Articles & Writings

I’m Ramin Skibba, a journalist, science writer, and former astrophysicist. Find out more about me here, and check out my articles and news stories below (longer pieces, essays and feature stories are in bold). I’m always happy to hear your responses, questions and critiques. And jokes and gifs too.

UPDATE: These clips are from my freelance work. As of August 2021, I began working as WIRED’s space writer, and you can find my work here:

Magazine stories:
Scientific American: “New Space Radiation Limits Needed for NASA Astronauts, Report Says” (14 July 2021)
Undark magazine: “The Biden Administration Increases the Social Cost of Carbon” (2 March 2021)
Science News magazine: “Solar storms can wreak havoc: We need better space weather forecasts” (26 February 2021, won San Diego Press Club’s award in the magazine feature category)
Knowable magazine: “What legacy lies ahead for Black Lives Matter?” (16 October 2020)
Undark magazine: “What Can Body Language Analysis Really Tell Us?” (7 October 2020)
Nautilus magazine: “Move Over, Mars: The Search for Life on Saturn’s Largest Moon” (October 2020)
Undark magazine: “As Risks of Space Wars Grow, Policies to Curb Them Lag” (6 July 2020, reprinted in The Atlantic & Slate)
Scientific American: “Planet Nine Could Be a Mirage” (5 May 2020, won a San Diego Press Club award)
Technology Review magazine: “How satellite mega-constellations will change the way we use space” (26 February 2020)
Undark magazine: “A Plan to Boost Scientific Integrity in the Federal Government” (2 December 2019)
Hakai magazine: “A Rising Sea Doesn’t Lift All Boats” (20 November 2019)
High Country News: “Q&A: Terry Tempest Williams on erosion as an emotional state” (11 November 2019)
Undark magazine: “At Major Engineering Conferences, Women Are Still Hard to Find” (13 March 2019)
Hakai magazine: “The Search for Life on Mars Begins in Iceland” (12 December 2018, reprinted in French in January 2019)
Quanta magazine: “Interstellar Visitor Found to Be Unlike a Comet or an Asteroid” (10 October 2018)
Undark magazine: “A Calculating Look at Criminal Justice” (26 September 2018; won a 2019 San Diego Press Club award)
Knowable magazine: “Fighting urban violence, one empty lot at a time” (16 August 2018)
Politico magazine: “How Trump’s ‘Space Force’ Could Set Off a Dangerous Arms Race” (22 June 2018)
Smithsonian magazine: “Greening the Future of Outer Space” (1 June 2018)
Undark magazine: “Bringing Science to Bear, at Last, on the Gun Control Debate” (30 April 2018)
Knowable magazine: “Marine wildlife is starting to suffocate” (12 April 2018)
Eos magazine: “History of Mars’s Water, Seen Through the Lens of Gale Crater” (5 April 2018)
Hakai magazine: “When It Comes to Climate Change, the Ocean Never Forgets” (15 March 2018)
Hatch magazine (affiliated with San Diego Magazine): “Elusive Diseases and the San Diego Scientists Hunting for a Cure” (26 February 2018)
Hakai magazine: “Measuring the Risks of Tidal Power” (22 February 2018)
Eos magazine: “Were Mexico’s September Quakes Chance or a Chain Reaction?” (30 January 2018)
Hatch magazine: “UCSD and Scripps Oceanography Launch New Research Centers Around the World” (22 December 2017)
Eos magazine: “Southern Europe’s Groundwater Use Will Become Unsustainable” (13 December 2017)
The Atlantic: “Is Planet Nine Even Real?” (8 December 2017)
Undark: “The Pros and Cons of ‘BPA-Free’” (6 September 2017)
New Scientist: “Solving how fish swim so well may help design underwater robots” (21 August 2017)
Hakai magazine: “Did Climate Change Bring Down Late Bronze Age Civilizations?” (10 August 2017, runner-up for a San Diego Press Club award)
San Diego Home & Garden: “The Force of Fields: The disciplines of art and science come together in local exhibitions” (15 June 2017, runner-up for a San Diego Press Club award)
Undark: “Bite Marks and Bullet Holes: Outdated Forensic Science in the Courtroom” (2 June 2017)
New Scientist: “Nowcasting may help forecast big earthquakes in 53 major cities” (26 May 2017)
Hakai magazine: “California’s surf spots are heading for a wipeout” (20 April 2017, runner-up for a San Diego Press Club award)
Newsweek: “Solitary Confinement Screws up the Brains of Prisoners” (18 April 2017)
New Scientist: “Synchronised swimming seems to make dolphins more optimistic” (9 February 2017)
Nature: “Immigrant and minority scientists shaken by Trump win” (22 November 2016, with Heidi Ledford and Sara Reardon)
Nature: “Pollsters struggle to explain failures of US presidential forecasts” (9 November 2016)
Nature: “The polling crisis: How to tell what people really think” (19 October 2016, reprinted in Scientific American)
Nature: “OSIRIS-REx spacecraft blazes trail for asteroid miners” (2 September 2016, reprinted in Scientific American)
Science Notes: “Fire Mountains” (24 August 2016)
Nature: “Scholarly Olympics: How the games have shaped research” (3 August 2016, reprinted in Scientific American)
New Scientist: “Ageing Milky Way stopped making stars before it ran out of gas” (2 March 2016)
Bay Nature: “Trees Capture Fog — So Why Can’t We?” (30 December 2015)
Eos: “Assessing U.S. Fire Risks Using Soil Moisture Satellite Data” (17 December 2015)
Science: “The most likely spots for life in the Milky Way” (9 December 2015)
Sky & Telescope: “Hubble’s Long Look at Distant Galaxies” (19 January 2015)

