Award Winners

2017

Large Newspaper

Silver

“Das grosse ABC”

Marlene Weiss

Translation

For more than 10 years, Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki worked largely by himself on a proof of the so-called ABC conjecture, one of the most important unresolved problems in mathematics. In the summer of 2012, he published it. The proof is encompassed in four scientific articles that together fill about 500 pages, according to writer Marlene Weiss, who entered a mathematical realm where the language is so strange that hardly anybody but...Read more

Small Newspaper

Silver

“Rising seas, rising stakes”

The Providence Journal

“Losing ground”

The Providence Journal

“On the brink”

The Providence Journal

Judges praised Alex Kuffner for his comprehensive look at the risks facing Rhode Island communities from either a once-in-a-century hurricane or a sea level rise of seven feet by the end of the century, as projected in a worst-case scenario by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Kuffner noted that six percent of residential structures within Rhode Island’s 21 coastal communities are currently vulnerable to some level of flooding in the event of a 100-year storm. That number would double if seven feet of sea level rise is factored in. One study...Read more

Magazine

Silver

“The Strange Brain of the World's Greatest Solo Climber”

Nautilus

Alex Honnold, the world’s greatest solo climber, doesn’t experience fear like the rest of us. He climbs to dizzying heights without a rope or protective equipment of any kind, shuffles across narrow sills of stone such as the “Thank God” ledge high atop the sheer granite face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. When J.B. MacKinnon, a Canadian freelance writer, approached Honnold about having scientists look at what goes on in his unusual brain, the climber said he once would have been afraid to submit himself to such scrutiny. But he agreed, and the result was a fascinating tour of the...Read more

Television: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Silver

“How moss revealed an undetected air pollution threat in Portland”

PBS NewsHour

“These robots are helping answer a huge unknown about young marine life”

PBS NewsHour

Cat Wise and her colleagues offered solid reporting on the uses of science to better understand the nearby environment. Researchers in Portland found that mosses from two neighborhoods had high levels of cadmium and arsenic, likely from a nearby glassmaking center. Using data from air quality monitoring stations, the researchers determined that mosses could be used as indicators of air pollution and allow a more comprehensive method for tracking potential problems in local air quality.  In a second piece, Wise explained how a marine ecologist is using robots (with casings made from...Read more

Television: In-Depth/Feature Reporting

Silver

“Poisoned Water”

WGBH/NOVA

NOVA investigated the science behind the disastrous results that occurred when officials in Flint, Michigan decided to change the city’s water source to save money but ─ by overlooking a crucial corrosion control process ─ allowed lead from old lead water pipes to leach into the city’s drinking water. Thousands of residents, including particularly vulnerable children, were exposed to dangerously elevated levels of lead. In interviews with scientists, residents and public officials, NOVA explored the impact of the health crisis in Flint and beyond, noting that other water systems across the...Read more

Audio

Silver

“Chasing Meteors”

Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Deep in the Outback of southern Australia, Robbie McEwan recounted the hurried chase by planetary geologist Phil Bland and colleagues to find a meteorite that had been sighted by a cook taking a break on the veranda of a pub in a dusty desert town. More importantly, it also was detected by a new network of automated cameras recently deployed by Bland’s team in an ambitious effort to track meteors not only to their final points of impact but also back to their points of origin in the solar system. McEwan followed the story of Bland and Aboriginal guide Dean Stuart as they raced to find...Read more

Online

Silver

“The West’s newest bird species has a beak like a crowbar”

High Country News online

In an engaging report from the South Hills of Idaho, Nick Neely wrote about the discovery and probable disappearance of North America’s newest bird species, the Cassia crossbill. The reddish birds have crowbar-like beaks that are capable of prying open the toughest cones from lodgepole pines, the birds’ seed source and co-evolutionary partners on which they entirely depend. University of Wyoming ecologist Craig Benkman and his colleagues discovered the Cassia crossbill in a range of just 27 square miles of lodgepole forest. They eventually convinced the American Ornithologists Union that...Read more

Children's Science News

Silver

“The Secret Lives of Plants”

Scholastic Science World

Jennifer Barone wrote about how plants detect and respond to changes in the world around them and even communicate with their neighbors through chemical signals. When scientists recorded vibrations of a caterpillar eating leaves and played the recording back to some plants but not others, the plants exposed to the munching sound produced more chemical defenses against the bugs. When sagebrush plants are attacked by hungry insects, researchers have found, they emit chemical cues into the air to alert neighboring plants. Trees also interact with their environment, Barone reported. Scientists...Read more