Cross Sections


Undark’s home for breaking news, brisk analysis, and reader discussions at the intersection of science and society.

Undark Podcast #11: Bullet Proof

Reporter Lynne Peeples discusses the health and environmental risks posed by the use of lead bullets — and the reasons they’re still so widely used. Also, Seth Mnookin on the anti-vaccine movement and storyteller Hillary Rea on what it’s like to be a standardized patient for medical students.

High Schoolers Have High Hopes for Saving Corals

Climate change, illegal harvesting, coastal development, destructive fishing practices, and ocean pollution have been driving the world’s wild coral populations to the brink. But a high school science class on Long Island is hoping their captive-grown corals might one day help to address the problem.

Issue of Choice Dogs Obamacare Opponents

Opponents of Obamacare often claim that its repeal will expand consumers’ choices surrounding health care and insurance decisions. But dismissals of all the ACA mechanisms that aid private insurers has boxed in politicians casting about for a plan to replace the law. The outcomes could box in consumers too.

Trump Warms to Health Insurance for All

President-elect Trump recently veered away from the standard Republican position on Obamacare, suggesting that he wants it repealed but simultaneously replaced. Still, his goals range from coverage for the neediest to coverage for all, and a new plan for funding quality health care remains unclear.

Minding the Gun Law Gap

Federal law requires criminal background checks on people obtaining guns in stores, pawn shops, and from other licensed dealers. More than a dozen states also require background checks for privately exchanged guns. A new survey finds that the overall rate of background checks is higher in those states.

A Prescription for Better Science

What’s wrong with science? Stanford University’s John Ioannidis has been asking this question for a long time – at least since his 2005 article, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” Seventeen years later, he and a slate of co-authors have some suggestions about how to solve the problem.

Flood-Risk Figures Get Friendlier

A new approach to assessing changes in U.S. flood risks in the past 30 years reveals a progressive rise in risk in the northern U.S. and a drop in much of the southern U.S. And the risk is expressed in elevation measures that make sense to non-scientists rather than in cubic meters per second.

Undark Podcast #10: The Helminth Hackers

Our 10th podcast explores the small community of scientists and freelance self-experimenters investigating the use of parasitic worms in the treatment of a variety of autoimmune disorders. Also on tap: fake news and the strange sensory phenomenon known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).

How to Beat a Fingerprint Scanner

A delicate 3D-printed skin that slips over a user’s hand has been shown to trick fingerprint scanners. Although this technology could potentially be used to breach security systems, the presence of human safeguards in many systems provides a barrier to those looking to use it for criminal activity.