injecting industrial paint under your skin? Nobody really knows. The inks used are not FDA-approved.
Drained Tampa Bay

When the Sea Recedes

When caused by storms, receding oceans are result of an inverted storm surge, a “negative surge.” Storm surges have a few causes.
Floating fire ants

How Fire Ants Form Rafts

Floating masses of fire ants have been observed drifting in the floodwaters resulting from Hurricane Harvey. How does a swarm of fire ants float?
DNA Strand

Using DNA As a Memory Drive

Scientists have successfully encoded a simple movie in bacteria DNA, and played it back. Using DNA for data storage is not as crazy as it sounds...
Prince Rupert Drops

Prince Rupert’s Drops of Mystery

400 years of trying to solve the mystery of Prince Rupert's Drops, bizarrely hard beads of glass that have long captivated scientists.
Costa Rican rainforest

A Clever Way to Conserve Forests

As climate change looms, scientists seek ways to reduce the release of carbon. Sometimes a low-tech approach is overlooked: conserving forests.
Orangutan

What Does it Mean to Be on the Endangered Species List?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List is a global list of species and their conservation status.
Tree in desert

The Environmental Impact of Nuclear War

Even a limited nuclear war would throw enough soot into the atmosphere to block sunlight and lower global temperatures by more than one degree Celsius.
Spider web

Six Surprising Facts About Spiderwebs

Intricate, strong, and rapidly-built, spider webs are more amazing even than they first appear. For a construction job done right, get a spider to do it.
Solar Eclipse

An Eclipse is a Scientific Bonanza

On August 21, 2017, North America’s first total solar eclipse in a while will cross the center of the United States from East to West.
Brain illustration

Are Male and Female Brains Actually Different?

No study, even those finding strong differences, has ever found differences in cognitive ability between male and female brains.
Jupiter great red spot

The Secrets of Jupiter’s Incredible Great Red Spot

Astronomers have worked out that Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a massive storm system, but what keeps a storm going for hundreds of years?
Crow illustration

Crows Are Even Smarter Than We Thought

If crows like the New Caledonian Crow can plan out and create a specialized tool, then they seem to have smarts that rival those of early humans. 
Steak in bed

When You Eat Matters As Much As What You Eat

Trying to lose weight? A new study suggests that our bodies may react just as much to when we eat, as to what food we are consuming.
Warning no swimming sign, Sandy beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Rip Currents: Hidden Danger of the Beach

Beating the heat at the beach? Be careful of rip currents, one of the greatest hazards to ocean ...
Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki in Easter Island, Chile

What Really Happened to Easter Island?

Did Easter Island's inhabitants degrade their ecosystem to the point that the island could no longer support them? Or is there more to the story?
One antler deer skull in water

The Ecology of Death

In nature, death creates its own unique ecosystem. These carcass-based mini-ecosystems are extremely dynamic.
microbiome

Your Gut, Your Emotions

According to an international team led by UCLA researchers, our emotions may be partially driven by an unlikely source: our gut bacteria.
platinum-iridium cylinder

What’s a Kilogram?

At the end of the nineteenth century, the kilogram was conceived as the mass of one liter of water at 4°C, the temperature at which water was densest.
WWI prosthetic arm

A Brief History of Prosthetic Limbs

Prosthetics have come a long way from the wooden big toe found on a a 3000-year-old mummy, or the Etruscan bridgework made of human teeth.
Orca whale

How Killer Whales Kill

Orcas may look cute, but don’t be fooled. They display some of the most sophisticated hunting techniques of any animals on Earth.