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Jess Romeo

Jess Romeo is a science writer with a passion for literature and a tendency to fall down rabbit holes. Her work has appeared in Popular Science, Undark, and Scholastic classroom magazines.

The Jewel Casket by John William Godward

Recipe for an Ancient Roman Glow Up

Start by saying yes to antioxidant-rich barley pap, and avoid wine tainted with newts.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu, the First Lady of Physics 

Chien-Shiung Wu disproved a fundamental law of physics—a stunning achievement that helped earn her male colleagues (but not her) a Nobel Prize.
Nurses withdraw blood for testing from a volunteer taking part in the AIDSVAX B/E vaccine trial July 18, 2002 at the Boon Mee Clinic in Bangkok, Thailand.

RV144: The Largest HIV Vaccine Trial in History

One of the biggest advances in AIDS vaccine research was a controversial, landmark treatment that tested a new vaccine on 16,000 Thai volunteers.
A beached whale painting

The Tragicomedy of Johanna the Super Whale

How a beached cetacean triggered one whale of a controversy.
An illustration of the Whole Earth Catalog over a 90s computer graphic

The Whole Earth Catalog, Where Counterculture Met Cyberculture

Long before Facebook or Twitter, an L.L. Bean-style catalog for hippies inspired the creation of one of the world’s first social networks.
Depressed teen girl in black clothes playing guitar sitting on bed in her room.

Why Do We Listen to Sad Music?

Scientists investigate the emotional and physical effects of sad music, in an ongoing quest to explain the "paradox of pleasurable sadness."
Disintegrating Head Of David On Pink Background

What’s the Deal with Crypto Art?

Thirty years after the invention of blockchain, an artist sold a JPG using that technology for nearly $70 million. Huh?
Illustration from the cover of Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower

How Octavia E. Butler Became a Legend

The early inspiration and experiences that shaped the visionary science fiction storyteller.
Matilda Joslyn Gage

Erasing Women from Science? There’s a Name for That

Countless women scientists have have been shunted to the footnotes, with credit for their work going to male colleagues. This is called the Matilda Effect.
Test tubes

The Invention of the Test Tube

Chemists learned to blow their own glass vessels in the nineteenth century. It definitely beat using wine glasses.
Karate chop

The Physics of Karate

A human hand has the power to split wooden planks and demolish concrete blocks. A trio of physicists investigated why this feat doesn't shatter our bones.
An illustration of digital viruses

Do Viruses Cheat to Win at Evolution?

How one pair of researchers used game theory to predict the sneaky, underhanded behavior of microbial competitors.
An artist concept of a NASA astronaut on Mars

Why Hasn’t NASA Sent Anyone to Mars?

The Perseverance mission to Mars represents a considerable step forward for the space program. But are rovers as good as it gets?
Annie Montague Alexander

Annie M. Alexander: Paleontologist and Silent Benefactor

An unsung patron of science whose deep pockets and passion for exploring led to the founding of two influential natural history museums.
An image of the uterus and womb, 1908

The “Scientific” Antifeminists of Victorian England

Nineteenth-century biologists employed some outrageous arguments in order to keep women confined to the home.
A collection of rare beer cans

An Archeologist’s Guide to Beer Cans

Here's how to figure out how long it's been since someone left their empties around, only to be dug up later.
a caricature of three women whose depicted clothing satirizes the beginnings of neo-classical fashion influences in England.

Why Are So Many Romances Set in the Regency Period?

The British Regency era lasted less than a decade, but it spawned a staggering number of unlikely fictional marriages.
Vintage engraving of an old fisherman drinking a cup of tea, 1900

What’s the Difference between a Shanty and a Sea Song?

“Soon May the Wellerman Come” is the heart of ShantyTok—but it’s not a sea shanty at all. Two authoritative essays roil the waters.
An illustration of a man sneezing

You Don’t Get Colds from Being Cold

On the persistence of a folk belief.
Actress Dorothy Tutin having an anti-flu injection, 1969

How Scientists Tried to Find a Universal Flu Vaccine

The quest to “conquer” influenza with a shot that could be used every year started out with high hopes, and ended up a hot mess.
Richard P. Strong

The Deadly Bilibid Prison Vaccine Trials

In 1906, physician Richard Strong's already-unethical vaccine experiment went horribly wrong. Then it was swept under the rug.
Atlantic horseshoe crab (Polyphemus occidentalis) illustration from Zoology of New york (1842 - 1844) by James Ellsworth De Kay (1792-1851).

The Horseshoe Crab: Same as It Ever Was?

The seemingly static appearance of these ancient-looking arthropods presents a challenge for scientists who want to study their evolutionary history.
Babies from the City Maternity Hospital being held by the nurses and doctors who had delivered them.

How Scientists Became Advocates for Birth Control

The fight to gain scientists' support for the birth control movement proved a turning point in contraceptive science—and led to a research revolution.
Execution of Louis XVI, 1793

The Decapitation Experiments of Jean César Legallois

This French scientist conducted a series of gruesome experiments in his quest to discover the true limits of life and death.