Who is Mason Inman?

29 Oct 2009

I’m a 2004 graduate of the Science Writing program at the University of California in Santa Cruz, and once I’d paid my dues with several internships, I’ve been living the peripatetic freelance lifestyle.

“So, do you make a living at that?” I was asked by Noam Chomsky—the MIT linguist and political gadfly—in one of my few brushes with fame. I’m happy to report that, yes, my writing does keep food on the table. For the past few years, my main obsessions have been climate change and energy (especially oil), but I also write about agriculture, evolution and archaeology. The bulk of my articles have appeared in National Geographic NewsNew ScientistScience, and Nature Climate Change (formerly known as Nature Reports Climate Change), with more in Scientific American Mind, Seed, Technology Review, and other publications.

Winning a Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Journalism, which ran from mid-2008 to mid-2009, definitely helped me get going with international ontheground reporting. One of those articles from Bangladesh won the IUCN-Reuters Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Journalism (North America region).

I also won a 2010 fellowship from the University of Arizona’s Center for Science, Policy and Outcomes, to participate in a conference and workshop on science policy and how to report on it. In the spring of 2011, as a 2010-2011 McCloy Fellow in Journalism, I took a three-week reporting trip across Germany. In 2012, I’ve received a couple of travel grants—from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and the American Heritage Center—for a new project that is, at this writing, still in stealth mode, but which I’ll be writing a lot about in coming months.

Although this wandering lifestyle is less glamorous than it probably sounds, it’s taken me from San Francisco to a physics lab in Geneva, Switzerland (one that featured in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and may have finally discovered the Higgs boson), then to Cambridge, England, for several months. Later came an all-too-brief month in Berlin, Germany, then a stint in the newer Cambridge, the one in Massachusetts. In 2008 came the biggest leap yet, living two-and-a-half years in Karachi, Pakistan. Now the circle has closed and I’m back in the San Francisco area.

Back in college, I discovered I have a sort of savant-like ability to write backwards and upside-down, even in cursive. I still haven’t found a practical use for this, but I did get to show it off at the Ig Nobel Prize talks at MIT. (At left is the back of my head on the cover of the Annals of Improbable Research.)

When writing articles (only forward, not backward), I like covering about nearly any area of science. But physics has a special place in my heart since I’m still trying to justify those four years spent on grueling calculations for my bachelor’s degree more than a decade ago.

A few of my articles have been resurrected in anthologies: “Bad boys really do get more girls” is in New Scientist‘s How to Build a Tornado; “The Prodigal Mind” appeared in The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain; and Science Magazine’s State of the Planet 2006–07 includes my “Fish moved by warming waters”.

If you want to get in touch with me, use the contact page or add a comment below and I will get back to you.


books I've read on failure & grace

The World Without Us
The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
The Tipping Point
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization
Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Mason's favorite books »