21 May, 2020

The political battles over COVID-19 statistics are just the latest in a two-decade-long war over counting people -- a war that's about to explode, I argue in Wired.

6 May, 2020

"The CDC Has Been on a Steady Decline. We’re Just Finally Noticing." An essay in Slate likening CDC's and FDA's failures to the FAA's in the 737 MAX crisis.

13 April, 2020

Op-ed in STAT News about how lax enforcement of clinical-trials reporting requirements is robbing us all, written with Peter Lurie and Christopher Morten.

11 April, 2020

A subtle problem with datagathering is causing an underestimate of coronavirus deaths in New York City, I argue in Undark.

8 March, 2020

At a moment when our society needs reliable scientific information the most, the most dangerous source of misinformation in the U.S. has become our own president, I argue in Scientific American.

23 February, 2020

Legal victory in a lawsuit against the FDA; with co-plaintiff Peter Lurie, we argued that the agency was improperly creating a loophole in a law requiring reporting of results from clinical trials.

1 April, 2019

An argument against amending CPRA, California's FOI law, to privilege scientists' communications from disclosure, in the Los Angeles Times

6 November, 2018

Due to popular demand, I have published the code to the "Python-based Twitter analysis tools" I use to capture and track the spread of false information on Twitter. (Roughly 2000 source lines of code.)

4 November, 2018

In what Kurt Eichenwald calls "The greatest pwn of all time," I explain an unflattering data visualization to a major source of online misinformation.

2 November, 2018

"Humans are getting more botlike on Twitter," in which I explore the surprising reasons that bots are passing the Turing test.

21 June, 2018

"The Real Meaning of Koko's Purported Nipple Fetish," a quasi-obituary for Koko the Gorilla.

10 January, 2018

"In Washington-speak, Censorship is Called 'Transparency,'" an investigative feature that describes how the CDC and FDA clamp down on the flow of information to the public; published in Scientific American. Some of the documents obtained through FOIA available here.

20 December, 2017

"Is the FDA Withholding Data About A Controversial Drug," an investigative feature that exposes how the FDA withholds crucial information about drugs, including side effects, from the public; published in Scientific American. Some of the documents obtained through FOIA available here.

11 September, 2017

"Big Pharma's Attempt to Ghostwrite for Stat Ended Badly, but Not Badly Enough," a riff on the industrial use of sockpuppets, published in Slate.

21 August, 2017

"Released FDA docs reveal details of agency's (failed) attempt to retract paper," a small piece about how the agency attempted to get a paper about eteplirsen retracted, for Retraction Watch.

2 August, 2017

"FDA Documents Reveal Depth of Internal Rancor Over Drug's Approval Process," an examination of the controversy inside FDA surrounding the approval of eteplirsen for DMD, for Undark.

1 March, 2017

"The Domesticated Press Corps," a riff on the industrial use of sockpuppets, published in Slate.

2 November, 2016

"Spies in the Skies" wins 2016 Kantar Information is Beautiful awards: Data Journalism (gold) and Most Beautiful.

21 September, 2016

"How FDA manipulates the media," an investigative feature that looks into how a government agency attempts to control the press corps, published in Scientific American. Some of the documents obtained through FOIA available here.

16 June, 2016

"Spies in the Skies" wins 2016 Global Editors Network award: Data Visualization of the Year (Large Newsroom).

7 April, 2016

"Spies in the Skies," an analysis of thousands of FBI and DHS surveillance flights over the continental US, published in Buzzfeed. Co-authored with Peter Aldhous.

10 September, 2015

"Ashley Madison and Using Stolen Data", a discussion of the ethics of using the Ashley Madison data dump in journalism and in research. Published in Co-authored with Art Caplan.

10 September, 2015

"A Brief Guide to Writing Opinion", published in The Open Notebook.

21 August, 2015

"Why it's OK for taxpayers to 'snoop' on scientists", an argument that scientists should not be exempt from state and federal FOI laws. Published in The Los Angeles Times. Co-authored with Paul Thacker.

13 August, 2015

"The fight over transparency: Round two", a counter-argument to complaints from the Union of Concerned Scientists regarding FOIA "bullying" of scientists. Originally published in PLOS blogs (co-authored with Paul Thacker), it was retracted -- without our consent -- "due to increasing pressure from scientists to remove [our] article from the site."

