In The Discoveries, Alan Lightman writes a forward to what he considers the twenty-two most consequential scientific discoveries of the 20th Century. From Max Planck’s discovery of the quantum to Linus Pauling’s theory of the chemical bond, Lightman walks his readers through the backgrounds of the scientists, the gritty details of the experiments, and the effect these papers had on the arc of scientific pursuit. Then, following every forward, he presents the actual paper in question, mostly in full.

The format — what I call a science preface — is one of my favorite types of science writing, but it’s…

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

Exactly ten years ago, I met Eric Stackpole. We were introduced by a mutual friend who suspected we’d get along due to our overlapping interests in ocean exploration and technology:

“You should meet a friend of mine who is building a submarine robot in his garage.” he said.

The meeting sparked a fire. Eric and I became fast friends and we’ve been making things together ever since, projects that would eventually become OpenROV, Open Explorer, and (with a much larger team) Sofar Ocean. The story of that adventure is now well documented. It was one of the most rewarding experiences…

A 21st Century approach to scaling impact.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Receiving an email at 4:45am isn’t usually cause for excitement. But for Mrs. Casuga, a high school teacher in Hayward, CA, it was a big deal.

This early-morning notification delivered unexpected and important news: her class project on DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding website for high school teachers, was fully funded. Her original goal? To raise $1,420 dollars to cover the field trip costs of a bus, lunch, and tickets to the California Academy of Sciences for her students, made up of mostly special needs students and many who speak English as a second language.

Like many educators, Mrs. Casuga had a…

Scientists and engineers are building new tools — and a new way of thinking — to protect the natural world: Conservation technology is on the rise

Photos: Courtesy of author

“We’ve never seen this before,” Roland Knapp said from behind his head-mounted screen display. “There’s an aggregation of at least 300 tadpoles here, depth of four meters, temperature is four degrees Celsius.”

We couldn’t see what was on his screen. Our view was the vast, snow-covered expanse of backcountry Yosemite, but we could feel Knapp’s excitement. …

I submitted the following statement to the Subcommittee on Environment Committee on Science, Space, and Technology as part of a House hearing: Ocean Exploration: Diving to New Depths and Discoveries.

Chairwoman Fletcher, Ranking Member Marshall, members of the Environment Subcommittee, and members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, thank you for this opportunity to testify on this important issue.

I need to start with a disclaimer. I am not a formally trained scientist or engineer. My path to this hearing is unusual and worth explaining. It begins in an unexpected place — not a graduate school lab…

The redesigned Open Explorer

We built the Open Explorer platform to empower the next generation of global explorers.

There has never been a better time to be a curious person. Science has pushed our collective understanding further than we thought possible, but even as science races ahead, there’s a persistent hindrance to our progress: access. For too many, taking part in the scientific process is seen as a distant and daunting endeavor.

Even the term “exploration” can seem dusty, dated, and decidedly inaccessible. If asked to name a contemporary explorer, most people would be stumped. Few are aware that 95 percent of the ocean is unexplored, that thousands of rivers remain unknown to science, and that research is…

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Last week, TechShop announced that it was shutting the doors of its locations around the country, and filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The announcement rippled through the maker world with stunned sadness. TechShop, for the uninitiated, was a central pillar of what the “Maker Movement” was all about: they were the professional prototyping and production shop for everyone — a membership gym for geeks. Each location filled with just about any tool you could need: full wood and metal shops, laser cutters, electronics benches, sewing machines, waterjets and everything in between. …

Throughout human history, there’s never been a better time to be a creative person.

In a world that’s constantly reminding you of everything that’s going wrong, it’s worth bringing up that simple point. If you have an idea — from the quirky to the bold — it’s easier than ever to make it real. If there’s something you want to exist in the world that doesn’t already, there’s never been a better time to make it happen.

This fact is true for films and music, products or experiences. In the span of fewer than twenty years, the fundamental physics of…

A playbook for turning administrative headwinds into lasting marine conservation and protection.

Rose Island. NOAA photo by Hatsue Bailey

First the bad news. The public comment period for Executive Order 13795, which puts all the designated Marine Monuments (since April 2007) under review, is now closed. Over 400,000,000 square acres of newly designated marine protected areas in US coastal waters are now up for grabs.

But there is hopefull news, too. Nearly 100,000 comments are loudly echoing the same message: don’t remove these designations. Marine protected areas (MPAs) work to restore ecosystems and, if anything, need to be expanded. Americans clearly care about preserving these places for future generations. Regardless of what the Trump administration does with our MPAs…

Why it matters now more than ever.

Earlier this week, Janet Coffey published a piece on the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation website explaining the foundation’s thinking behind funding Science Learning.

At any age, puzzlements and curiosities propel our efforts to learn science. Unfortunately, too often, these drivers fall way to facts and information. “Science” becomes a noun, a collection of information, rather than a verb, something that we actively do to make sense of the world. Of course, science is both — it is our search for understanding and the products we discover along the way. Both are important, as is understanding how they relate.

In…

David Lang

Entrepreneur and writer working at the intersection of science, conservation, and technology.

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