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Michelle Nijhuis

Michelle Nijhuis coedited The Science Writers’ Handbook (Da Capo, 2013) and writes about science and the environment for publications including National Geographic. Her work has won several national awards and been included in three Best American anthologies.


<i>The North Water</i>. By Ian McGuire. Picador, 2017. 272p. PB, $16.

Cruel North

Winter 2017 | Criticism

On August 16, 2016, a cruise ship called the Crystal Serenity departed from Seward, Alaska. The price for a place on its month-long voyage started at $22,000, but the Serenity had no trouble filling its berths: 1,700 people signed up to take part in the first-ever passenger cruise through the Northwest Passage, the straits and sounds that for centuries had tempted and foiled even the hardiest captains and crews. Climate change has so dramatically shrunk the Arctic’s sea ice that the Serenity, with the help of a single icebreaker, was able to make short work of the Northwest Passage. Its passengers sailed smoothly through the polar sunshine, untroubled by fears of an icy death.

Just a week after the uneventful completion of the Crystal Serenity cruise, news broke that an Arctic Research Foundation team, acting on a tip from an Inuk crewmember, had documented the wreck of the HMS Terror in the Canadian Arctic. The ship had last been seen in 1845, when it was part of Sir John Franklin’s famously ill-fated attempt to traverse the last unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage; the Terror and its sister ship became locked in sea ice in Victoria Strait, and all 129 crewmembers, including Franklin himself, froze or starved to death. 

Big Science: Ernest Lawrence  and the Invention that Launched the  Military-Industrial Complex. By Michael Hiltzik. Simon & Schuster, 2015. 518p. HB, $30.

Berkeley and the Bomb

Summer 2015 | Criticism

It was a momentous decision, not only for Lawrence and the university but also for science—and, arguably, for the rest of us. For while Lawrence would have found success at almost any institution, Berkeley was one of the few whose ambitions matched his own. Without Berkeley, and without the support of the state of California, Lawrence might not have realized his vision, and we might not be living with its profound consequences.