I'm Chels. I blog about science, art, tennis, and my adventures in journalism. Officially, I'm a Science Writer at Brookhaven National Lab and I blog for them, too. Unofficially, I'm pretty awesome.

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Lake trip, Day One

We drove out to the lake cabin in Northern Idaho again this year for our birthday week. Friends, family, boats, laughing, swimming, drinking…what could be better? Nothing. That’s what.

A few favorite moments from the drive up and our first night at the cabin:

- Driving east from Portland, the views down the Columbia River Gorge were stunning. The hills plunge straight into the river, and it takes my breath away every time I see it. At over point, when we were talking about how beautiful it all was, Charlie broke out into song: “Roll on, Columbia, roll on!” Toph and I joined in. “Roll on, Columbia, roll on! Your power is turning our darkness to dawn! So, roll on, Columbia, roll on!” It’s basically a propaganda song for the Bonneville power company that we all learned as children in the Northwest. It cracked us up that that’s what they were teaching us, but hey, I guess it stuck.

- Outside Umatilla, we passed what longtime readers of my blog know is one of my favorite signs: BLOWING DUST AREA NEXT 40 MILES. I always chuckle because I’ve never seen blowing dust here, but also, so what? What am I supposed to do if that happens? I’ve never been clear on that. Today, though, there were little dust cyclones in the fields all over the place. It looked like some weird dystopian desert landscape in a movie.

- The fields of corn on the northern Oregon border were lined with these strange newfangled curvy irrigation wheels, which looked like dinosaur skeletons when the sun hit them just right. It was awesome and a little creepy, especially combined with the dust cyclones.

- Another great sign we passed just over the Washington border: LITTER AND IT WILL HURT. Whoa. I mean, litter is a real problem, but evidently the state has never heard that old adage about getting more flies with honey than all caps threats on the side of the road.

- After the Cascade Mountains, Oregon becomes a desert, and so does Washington. And then, as you make your way north into Idaho, the flat, brown land begins to be dotted with pine trees again. Charlie said this is her favorite part of the drive, just as the trees trickle back into the landscape. She said, “It feels like I was in one of those covered wagons for six years and we finally made it. Like, I’d say, “I can almost smell water, Pa.” She delivered that last line so wistfully, I laughed for a solid minute.

- When we got to the lake, we hung out a while waiting for friends to arrive. Even though the sun was mostly gone when they got here, we hiked down to the dock to jump into the lake for a quick, cool swim. On the way down, we found an apple tree and picked a bunch for pie tomorrow, swimming over to retrieve the ones we accidentally shook off the branches into the lake.

If today was any indication, this is going to be a great week.

First night at the lake

Charlie let me paint her nails for my birthday. #ble$sed

On the way through the Gorge to the lake for a week. Charlie said for our bathroom break, “We’re stopping at Dinty’s because it’s cracking me up.”

Oh my god, Charlie broke her real phone and now she has this hilarious little nugget of plastic to use. I tried texting with it and gave up out of frustration. Wow, we have come a long way.

Decan hates it when I try to take selfies with him.

The Aftershocks

Seven of Italy’s top scientists were convicted of manslaughter following a catastrophic quake. Has the country criminalized science? 

This is a stunning story, written by David Wolman for Matter. Not only is it absolutely insane to me that anyone could convict scientists for inaccurately predicting something as difficult to predict as an earthquake, but this bit about the compounding factor of how hard it is to describe the subtleties of prediction in the Italian language is fascinating: 

"Communicating forecasts in Italian is extra challenging. In English, we can use forecast instead of prediction to convey uncertainty. In Italian, there is only previsione, which has a strong deterministic connotation.

The divine cruelty of what happened in L’Aquila is that when Boschi said that a major earthquake was “improbable,” he was — and remains — correct. But where a career scientist hears the word improbable and knows that rare events do occur, a non-scientist hears improbable as shorthand for ain’t gonna happen.”

I also absolutely love the animation (done by rebeccamock). I saw the GIF on my dashboard days ago and couldn’t stop thinking about how cool it was, and then I happened upon the story from a different link and was so pleased that it was made for this article. 

Go read this story. It’s truly unbelievable.

(via ktothestein)


Taken from Drugs, a volume in the Life Science Library, 1969
(originally published 1967)

Background artwork by Donald Miller and Yale Joel, collaged by David Gordon and Nancy Genet


My mountain

It’s been hot and hazy in Portland, so I hadn’t seen Mount Hood yet. This morning as I drove to Toph and Charlie’s, I came up over a ridge and there it was on the horizon, watching over the valley. I shouted, “Oh, shit!” It shocked me. It’s just so majestic.

It’s looking a lot browner these days. The summer heat wave has melted a lot of its snow, but it was great to see my mountain again. I’ve missed it.

We meet again, Evil One.

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