28 May, 2015

"Who's to blame when fake science gets published?", on the LaCour scandal and the culture of science, is published in The Los Angeles Times.

1 April, 2015

"Science's Big Scandal,", about faked peer-review, is published in Slate.

26 February, 2015

A review of three "big data" books in Nature.

17 February, 2015

In JAMA Internal Medicine, my students and I uncover fraud found by the FDA that isn't reported in the peer-reviewed literature. (Primary documents available here.) An opinion piece in Slate puts the research in context.

30 December, 2014

"The Billionares' Space Club", an opinion piece about space exploration, is published in Slate.

22 December, 2014

Virtual Unreality named one of the top 20 reads of the year by Nature.

17 December, 2014

My investigative report in Scientific American reveals a widespread, industrial-scale attempt to game the peer-review system.

10 September, 2014

NASW's "Science in Society" Awards announced; my piece on 23andMe is among the winners.

31 July, 2014

Virtual Unreality in John Kroll's list of 100 best journalism books.

1 July, 2014

The Wall Street Journal says [paywall] that Virtual Unreality is a "feisty new book... persuasive and thus disconcerting and frightening." The New York Times says that the book is "often quite surreally funny."

30 June, 2014

"Facebook Experiment Used Silicon-Valley Trickery," an opinion piece for NBC, co-written with bioethicist Arthur Caplan. Plus a co-written followup.

26 June, 2014

Virtual Unreality is now on the shelves.

9 June, 2014

I've launched a Kickstarter project to publish a gorgeously-illustrated children's astronomy book.

20 May, 2014

Kirkus gives Virtual Unreality a starred review, calling the book "An ingenious overview of a wildly unreliable internet." Scientific American recommends the book as well.

5 May, 2014

Publishers Weekly praises Virtual Unreality: "Intense and incisive, Seife’s exposé of potent tricks on the mesmerizing, overpowering Internet makes us very wary about anything that cannot be verified with our own eyes."

5 February, 2014

"What is NASA For?", an opinion piece probing NASA's purpose and direction, published in Slate. Due to the controversy caused by the polemic, I publish a followup in The Huffington Post.

19 January, 2014

My essay on randomness published in The Best Writing on Mathematics 2013.

6 December, 2013

An analysis of how NSA culture has changed in the past few decades for pandodaily.

27 November, 2013

A look at the real reason genetics-testing company 23andMe is terrifying, for

22 August, 2013

I come out as a former NSA employee, and ask my former colleagues to speak out.

15 April, 2013

An investigative expose of FDA's slow, opaque reaction to massive research misconduct: "FDA Let Drugs Approved on Fraudulent Research Stay on the Market," with sidebar on a failed generic drug and chart of drugs relying on dubious research. Followups here and here. Written with Rob Garver of ProPublica.

26 February, 2013

"A Military Fable," a Thurberesque tale about defense appropriations.

3 January, 2013

"Fusion Energy's Dreamers, Hucksters, and Loons," a brief history of fusion energy research for

16 November, 2012

"Is Drug Research Trustworthy," an investigative report on conflict of interest in medical research and at NIH, published in Scientific American. (Also, a related blog post.)

31 August, 2012

"Jonah Lehrer's Journalistic Misdeeds at," an analysis of some of Lehrer's online work, published in Slate.

9 July, 2012

"Dr. Drew Cashes In," a brief discussion of the influence of drug-company money, published in Slate.

15 June, 2012

Ruling in Seife v. NIH: court compels NIH to turn over conflict-of-interest waivers, but rules that recusal lists are exempt from release under FOIA. Full opinion here.

22 March, 2012

"17 Equations that Changed the World," a review of Ian Stewart's book of the same name, published in Times Higher Education.

22 March, 2012

I explain why James O'Keefe targeted me for an undercover sting: "James O'Keefe Attacked Me Because I Caught Him Breaking the Law."

16 January, 2012

My answer to the Edge World Question Center's annual question ("What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?"), "The Power of One, Two, Three," published.

22 September, 2011

I file a lawsuit [pdf] against the National Institutes of Health to compel them to release documents requested via the Freedom of Information Act.

