If You Believe in Me, I’ll Believe in You

by Kathryn on November 13, 2017

The latest issue of Muse magazine focuses on artificial intelligence. This topic is one of my absolute favorites to think and write about. Way back in high school, I did a big project on the question: “will computers ever be able to think?” At the time, my opinion was “no.” I didn’t think computers could ever have the capacity to match human creativity or emotion. Now, I’d say “yes, they already think!” without hesitating. Artificial intelligence is leagues beyond where it was in the 1990s. But my concept of what “thought” entails has also changed. Now, I feel that what computers do is an alien kind of thought.

A little over a year ago, I was working on pitching a book proposal. The book was going to be about artificial intelligence for kids. That proposal didn’t end up getting accepted, though I plan to tweak it and resubmit at some point. However, when the Muse AI issue was announced, I turned my idea for the book into an article. The article discusses deep learning and the current state of AI technology. I also wrote a sidebar about whether computers will become (or already are) self-aware. The sidebar ends with one of my favorite quotes from Lewis Carroll: “If you believe in me, I’ll believe in you.”

Unfortunately, belief may not matter much when it comes to AI. We may not get a chance to decide whether AI is truly self-aware or thinking. It may surpass our own intelligence so quickly that we don’t know what hit us. Here’s a fantastic post about the potential dangers (and potential upsides) of superintelligence.




Microbes, Microbes, Everywhere!

by Kathryn on October 12, 2017

I’ve spent a lot of time recently writing about the microbiome. My June article on Cool Jobs in forensics focused mostly on researchers developing crime-solving tools based on microbial fingerprints or microbial residue. I wrote another article on the same topic for Muse. It will come out in January.

My latest Science News for Students feature article is all about how microbes can help keep people healthy. I had a lot of fun with the gross-out factor. What kid doesn’t giggle about poop and snot? Well, turns out that these yucky things can be good for you.

Here it is:

Good Germs Lurk in Gross Places

I’ve got another short news story coming out soon about archaea — a type of microbe usually known for lurking in hot springs and glaciers. But they also live on human skin. I’ll post a link here once it’s published!

UPDATE: Here it is:

Sweat-slurping ‘aliens’ live on your skin

The article I wrote for Muse is out now as well. Here’s the first page:




Seven Books in One Month

September 20, 2017

I guess five articles in a few weeks doesn’t seem so impressive any more! I had seven books come out in August 2017. Here they are: Robotics Engineer, Cutting Edge Careers, ReferencePoint Press, August 2017 Virtual Reality Developer, Cutting Edge Careers, ReferencePoint Press, August 2017 Real-World STEM: Develop Fusion Energy, ReferencePoint Press, August 2017 Kimberly […]

Read the full article →

Five Articles in Three Weeks

June 14, 2017

Apparently, I’ve been busy! In a span of three weeks, five of my articles came out on Science News for Students. June 8, 2017: Cool Jobs: New tools to solve crimes June 5, 2017: Underwater robot vaccuums up lionfish June 1, 2017: Are fidget spinners tools or toys? May 25, 2017: Cool Jobs: Counting calories and Explainer: All about the […]

Read the full article →

Robots and Cyborgs

April 20, 2017

Recently, I’ve written two articles for Science News for Students about robotics: Teaching robots right from wrong and Wired and weird: Meet the cyborg plants Artificial intelligence has always been one of my favorite things to learn about and think about. When my editor at Science News for Students said she’d like to see a feature on […]

Read the full article →

A Love of Language and Letters

March 9, 2017

A very special article just came out in Muse magazine: “Communing with the Letter Spirits.” This piece is about Douglas Hofstadter’s Letter Spirit project, which was an attempt to model human creativity through a computer program that created its own fonts. But for me, the meaning goes much deeper. When I was a teenager, I […]

Read the full article →

Climate Change vs Fracking

February 13, 2017

Four years ago, I attended a fascinating talk by Richard Alley about melting ice and climate change at the AAAS conference in Boston. Read my post about it here. When I found out that Muse magazine was going to focus an upcoming issue on climate change, I immediately remembered that talk and pitched an article […]

Read the full article →

How to Make a Dream Journal

November 21, 2016

I had the most awesome college job ever. I worked in the library repairing books. An elderly gentleman named Chuck taught me how to reinforce spines, replace covers, and repair torn pages (with a tiny iron and special fabric – never scotch tape!). I even learned some binding techniques. I loved that job. For Muse’s […]

Read the full article →

Happy Halloween

October 28, 2016

Ever since I first learned that a fungus can turn ants into zombies, I’ve wanted to write about it. I finally got the chance! My editor wanted a piece on “real zombies” in time for Halloween. This was a dream assignment for me. I love bugs, especially spiders. Ants are pretty cool, too. Here are […]

Read the full article →


October 25, 2016

Hooray! Author copies of my most recent book arrived over the weekend: The Science of Dinosaurs, part of the Super Awesome Science series from ABDO publishing. The book is aimed at grades 3 to 6, a much younger age range than my usual audience. And it’s about dinosaurs. My son (almost 2) loves dinosaurs. So […]

Read the full article →