Coffey has written for many national outlets, as detailed below.
Science and Health at Forbes.com:
- Longevity and Aging
- Longer Telomeres, A Heavily Hyped Goal Of Anti-Aging Tonics And Salves, Create A Predisposition To Cancer. Dr. Titia de Lange’s recent work, published in the journal eLife, provides the first proof that, by limiting cell division, telomeres repress cancer.
- Aging Mice Have Memory And Cognitive Declines Reversed With An Experimental Drug. A small-molecule drug named ISRIB quickly and safely restores to old mice youthful levels of cognitive function.
- Longevity Linked To Daily Glucosamine/Chondroitin In An Epidemiological Study. Mortality data from an epidemiological study of nearly 17,000 patients showed that people who took a supplement had an all-cause mortality rate that was 39% lower than that of other study participants. For cardiovascular-related deaths the supplement group’s mortality rate was 65% lower.
- General Health
- Social Distancing Is Wearying — For Humans, And Maybe Even For Fish. A recent study by an international research team led by Erin Schuman of Frankfurt’s Max Planck Institute for Brain Research shows that zebrafish, too, may hate to be alone long-term.
- Epileptic Seizures Aren’t Entirely Random. Discovery May Lead To Seizure Forecasting System. If people with epilepsy could get “seizure warnings” akin to thunderstorm warnings, their neurological disorder might be less disruptive to their lives.
- Researchers Just Found That Antibody Levels Decline Soon After Coronavirus Symptoms End. The good news is that your immune system has a memory.
- Scientists Have Learned How to Treat Down Syndrome Prenatally — in Mice. For humans, a drug made from a plant compound that has anti-inflammatory properties represents a possibility for prenatal treatments that are personalized to meet the needs and metabolisms of individual babies.
- COVID-19 in Pregnant Women Endangers Unborn Children. Contracting COVID-19 while pregnant dramatically increases the risk that a woman will give birth significantly before term, which puts babies at higher risk of critical, life-long health problems.
- Fewer Deaths Among Patients of Female Doctors. Are male physicians doing something wrong?
- Evergreen Tales from the Vaccine Vault
- 30 Facts about Smallpox and the Coronavirus. Together the facts tell a “then and now” story about how difficult it is to eradicate a disease, how vaccines work, and how devastating a virus left unchecked can be.
- 25 Facts About The Coronavirus And Diphtheria Vaccine. Because diphtheria used to fill the graveyards with children’s headstones, it struck terror akin to that of the coronavirus.
- The Villains and Heroes of the Yellow Fever Vaccine, and a Line of Lyric from Johnny Cash. What do a bioterrorist, Walter Reed (of Walter Reed Hospital fame), a Nobel Prize-winning physician who accidentally caused epic, horrific disease, and Bill Gates have in common? Johnny Cash and yellow fever.
- From The Vaccine Vault: 15 Facts About Louis Pasteur And His 2 Big Lies. When the great 19th century chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur died in 1895, his will specified that his trove of 102 lab notebooks be kept forever private. About 75 years later, though, one of his heirs donated all of them to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. What scholars found in those notebooks show Pasteur to have been a brilliant but also fundamentally dishonest scientist.
- Evolution and the Ideas of Charles Darwin
- Humans And Animals Share Non-Verbal Expressions And Gestures, Or So Said Darwin, And So Say Many Other Scientists. Darwin’s descriptions of the workings of monkey faces are so specific that they might almost have served as a list of directives for Sesame Street Muppeteers.
- Why Charles Darwin Delayed for Decades Before Publishing His Bold Ideas about Evolution. He wasn’t the first scientist to suggest that something akin to evolution was more responsible for life on Earth than were a few waves of God’s hands. But he was the first to back up his claims with trunk upon trunk of physical evidence.
- Wind Creates Evolutionary Changes In Flying Insects, Depriving Them Of Flight. The first scientist known to be intrigued by flightless insects was the twenty-two-year-old Charles Darwin when, in January of 1831, he visited the Portuguese-held island of Madeira off the coast of Morocco.
