Describe your latest project.
Even as I travel and speak about the new paperback edition of The Republican War on Science, my next book will go inside the high-stakes scientific battle over the relationship or relationships between hurricanes and global warming.
What inspires you to sit down and write?
I know it's not the most inspirational of answers, but... deadlines. They're the only way I can work consistently on long projects. As a kid, I used to always try to write novels but never get anywhere, because I didn't have to.
Have you ever taken the Geek Test? How did you rate?
I'm not sure what the Geek Test is so probably not. But if it's an accurate test I ought to rate fairly highly.
Chess or video games?
That is a tough one, as I enjoy both. I guess the answer is video games, and yet I rarely play them. The trouble is, a kind of arms race exists among the best role-playing games to see which one takes the longest to win. Much as I might like to lose myself in a good game, I don't have 200-plus hours to spend on it.
What do you do for relaxation?
Jogging/sports, traveling, and having a social life. In various combinations.
What's your favorite blog right now?
Without a doubt, Jeff Masters's Wunderblog. There's no better blog on hurricanes. I read it every day, and I push "refresh" a lot.
Douglas Adams or Scott Adams?
Douglas. Don't panic.
What was your favorite book as a kid?
It's hard to choose between two that really couldn't be more different: The Lord of the Rings and Great Expectations.
What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
English was my thing, and it was my college major as well. It was always supposed to prepare me to become a writer of some sort. But I didn't realize until much later that I specifically wanted to write about science.
My worst subject was calculus, not because I was particularly bad at it but because I really didn't see the point of it at the time. I think if I were to take that class again now now that I write about science all the time I'd appreciate it a lot more.
What are some of the things you'd like your computer to do that it cannot now do?
A program or website needs to exist that is "smart" about travel, so that it can tell you the most efficient way to get from one place to another including all of the steps: i.e., bus it to the train station, then take a cab once you arrive in New York City. You would just plug in the starting location, the endpoint, and your price range, and this program would find the best options from start to finish. Kind of like MapQuest and Travelocity and a bunch of other things all rolled into one.
Describe the best museum of science and/or industry you've ever visited and what made it great.
The one that sticks best in my mind is the global warming exhibit at the Marian Koshland Science Museum in Washington, D.C. You get a hands-on understanding of the greenhouse effect (believe me, it's possible), and get to run the models for yourself out to the year 2100. As a result, you come out of the exhibit really understanding the science and why it's so worrisome.
By the end of your life, where do you think humankind will be in terms of new science and technological advancement?
Somewhere that I can't conceive of right now. The biggest change will be one that no one expects.