Opinion pieces, essays and book reviews:
Undark magazine: “It’s Time for a New International Space Treaty” (22 July 2021)
magazine: “Tales of Nature Altered by Human Hands” (7 May 2021, book review)
Nature: “The demons and devils that haunt scientists’ imaginations” (30 November 2020, book review)
Undark magazine: “For the Next President, Nuclear Weapons Policy Must Be a Priority” (5 November 2020, won San Diego Press Club’s award in the essay/opinion/commentary category)
Nature: “Crunch, rip, freeze or decay — how will the Universe end?” (10 August 2020, book review)
Undark magazine: “A Hopeful Vision of Our Planet’s Future” (31 July 2020, book review)
Aeon magazine: “Does dark matter exist?” (25 June 2020, winner of San Diego Science Writers Association award)
Aeon magazine: “How to optimise your headspace on a mission to Mars” (12 February 2020)
Undark magazine: “Climate Change Is a Political Crisis, Not a Reproductive One” (23 January 2020, runner-up for a San Diego Press Club award, finalist for Covering Climate Now journalism award)
Undark magazine: “Searching for Meaning on Our Pale Blue Dot” (15 November 2019, book review)
Undark magazine: “With New Trump Policy, Is the Moon for the Taking?” (30 May 2019, top pick for Best Shortform Science Writing in op-ed category)
Undark: “Would You Sell Your Soul for a Nobel Prize?” (1 June 2018, book review)
The Hill: “Space, like the oceans, is not too big to become polluted or for ships to engage in conflict” (15 May 2018)
Nature magazine: “Quantum-theory wars” (27 March 2018, book review)
Nature: “Virtual reality comes of age” (23 January 2018, book review)
Nature Astronomy: “Finding my way from astronomy to science writing” (2 January 2018)
San Francisco Chronicle: “Let’s not risk a Cold War in space” (27 October 2017)
Aeon magazine: “To find aliens, we must think of life as we don’t know it” (19 September 2017)
Wired magazine: “Trump’s ‘America First’ Policies Won’t Work in Space” (23 August 2017)
Nature: “Astrobiology: Hunting aliens” (28 June 2017, book review)
Last Word on Nothing: “How March for Science activists could become a force to be reckoned with” (2 May 2017)
Nautilus: “Mining in Space Could Lead to Conflicts on Earth” (19 April 2016)
San Jose Mercury News: “Tech moguls increasingly deciding what scientific research will be funded” (11 December 2015)
Last Word on Nothing: “The Return of Persian Science” (16 November 2015)
San Francisco Chronicle: “President Obama—take nukes off hair-trigger alert” (16 October 2015)
Status newsletter, Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy: “Struggling Against Gender Bias in STEM Fields” (published in August 2015)
Journal of Science Policy and Governance: “Implications of the Midterm Election for Science” (12 February 2015)
Women in Astronomy blog: “One Man’s Perspective on Diversity and Inequality in Science” (13 October 2014)
Union of Concerned Scientists blog: “Will Climate Change Embolden the Environmental Justice Movement?” (9 July 2014)

