The Conversation

Who invented the Electoral College?

The delegates in Philadelphia agreed, in the summer of 1787, that the new country they were creating would not have a king but rather an elected executive. But they did not agree on how to choose that president. Pennsylvania delegate James Wilson called the problem of picking a president “in truth, one of the most difficult of all we have to decide.” Other delegates, when…


Coronavirus today: Academics shout out

Coronavirus is pretty much all there is for now. Academics at various national and international institutions are weighing in with practical tips (not touching your face, staying healthy, using screen time effectively) to science (the older immune system and R0) to economics (paying for stimulus, sending out checks) to politics (functioning courts, quarantine rights) to arts (pandemic lit). Stories written by academic scholars and researchers,…


Rats! People got to change or rats will prevail

(Editor’s Note: A statewide panel of pest control experts says San Diego and other urban areas in California are experiencing a rat infestation that threatens public health. A report released by Reform California last year said a survey of 23 rodent control companies across the state showed a sharp increases in rat populations everywhere. More than 78 percent of the companies reported an increase of at least…


You’re eating microplastics and don’t know it

We’re increasingly aware of how plastic is polluting our environment. Much recent attention has focused on how microplastics – tiny pieces ranging from 5 millimetres down to 100 nanometres in diameter – are filling the seas and working their way into the creatures that live in them. That means these ocean microplastics are entering the food chain and, ultimately, our bodies. But fish and shellfish…



Reflecting on grief during the holidays

The year-end holidays are a time of social gatherings, traditions and celebrations. They can also be a time of revisiting and reflection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.8 million people die each year in the U.S. If we conservatively estimate four or five grievers per death, there are 11 to 14 million people who are experiencing their first holiday season without…


Why won’t scientific evidence change the minds of Loch Ness monster true believers?

You may have noticed a curious recent announcement: An international research team plans to use state-of-the-art DNA testing to establish once and for all whether the Loch Ness monster exists. And for those locally, check out The Grapevine’s consideration of our local monster wannabe, Hodgee, the friendly Lake Hodges Moster, posted  here… Regardless of the results, it’s unlikely the test will change the mind of…


California is living America’s dystopian future

The Golden State is on fire, which means that an idea of American utopia is on fire, too. Utopias are the good places of our imagination, while dystopias are the places where everything goes terribly wrong, where evil triumphs and nature destroys her own. Frequently utopias and dystopias are the same place, because perfection may not be possible without someone suffering. Ursula LeGuin writes about…


Many people can’t afford wildfire insurance

California’s relatively quiet 2019 fire season ended in October, with serious wildfires in both Northern and Southern California. There are many things Californians can do to prepare for these blazes, but one option – taking out wildfire insurance – is out of reach for many of them. For example, after massive fires in 2018, an estimated 350,000 Californians could no longer get property and casualty…


Learning from Native American wildfire management strategies

For several months in 2019, it seemed wildfires wouldn’t rage across the West as they had in recent years. But then came the dry autumn and California’s Santa Ana and Diablo winds, which can drive the spread of wildfires. Utilities are shutting off power across the state to reduce the risk of damaged equipment or downed trees on wires causing fires. There’s no lack of…