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 and feature stories are in bold). I’m always happy to hear your responses, questions and critiques. And jokes and gifs too.

Magazine stories:
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)
Nature magazine: “Quantum-theory wars” (27 March 2018, book review)
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)
Nature: “Virtual reality comes of age” (23 January 2018, book review)
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)
Nature: “Astrobiology: Hunting aliens” (28 June 2017, book review)
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Undark: “Bite Marks and Bullet Holes: Outdated Forensic Science in the Courtroom” (2 June 2017)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)

Op-eds, opinion pieces, and essays:
The Hill: “Space, like the oceans, is not too big to become polluted or for ships to engage in conflict” (15 May 2018)
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)
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:
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)
Undark: “Would You Sell Your Soul for a Nobel Prize?” (1 June 2018, book review)
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)
Now.space: “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)
Now.space: “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:
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:
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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