Articles for online news outlets:
Hakai magazine: “Predicting When the Next Bluff Will Fall” (9 July 2021, reprinted in The Atlantic)
Knowable magazine: “A galactic archaeologist digs into the Milky Way’s history” (10 June 2021)
Voice of San Diego: “A Tale of Two Local Economies” (26 January 2021)
Nautilus magazine: “Making Climate Change Policy More Blue” (December 2020)
Engineering News: “Accuracy Eludes Competitors in Facebook Deepfake Detection Challenge” (December 2020)
Engineering News: “Media Enhanced by Artificial Intelligence: Can We Believe Anything Anymore?” (July 2020)
Hakai magazine: “What’s Bad for Bees Could Be Bad for Marine Life, Too” (4 May 2020)
Knowable magazine: “The complexities of a universal basic income” (3 April 2020)
Smithsonian magazine: “A New Experiment Hopes to Solve Quantum Mechanics’ Biggest Mystery” (5 February 2020)
Inside Science: “Dark Energy Skeptics Raise Concerns, But Remain Outnumbered” (24 January 2020)
Inside Science: “Thirty-Five Years On, the Search for Aliens Continues” (15 November 2019)
Medium: “Robot Truckers Are Here — They Just Happen to Be Human” (1 October 2019, won a San Diego Press Club award)
Quanta: “Big Black Holes Found in the Smallest Galaxies” (23 July 2019)
Inside Science: “What Makes a Modern ‘Moonshot’ Successful?” (11 July 2019) “Is Our AI on the Way to Becoming Control?” (27 June 2019)
Medium: “Smartphone Privacy Is Under Threat at the Border” (7 June 2019, top pick for Best Shortform Science Writing in investigative category)
Smithsonian magazine: “The Disturbing Resilience of Scientific Racism” (20 May 2019; won a 2019 San Diego Press Club award)
Medium: “Are We at Risk for a Space Arms Race?” (18 April 2019)
Inside Science: “How Plate Tectonics Could Make Rocky Planets Hospitable to Life” (27 February 2019)
Smithsonian magazine: “‘The End of Ice,’ and the Arctic Communities Already Grappling With a Warming World” (9 January 2019)
Inside Science: “Simultaneous Blazes, Like California’s Camp and Woolsey Fires, Have Become the New Normal” (3 December 2018)
Knowable magazine: “How a second language can boost the brain” (29 November 2018; reprinted in Washington Post)
Inside Science: “Age-Based Justice System Approach Overlooks That Adolescence Extends Beyond Age 18, Scientists Say” (15 November 2018)
Inside Science: “Scientists Test Tiny Labels for Sorting Out Space Debris” (31 July 2018)
Hakai magazine: “Brown Crabs Are Attracted to Undersea Power Cables” (30 July 2018)
Scientific American: “Oddball Galaxy Puts Dark Matter Theory to the Test” (18 July 2018)
Quanta: “The Young Milky Way Collided With a Dwarf Galaxy” (28 June 2018, reprinted in Wired)
Knowable magazine: “The hidden damage of solitary confinement” (22 June 2018)
Scientific American: “Decades-Old Data Unveils Plumes Spewing from Europa” (14 May 2018)
Quanta: “A Radically Conservative Solution for Cosmology’s Biggest Mystery” (1 May 2018)
National Geographic: “Meet ‘Steve,’ a Totally New Kind of Aurora” (14 March 2018)
Inside Science: “Astronomers Catch Faint Message from Universe’s First Stars” (28 February 2018)
Scientific American: “Enceladus Could Be Teeming with Methane-Belching Microbes” (27 February 2018)
Scientific American: “Olympic Big Air Snowboarders Use Physics to Their Advantage” (2 February 2018)
National Geographic: “How NASA Plans to Send Humans Back to the Moon” (26 January 2018)
Knowable magazine: “Has humankind driven Earth into a new epoch?” (22 January 2018)
Slate: “The Ultimate Escapism: Sci-fi has been warning us about virtual reality addiction since the 1990s” (2 November 2017)
Slate: “Why Are FEMA’s Flood Maps So Horribly Flawed?” (6 September 2017, reprinted in High Country News and Grist)
Inside Science: “Bringing the Plight of Coral Reefs to Our Screens” (19 July 2017)
FiveThirtyEight: “The Next Step In The Search For Aliens Is A Huge Telescope And A Ton Of Math” (21 July 2017)
Quanta: “Researchers Check Space-Time to See if It’s Made of Quantum Bits” (21 June 2017)
Nature: “Fleeting phase of planet formation discovered” (24 May 2017) “New Study Shows How Even Small Asteroids Can Make a Big Impact” (10 May 2017)
Inside Science: “Extraterrestrial life might be hiding in plain sight” (27 April 2017, reprinted on NBC news)
Slate: “Trump Thinks the ‘Best Available’ Data on Climate Change Is From 2003” (29 March 2017) “Maybe Dark Matter Didn’t Kill the Dinosaurs after All” (14 March 2017, won “honorable mention” for best shortform science writing)
New Scientist: “Family tree of stars helps reconstruct Milky Way’s formation” (20 February 2017)
Nature: “The hunt for rogue planets just got tougher” (8 February 2017)
Inside Science: “Astronomers Encourage Cities to Shield Outdoor Lighting” (30 January 2017)
Slate: “Here’s One Way Trump’s Team Could Manipulate Government Data” (26 January 2017)
Inside Science: “Computer Science Technique Helps Astronomers Explore the Universe” (13 January 2017)
New Scientist: “Binary stars shred up and shove off their newborn planets” (13 January 2017)
Nature: “Bat banter is surprisingly nuanced” (22 December 2016)
Nature: “Swiss survey highlights potential flaws in animal studies” (20 December 2016)
Nature: “Stopgap spending bill leaves US scientists in limbo” (7 December 2016)
Nature: “Geneticists hope to unlock secrets of bats’ complex sounds” (18 November 2016)
Nature: “Psychologists argue about whether smiling makes cartoons funnier” (3 November 2016, reprinted in Scientific American)
Nature: “Climate change could flip Mediterranean lands to desert” (27 October 2016, reprinted in Scientific American)
Nature: “Record-breaking common swifts fly for 10 months without landing” (27 October 2016)
Nature: “Kepler finds scores of planets around cool dwarf stars” (21 October 2016, reprinted in Scientific American)
Nature: “Women postdocs less likely than men to get a glowing reference” (3 October 2016)
Nature: “Psychologists fail to replicate well-known behaviour linked to learning” (26 September 2016)
Nature: “Giant ice volcano spotted on dwarf planet Ceres” (1 September 2016)
Nature: “Tiny pterosaur claims new perch on reptile family tree” (31 August 2016, reprinted in Scientific American)
Nature: “Why the US decision to expand marijuana supply for research matters” (12 August 2016, reprinted in Scientific American)
Nature: “Women in physics face big hurdles—still” (1 August 2016)
Nature: “Atom wranglers create rewritable memory” (18 July 2016, reprinted in Scientific American)
Nature: “Poor musical taste? Blame your upbringing” (13 July 2016, reprinted in Scientific American)
Inside Science: “Mars’ Atmosphere Blew Away Billions Of Years Ago” (1 July 2016)
Inside Science: “Sean Carroll’s ‘Big Picture’ Tours Physics And Philosophy” (19 May 2016)
Inside Science: “Interacting Dwarf Galaxies Shed Light On Milky Way Neighbors” (6 May 2016)
Inside Science: “Mathematicians And ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity'” (29 April 2016)
Inside Science: “Physicists Look Beyond WIMPs For Dark Matter” (28 April 2016)
Scientific American: “Saving Iran’s Precious Lake Urmia” (26 April 2016, reprinted in Tehran Times)
Inside Science: “Astrophysicists Probe Expansion Of The Universe” (25 April 2016)
Inside Science: “Our planet might not have always been the biggest rock in the inner solar system” (8 April 2016)
GeoSpace: “Parts of Sierra Nevada Mountains more susceptible to drought than previously thought, study finds” (28 December 2015)
GeoSpace: “Climate change and bark beetles spell doom for Rocky Mountain spruce forests” (21 December 2015)
GeoSpace: “Scientists Map Titan’s Lakes, Revealing Clues to their Origins” (17 December 2015)
Mongabay: “Air pollution causes millions of preventable deaths in East Asia, say scientists” (17 November 2015)
Universe Today: “What’s Coming After Hubble and James Webb? The High-Definition Space Telescope” (12 August 2015)
International Year of Light blog: “How Do Astronomers Use Light to Probe Dark Matter?” (24 July 2015)
Universe Today: “Scientists Map the Dark Matter Around Millions of Galaxies” (17 April 2015)
Universe Today: “How do Gas and Stars Build a Galaxy?” (18 February 2015)
Universe Today: “It Turns Out Primordial Gravitational Waves Weren’t Found” (2 February 2015)
Universe Today: “Like a BOSS: How Astronomers are Getting Precise Measurements of the Universe’s Expansion Rate” (15 January 2015)