- Do Animals Know Mother Love? Darwin assumed that emotions like mother love are available to at least some animals.
- Do Male Brown Spiders Prefer a Little Death with Their Sex? What would Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin say about the erotic lives of male spiders?
- How Some Songbirds Have Evolved to Play Their Terrible ‘Darwinian’ Cards. Here’s an evolutionary riddle: Should the investment that parents make in their offspring benefit the parents or the offspring? If the answer is “offspring,” must all benefit equally? If not, which one should the parents favor?
- Scientists May Have Found The Evolutionary Roots Of Human Vision. New research suggests that the design of the visual processing system of Madagascar’s gray mouse lemur holds secrets about the origins of vision for humans and for primates around the world.
- Estrus, and the Evolution of Mean Girl Behavior. Competition among ancestral women for mates might have been fierce.
- Monogamy in New World Monkeys … And in Humans. A species of New World monkeys seems to have found a tidy solution to the infidelity “problem” that many mammals face.
- Facial Recognition Development in Wasps Hints at a Mystery of Human Evolution. Scientists have long wondered how prehistoric humans quickly unstuck themselves from the Stone Age and rapidly became as intellectually and socially capable as modern humans. Recent discoveries about wasps may hold a clue.
- So Long “Homo Stupidus.” Hello, Intelligent, Compassionate, Neanderthals? Studies illuminating what it may have been like to be a Neanderthal child have helped upend the idea of Neanderthals as brutish, sub-human, and lacking the “right” cognitive stuff.
- A Scientist’s Bakers Yeast Showed How Quickly Evolution Can Happen. At first glance a dish of baker’s yeast in 2020 has little to do with starving pregnant women in Holland in the winter of 1944-1945.
- Dear Enemies’ Are Made when a Song Sparrow Learns to Sing. For for males of the species, the teaching and the learning can make the wheel spin a little longer.
- Partial Deafness Helps African Naked Mole-Rats Hear At All. Every naked mole-rat is nearly deaf. Scientists have searched for a survival function to the impairment.
- A New Genus And Species Of Dinosaur From The Gobi Desert. Skeletons and partial relics of oviraptoridae that had two-toed forelimbs were discovered in Mongolia.
- Mind-Expanding Drugs as Medicine
- Move Over, Psilocybin And Ketamine: A New Compound Derived From A Naturally-Growing Hallucinogen May Revolutionize Psychiatry. Photographic and video evidence shows that a single dose of a new synthetic compound can repair stress-damaged neurons and brain circuitry in mice — all while reducing their anxious and depressive behaviors and curbing their addictions.
- Microdosing, and the Gentrification of Psychedelic Culture. Psychedelic use is no longer a relatively small, counterculture phenomenon. Career strivers are using the drugs to advance their social and professional ladder climbing. A conversation with sociologist Dimitrios Liokaftos explores the reach for human perfection this may represent.
- ‘Psilocybin Service Centers’ In Oregon Will Explore And Exploit The Therapeutic ‘Magic’ Of Magic Mushrooms. These service centers won’t be drive-through places where mechanics check the enchantment pressure of your psychedelic stash. Come 2023, they will be distribution centers for psilocybin as mandated under Oregon’s Ballot Measure 109, passed by popular vote in November of 2020. They may also be where psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is given.
- Bicycle Day And the 1962 Harvard Experiment That Showed Psilocybin Can Create Lasting, Positive Spiritual Change.This is the story of an exceptional, Harvard University study of the effect of psilocybin on spirituality and mysticism. The study was conducted in 1962 during the heyday of the Harvard Psychology Lab’s experiments with psychedelics. As controversial as nearly all of the studies from the Lab became in later years, this particular study’s conclusions have been supported by those of two far more recent examinations of the psilocybin/spirituality association.
- Psilocybin Impairs Productive Creativity, At Least While Users Are ‘Stoned’ — Or So A New Study Suggests. Ask almost any psilocybin lover, and you’ll hear that magic mushrooms enhance creativity. But, really, should science trust the nearly universal experience of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of stoners? Probably not.
