Articles
  2007
America, Found and Lost, National Geographic, May 2007 “In movies and textbooks the [Jamestown] colonists are often depicted as arriving in a pristine forest of ancient trees, small bands of Indians gliding, silent as ghosts, beneath the canopy. ... In fact, the three English ships landed in the middle of a small but rapidly expanding Indian empire called Tsenacomoco.”
The Rise of Big Water, Vanity Fair, May 2007 (PDF: 5.6 MB) “Rather than forcing local factories to clean up after themselves, [the Chinese city of] Changzhou decided to outsource the job to a French company named Veolia—one of a handful of corporate giants now scrambling to take over water systems around the planet, especially in the often polluted and water-short developing world. ... All too often, the results [of the takeovers] do not resemble the cheerful predictions in Economics 101.”
Mystery Towers in Peru Are an Ancient Solar Calendar, Science, 2 March 2007 (PDF: 300KB) The two viewpoints are positioned so that on the winter and summer solstices the sun rises and sets over the towers on the opposite end of the line, establishing the beginning and midpoint of the solar year. The western viewpoint was at the end of a 40-meter-long, windowless corridor that wrapped around the outside wall of a structure filled with ceremonially displayed ceramic figurines of soldiers.
Clovis Technology Flowered Briefly And Late, Dates Suggest, Science, 2 March 2007 (PDF: 100KB) “All of the new dates—as well as all of the previous acceptable dates—occurred within, at most, a 450-year band. Indeed, they say, Clovis probably existed for as little as 200 years, between 11,050 and 10,800 radiocarbon years B.P.—a cultural flowering both somewhat later and considerably shorter than previously thought.”
  2006
Spam + Blogs = Trouble, Wired, September 2006 “Some 56 percent of active English-language blogs are spam, according to a study released in May by Tim Finin, a researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and two of his students. ‘The blogosphere is growing fast,’ Finin says. ‘But the splogosphere is now growing faster.’”
The Long, Strange Resurrection of New Orleans, Fortune, 21 August 2006 (PDF: 1.3 MB) “Crucial to the success of any [rebuilding] plan would be political leaders with a minimal reputation for color-blindness and competence. Unfortunately, southern Louisianans, black and white, rarely elect them; they’re prone to choosing eminences like former state legislator David Duke, founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, and William Jefferson, the first member of Congress to be accused of keeping $90,000 of Nigerian bribe money in his home freezer.”
How Click Fraud Could Swallow the Internet, Wired, January 2006   “All of which is to say that little blue text links, a type of advertising that barely existed five years ago, are poised to become the single most important form of marketing in the US - unless click fraud ruins it.”
  2005
Unraveling Khipu’s Secrets, Science, 12 August 2005 “‘If khipu can be deciphered, this is the kind of approach that will do it,’ Urton says of his methods, which have yielded the first-ever decipherment of a khipu‘word.’”
The Coming Death Shortage, The Atlantic Monthly, May 2005 In tomorrows world, if the optimists are correct, grandparents will have living grandparents; children born decades from now will ignore advice from people who watched the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. ... Trying to envision such a world, sober social scientists find themselves discussing pregnant seventy-year-olds, offshore organ farms, protracted adolescence, and lifestyles policed by insurance companies.
The Resurrection of Indie Radio, Wired, March 2005 “[Hosted by former Sex Pistol Steve Jones,] Jonesy’s Jukebox is just possibly a peek at the future of radio itself. Which may be the weirdest news of all—not so much that a Sex Pistol is, once again, helping to shake the dust off rock and roll, but that music radio could even have a future.”
Provocative Study Says Obesity May Reduce U.S. Life Expectancy, Science, 18 March 2005 (PDF: 205K) “A 10-person research team ... predicts [in the New England Journal of Medicine] that U.S. life expectancy could ‘level off or even decline’ by 2050.”
Asia Jockeys for Stem Cell Lead, Science, 4 February 2005 (PDF: 703K) “Largely below the radar screen, the emerging economies of South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and China are fast becoming major centers for human [embryonic-stem] cell research.”
Oldest Civilization in the Americas Revealed, Science, 7 January 2005, (PDF: 212K) “The concentration of cities in the Norte Chico is so early and so extensive, the archaeologists believe, that coastal Peru must be added to the short list of humankind’s cradles of civilization, which includes Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and India. Yet the Peruvian coast ... is in some ways strikingly unlike the others.”

