Articles

I've written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines over the last 15 years – these are a few highlights.

Last Hominin Standing
Aeon magazine, June 29, 2015
How likely – or not – was the evolution of Homo sapiens? Was the appearance of an upright, intelligent ape predictable, or a mind-boggling stroke of luck?

Read the article at aeon.co.

Pixels to Sentences
Scientific American, June 22, 2015
Canadian computer scientists have developed a neural-network-based program that can tell you what it's looking at (and gets it right, most of the time).

Read the article at scientificamerican.com.

A New Era of Machine Intelligence
University of Toronto Magazine, June 17, 2015
Neural-network based artificial intelligence is about to change everything – and machine learning pioneer Geoffrey Hinton is leading the way.

Read the article at magazine.utoronto.ca.

The Quantum Revolution
CPA Magazine, June 1, 2015
Quantum computing could be a game-changer – and Canadian researchers in Waterloo's "quantum valley" are leading the way.

Read the article at cpacanada.ca.

Reaching out to E.T.
Slate Future Tense, March 30, 2015
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is a half-century-old quest, but today there’s a new, and often heated, debate: Should we reach out to "E.T."?

Read the article at slate.com.

Pulling Back the Curtain on the Universe
Cosmos magazine, March 23, 2015
Bigger and better than the Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope, set for launch in 2018, will reveal the universe is a new light.

Read the article at cosmosmagazine.com.

Using gravity to explain the origin of time's arrow
Cosmos magazine, December 22, 2014
Time appears to flow, and it does so in just one direction -- but why? A bold new model which suggests that gravity plays a crucial role.

Read the article at cosmosmagazine.com.

Should Chimpanzees be Considered "Persons"?
Discover magazine website, December 5, 2014
A court in New York has ruled that Tommy, a chimpanzee, doesn't qualify as a legal "person" – but the legal wrangling, and the larger philosophical questions that swirl around human-animal relations, are sure to continue.

Read the article at discovermagazine.com.

"Spider" Probes the Early Universe
Scientific American website, November 12, 2014
This winter, a balloon-borne probe called "Spider" will study the early universe. It may even find evidence for gravitational waves that eluded BICEP2 earlier this year.

Read the article at scientificamerican.com.

What Does the Turing Test Measure?
Smithsonian.com, June 10, 2014
A computer program recently mimicked human conversation so well that it was mistaken for a real live human -- but machine intelligence still has a long way to go.

Read the article at Smithsonian.com.

Shakespeare and the Stars
New Scientist, April 19, 2014 (cover story)
How much did Shakespeare know about the structure of the cosmos? Dan Falk explores a range of possibilities, from the mundane (Shakespeare knew his way around the night sky) to the extravagant (Hamlet as an allegory about competing visions of the cosmos).

This article is available to New Scientist subscribers via the magazine's website.

How Does the Brain Tell Time?
Smithsonian magazine, January 2013
Do human beings have a "biological stopwatch" -- and if so, how does it function within the brain?

Read the article via at the magazine's website.

What if the Internet Wakes Up?
Slate.com, September 20, 2012
Neuroscientist Christof Koch argues that the complexity of the Web may have already surpassed that of the human brain. What happens next?

Read the article at slate.com.

The Dawn of the Thinking Machine
The Telegraph, August 21, 2012
This summer, a computer almost passed the Turing intelligence test. Dan Falk examines the narrowing gap between humans and machines.

Read the article via the Telegraph's website.

Dark Side of the Sun
Cosmos Magazine, July 20, 2011
In 2012, for the first time since it was settled, the majestic spectacle of a total solar eclipse swept over enigmatic Easter Island. Dan Falk reports for Cosmos magazine.

Read the article via the Cosmos website.

Alien Notion
The Walrus, December 2010
For more than fifty years, an international network of astronomers has been probing the sky with sensitive radio telescopes, listening for any sign of intelligent life beyond Earth. What happens if they find it?

Read the article via the Walrus website.

End of Days: A Universe in Ruins
Cosmos magazine, Oct. 23, 2008
When -- and how -- will the universe end? Will the ultimate apocalypse arrive with a bang, or a whimper? Dan Falk looks into our far, far cosmic future. (Note: This story won a 2009 Science Writing Award from the American Institute of Physics.)

Read the article via the Cosmos website.

The God Particle
The Walrus, December 2012
Physics books -- Neil Turok's The Universe Within is the latest -- sell like hot cakes, even though we struggle to understand their content. Are we hoping to find more than just quarks and quasars between their covers?

Read the article via The Walrus's website.

Did ancient astronomers build Stonehenge?
Astronomy, July 2008
The driving force behind the building of Stonehenge was likely more theater than science.

View the article: PDF (92 KB)

God's Laboratory

University of Toronto Magazine, Winter 2008
This spring, an international team of physicists, including several from U of T, will launch the most ambitious science experiment ever devised. Their goal: to unlock the secrets of the universe.


View the article: PDF (80 KB)

He Changed the World Forever

The Globe and Mail, June 25, 2005 (a double-page spread from the newspaper)
Newton's laws used to rule. Then, 100 years ago, an unassuming patent clerk named Einstein wrote a physics paper that revolutionized the way we think about the universe. Eventually, it also turned the old man with the wild hair into a superstar scientist and a living icon.

View the article: PDF (108 KB)

Totally Genius
The Walrus, June 2005
The smartest scientists in the world still haven’t solved a basic question: are minds like Shakespeare, Mozart, and Einstein born or made?

View the article: PDF (100 KB)

The Anthropic Principle’s Surprising Resurgence
Sky & Telescope, March 2004
Intellectual surrender or cutting-edge cosmology? The pros and cons of including life in our theories of the cosmos.

View the article: PDF (92 KB)

Worlds Apart
Nature, 17 April 2003
Our knowledge of planets outside our Solar System has been transformed in the past few years. But these new-found worlds don't look much like our planetary neighbours, and no one is quite sure why.

View the article: PDF (80 KB)

Design or Chance?
The Boston Globe Magazine, Oct. 21, 2001
A pseudoscientific challenge to evolutionary theory – "Intelligent Design" – is raising questions about the origin of life and sparking debate in academia.


View the article: PDF (100 KB)