Newspaper stories:
The Guardian: “The computer will see you now: is your therapy session about to be automated?” (4 June 2021)
Washington Post: “These people think Trump is too liberal on climate” (13 November 2017)
San Jose Mercury News: “California’s struggle over the chemical BPA continues” (2 July 2016)
Monterey Herald: “Helping otter pups survive El Niño” (5 March 2016)
Monterey Herald: “Middlebury report: Challenging times ahead for coastal communities” (22 February 2016)
Monterey Herald: “Mapping fog: Charting the comings and goings of the coast’s frequent visitor” (18 February 2016)
Monterey Herald: “Fracking: Environmental group startled by pro-oil production radio/TV campaign” (3 February 2016; reprinted in San Jose Mercury News)
Monterey Herald: “Water levels on the rise, but slowly in Monterey County” (26 January 2016)
Monterey Herald: “Monterey conference: Coming together for the bluefin” (18 January 2016)
Monterey Herald: “Rainstorms, tides and Niño are reshaping Monterey Bay beaches” (11 January 2016; reprinted in San Jose Mercury News)
Monterey Herald: “Concerns rise about mudslides in Monterey County” (10 January 2016)
San Jose Mercury News: “Scientists transform space research, technology with fleets of tiny satellites” (6 December 2015; also printed in Santa Cruz Sentinel)
La Jolla Light: “Todd Gloria touts San Diego Climate Action Plan before students at UCSD” (9 June 2015)
La Jolla Light: “Fun In The Deep Blue Sea: Scripps hosts evening with cartoonist/conservationist Jim Toomey” (29 January 2015)