2004
Unnatural Abundance, New York Times, 25 November 2004 (PDF: 740K)

 

“Until the arrival of the Mayflower, continental drift had kept apart North America and Europe for millions of years. Plymouth Colony... reunited the continents... The ensuing biological tumult... had profound consequences.”
A Remote Control For Your Life, Technology Review, July/August 2004 (PDF: 408K) “Takeshi Natsuno wants your wallet. Money, credit cards, driver’s license, pictures of Junior and Sis—the works. ... But Natsuno is no thief. He’s the managing director for i-mode strategy at NTT DoCoMo, the biggest cell-phone company in Japan—and one of the most innovative telecommunications firms anywhere in the world.”

Letter from Japan: Near-term Nanotech, Technology Review, July/August 2004 (PDF: 184K)

“Clinton intended the [nanotechnology] initiative to stimulate scientific progress and economic growth in the United States. But the biggest beneficiary instead may be Japan.”

Letter from Japan: Humanoids for the Home, Technology Review, May 2004 (PDF: 75K) “Everyone in Japan knows the exact date on which the Age of Robots began: April 7, 2003, Astro Boy’s birthday.”
Diversity on the Farm, Political Economy Research Institute (Univ. of Mass.), May 2004 Tortillas are to Mexico what flaky-crusted bread is to France or short-grained rice is to Japan: a food that is an emblem of home. Thirty years ago, hand-made tortillas from local maize were served at almost every Mexican dinner table. Today, bizarre though it sounds, it has become almost impossible to get a good tortilla in Mexico, even in culinary centers like Mexico City.
The Bluewater Revolution, Wired, May 2004 “Preventing catastrophic overfishing ... will demand a shift as dramatic as that of the agricultural Green Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s—a Blue Revolution that is already under way.”
2003
Cracking the Khipu Code, Science, 13 June 2003 (PDF: 260K)

“If Urton was right, khipu were unique. They were the world’s sole intrinsically three-dimensional ‘written’ documents ... and the only ones to use a binary system for ordinary communication.”

Note: Puzzlingly, Science did not print one of the illustrations online, although I obtained permission from the author. That illustration can be seen here. “Red rainbow,” a term not explained in the article, refers to one of two classes of color in Inka culture.
Surveillance Nation, Part I and Surveillance Nation, Part II (written with Dan Farmer), Technology Review, April and May 2003 (PDFs: 760K/520K) “...the list of monitoring devices employed by and for average Americans is already long, and it will only become longer. Extensive surveillance, in short, is coming into being because people like and want it."
The Year The Music Dies, Wired, February 2003

“‘How much you want to bet that the entire music industry collapses?’ he asked me. ‘And I mean soon—like five, ten years. Kaboom!’”

The First Cloning Superpower, Wired, January 2003 “One of the world’s fastest-growing and most important stem-cell centers is a converted garage located on the campus of Peking University. Tacked to the front door, a handwritten sign claims the lab is a storehouse for samples of the AIDS virus. ‘Keeps away random visitors,’ explains Deng Hongkui....”
2002
Homeland Insecurity, The Atlantic Monthly, September 2002 (PDF: 211K) “‘In six months you’d be able to break into Fortune 500 companies and government agencies all over the world,’ [Bruce] Schneier said, chewing his nondescript meal. ‘It would work! It would work—that’s the awful thing.’”

Note: This almost-final version of the article differs very slightly from the final printed version. I forgot to obtain a final PDF from the magazine.

Has GM Corn ‘Invaded’ Mexico? and Transgene Data Deemed Unconvincing, Science, 1 March and 12 April, 2002 (PDFs: 170K/ 234K)

“Welcome to the ‘maize scandal,’ which is driving the battle over genetically modified (GM) crops to new heights of acrimony and confusion. ... ‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ says Peggy Lemaux, a UC Berkeley molecular biologist ...‘There’s been a lot of fighting about transgenics, but this is something else.’”

Note: a brief third article in the series can be found here (PDF: 99K).

1491, The Atlantic Monthly, March 2002 (Size: 161K) Indians were here far longer than previously thought, these researchers believe, and in much greater numbers. And they were so successful at imposing their will on the landscape that in 1492 Columbus set foot in a hemisphere thoroughly dominated by humankind.”

Note: This almost-final version of the article differs very slightly from what was printed in the magazine. I use it here because the illustrator, C.F. Payne, was leery of letting me post final versions of his fine drawings.

   
 
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