- How Cosmic Rays Help Scientists Tell How Old Dead Stuff Is. This is an exuberant, plain language primer on radiocarbon dating, in 20 facts.
- With a ‘Handshake,’ Science and Religion Pry Open Early Mysteries Of The Catholic Church. New radiocarbon dating has produced definitive results about a relic of an early Christian saint venerated for centuries in Rome. The care with which the researchers placed their scientific findings in context opened a door wide to conjecture about an important Church dogma.
- Social Scientists Discover a Dangerous Truth about American Politics Hidden in COVID-19 Data. The truism is that Republicans brushed off early COVID-19 warnings while Democrats took them to heart. While that idea may hold some water, the split that continues to motivate Americans’ reactions to the threat of COVID-19 may be not so much between Republicans and Democrats or even between conservatives and liberals, as a recent study from UCLA indicates.
- Environmental Science and Social Justice Activism Make Extraordinary Bedfellows. A review of Audrea Lim’s new book, The World We Need.
- School Shootings Are Up in 2021. Who are the killers in our midst? An historical look at the intersection of emotional distress, weaponry, and schools is excerpted and updated from Murders Most Foul: And the School Shooters in Our Midst (Vook: 2012).
- Book and Movie Reviews
- Tom Chaffin’s ‘Odyssey: Young Charles Darwin, The Beagle, And The Voyage That Changed The World’ Is Novelistic Nonfiction At Its Best
- The Dawn Of Humankind, And Charles Foster’s New Book, ‘Being A Human: Adventures In Forty Thousand Years Of Consciousness’
- Environmental Science And Social Justice Activism Make Extraordinary Bedfellows: A Review Of ‘The World We Need.’
- The Documentary ‘Stonehenge: Land Of The Dead’ Exposes Secrets Of The Prehistoric Monument And The Neolithic Community That Made It
- Atomic Bomb Scientists Wanted To Make A Cautionary Movie About Nuclear Weaponry. An Interview With Greg Mitchell About How Hollywood Destroyed Those Hopes
- Outer Space and Astronomy
- In Early March, Look to The West for the Zodiacal Light! During these early weeks of March, Earth is at such an angle to the disk-shaped cloud of cosmic dust surrounding it that, if you’re in the northern hemisphere, you might be able to catch a beautiful glimpse even without a telescope.
- Be Careful What You Say to E.T. : Clues to the Dangers of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
- Fun Stuff
- Zombie Wildfires and Other Science Zombies to Scare the Daylights Out of You. This Halloween, be afraid. Be very afraid.
- Maybe Oxytocin Is a Human Pheromone. But Maybe There’s No Such Thing. In 15 Facts. In their ads, perfume manufacturers make hay out of what may be a myth.
Scientific American Samples:
- Bison versus Mammoths: New Culprit in the Disappearance of North America’s Giants. A scientist turns up new clues to the disappearance of North America’s giant beavers, saber-toothed cats and other large mammals.
- Outsmarting Dengue Fever. Why one scientist is vaccinating mosquitoes, not patients.
- Corals in Lust. Why they spawn only at twilight, and only a few times a year.
- Beauty and the Beasts. The sight of a pretty woman brings out the war monger in men.
Discover Magazine Samples:
- Hiking Las Vegas. Just a few miles from the perfectly enclosed, artificial worlds of the Strip’s casinos, there lie some beautiful and accessible spectacles of nature.
- Winemaking: Science, Nature, and Fancy Footwork. Each glass tells you something about the wine’s milieu as well as the vintner’s approach.
- A host of articles including many “20 Things You Didn’t Know about…” ones, for Discover Magazine. (Page upon page. Just keep clicking.)
TreeHugger Samples (basic environmental science explanations)
- What Is DEET? Despite its robust credentials, many people retain a strong buzz of concern about DEET. There is one safer alternative that seems as effective as DEET.