Podcasts, videos and other multimedia:
NASA Visualization Explorer: “Glowing Galactic Clouds” (29 March 2016)
Voice of San Diego podcast: “El Niño Explained” (25 September 2015, participant)
Loh Down on Science podcast: “Comet Update” (5 January 2015, wrote script)
Weekly Space Hangout videos and podcasts published by Fraser Cain at Universe Today (September 2014-December 2015, participant)

Articles for institutional news outlets:
Carnegie magazine: “Perseverance and the Ongoing Search for Life on Mars” (June 2021)
Pomona College Magazine: “Gardener of the Sea” (23 March 2021)
UCSC/Inquiry magazine: “Robotic etiquette” (November 2020)
Pomona College Magazine: “Storm warning” (4 February 2019)
Stanford Engineering: “Stanford-led skyscraper-style chip design boosts electronic performance by factor of a thousand” (9 December 2015)
Stanford Engineering: “Stanford engineers invent process to accelerate protein evolution” (7 December 2015)
Stanford Engineering: “Plasma experiments bring astrophysics down to Earth” (1 December 2015)
Stanford Engineering: “Stanford designs underwater solar cells that turn captured greenhouse gases into fuel” (18 November 2015)
Stanford Engineering: “Graphene key to high-density, energy-efficient memory chips, Stanford engineers say” (23 October 2015)
Calit2 (California Institute for Telecommunications & Information Technology): “New Frontiers of Cognitive Networking” (21 September 2015)
Calit2: “PDEL: Qualcomm Institute’s ‘Gateway to the Social Sciences'” (15 January 2015)
Calit2: “Dr. Irwin Jacobs: Engineer, Innovator, Qualcomm Founder” (6 January 2015)

Guest blog posts:
Out of the Fog blog: “Peter Gleick: top water scientist doggedly pursues conservation” (14 April 2016)
Sustainability Committee blog for American Astronomical Society: “Taking the train to the AAS meeting” (2 January 2015)
Galaxy Zoo blog: “AAAS Symposium in Feb. 2015: Cutting-Edge Research with 1 Million Citizen Scientists” (18 July 2014, cross-posted on the Zooniverse blog)
Public Policy blog for American Astronomical Society: “My Experience with the Congressional Visit Day” (1 April 2014)

For a more complete list or for PDFs, please contact me.

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