- What Are Persistent Organic Pollutants? They include commonly recognized names like the pesticide DDT and the large group of industrial chemicals known as PCBs.
- What Are Greenhouse Gases and Greenhouse Effect? Greenhouse gases trap solar heat close to Earth in the same way that insulating glass panels keep heat inside a greenhouse.
- What Is Anthropocentrism? The idea of human superiority is destroying the environment. It may also help save it.
- What Is Arctic Amplification? Arctic amplification is the increasingly ramped-up warming that’s taking place in the area of the world north of 67 degrees N latitude. For more than four decades, temperatures in the Arctic have risen at two to three times the pace of the rest of the world.
- How Do Volcanoes Contribute to Climate Change? Volcanoes change Earth’s climate both by warming and cooling it. Their net effect on climate today is small compared to that of human-made pollutants.
Other Magazine Samples:
- Darwin in Love. Charles Darwin, who of all people should have known better, married his first cousin. Did his love for Emma color his later works? (JSTOR Daily)
- The Brain Science Behind Conspiracy Theories. It might not be a lack of intelligence that leads many to believe wild—and wildly inaccurate—information, but instead our mind’s way of protecting us from feelings of isolation and despair. (DAME Magazine)
- Why People Believe in Genuinely Fake News. When we are living in a time when accepting and refuting facts have become a polarizing issue, is there a way to engage in meaningful dialogue with those across the aisle?
- Is COVID-19 Isolation Causing PTSD? The Coronavirus pandemic doesn’t just do damage to our bodies. The social isolation we’re experiencing may also have a long-term impact on our brains.
- What Is DEET? Is it Safe for You and the Environment? A primer.
Vermont Public Radio Samples
For about a decade (late 1990s to late 2000s) I contributed commentaries to Vermont Public radio as an on-air personality specializing in mental health. Just a few are still online. Four were part of a series that won a Vermont AP award for VPR. Those commentaries are at https://archive.vpr.org/vpr-author/rebecca-coffey/
Science-Based Op-Eds and Think Pieces:
- Barrett Says Judges Can Avoid Beliefs Coloring Judicial Rulings; Social Scientists Say It’s Challenging (Forbes.com)
- Why People Believe Genuinely Fake News (DAME Magazine)
- Trump Can’t Control Himself (NY Daily News)
- All the President’s White Women (NY Daily News)
- Actually, Truth Isn’t Truth (NY Daily News)
- What Would Sigmund Freud Say about Gay Conversion Therapy? (Seattle Times)
- The Supreme Court Meets Sigmund Freud (Chicago Tribune)
- Beyond the Best Interests of the Migrant Child. (PsychologyToday.com) What Anna Freud knew about traumatized children’s needs.
- The Human Ape. (PsychologyToday.com) Our animal nature is undeniable. But is beastly behavior inevitable? (Written in the early days of #MeToo)
- Punching Anti-Gay Hate Right in the Nose. (PsychologyToday.com) Can a venom-spewing church become a safe space for queer and questioning kids?
- Who Would Jesus Stone? (PsychologyToday.com) Nonviolence as psychological warfare in a hate-filled world
- Is America Safer When Good Guys Have Guns? (PsychologyToday.com) Homicide data + crime victimization survey results = surprise.
- Senator Stacey Campfield Out-Does Congressman Todd Akin. (PsychologyToday.com) Why did the Tennessee senator get his facts on HIV/AIDS so hysterically wrong?
- Congressman Akin, Meet Genghis Khan. (PsychologyToday.com) The DNA of 8% of men in the former Mongol empire prove Akin wrong about rape.
- Thoughts for the Fifth Anniversary of the Virginia Tech Massacre. (PsychologyToday.com) On gun control and safety nets.
- For Beck and Branch, Rebecca produced the Science Bits series.
- The video documentary Attacking Anxiety. This science documentary won the Red ribbon and the American Film & Video Festival, the Cine Golden eagle, and the the silver ribbon at the Columbus International film Festival.