2 September, 2011

Time interview about bad mathematics and health.

12 August, 2011

"The Mind-Reading Salmon," a column about statistical significance, published in Scientific American.


March 21, 2020

I talk about misinformation in Al Jazeera's Deadly Deception: COVID-19 in Trump's America.

December 3, 2019

Panel discussion about fake news at the #SpreadingFacts conference at MIT.

April 27, 2019

"The Fakening," on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

October 16, 2018

"PIOs and Journalists... the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Practices of Questionable Legality," presented at the NASW Information Access Summit.

May 14, 2018

"Sockpuppets, Bots, and the Vectors for Fake News," presented at "Fake News and Beyond: How to Improve News Literacy" at Tel Aviv University.

April 11, 2018

"Fake News, Bogus Science, and Bad Math: A Journalist’s Advice for Cutting Through BS," a Poynter Fellowship in Journalism talk at Yale University.

December 19, 2017

"Unorthodox Strategies to Clinical-Trial Success: Fibbing, Fraud, Fudging, and Friends in High Places," at NYU Langone.

September 6, 2017

"Science, Journalism, and Democracy: Grappling with a New Reality," at the Rockefeller University.

September 29, 2016

"Clinical Trial Transparency: Promises, Pitfalls, and Reform Efforts," at NYU Langone.

September 9, 2016

"Virtual Unreality: The Web, Big Data, Information, and Truth," at the Festival della Communicazione in Camogli, Italy.

May 9, 2016

Grand rounds, University of Texas Southwestern: "Researchers behaving badly: (Unreported) misconduct in clinical trials."

April 19, 2016

"Information Battles: The Double-Edged Sword of Big Data," at the Weissberg Forum for Discourse in the Public Square, Washington DC.

April 7, 2016

"What Buzzfeed Journalists Learned From a 4 Month Study of FBI, DHS, drone flight patterns." (KPCC.)

February 16,2016

Talk: "Understanding clinical trials... despite heavy opposition." At the 3rd Kavli Symposium on Science Coverage.

February 15,2016

Session: "Using investigative reporting and data analysis to make an argument." At the American Association for Advancement of Science annual meeting, 2016.

December 16, 2015

Colloquium: "Anatomy of a retraction" at Langone/NYU Medical Center's Department of Population Health.

October 30, 2015

Talk: "How to report on scientific fraud" at the AHCJ Journalism Workshop on Evidence-Based Medicine

June 12, 2015

Talk: "Researchers Behaving Badly: Misconduct in Clinical Trials" at the 5th PharmedOut Conference at Georgetown University.

June 11, 2015

Talk: "Data-Jitsu: How to go (way) beyond Excel" at the 9th World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea.

June 10, 2015

Talk: "What are we going to do with data?" at the 9th World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea.

February 26, 2015

"The Leonard Lopate Show" (WNYC).

February 19, 2015

"Midpoint" (Newsmax TV.)

February 13, 2015

"Science Friday" (PRI).

December 23, 2014

Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. (KFI-AM and other radio stations.)

December 2, 2014

Symposium: "Does Privacy Really Matter in Healthcare?" NYU School of Medicine's Department of Population Health.

August 9, 2014

Signing at the East Hampton Library's Authors Night.

July 10, 2014

Talk at the Westport (CT) Library: "Virtual Unreality."

July 4, 2014

"Science Friday" (PRI).

June 30, 2014

"The Leonard Lopate Show" (WNYC); also "Central Time" (Wisconsin Public Radio.)

June 30, 2014

Appearance at the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn to discuss Virtual Unreality.

May 14, 2014

Keynote at Blue Waters/Petascale Science Symposium: "Information Feast, Information Famine: Big Data, Big Computing, and Big Trouble."

February 11, 2014

Moncrieff. (106-108 FM, Ireland.)

March 20, 2013

The 2013 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate. (The American Museum of Natural History.)

December 1, 2012

"This is Hell." (WNUR Chicago.)

December 1, 2011

Authors@Google. (YouTube.)

September 13, 2011

"Afternoons with Jim Mora." (Radio New Zealand.)

January 7, 2011

"More or Less." (BBC Radio 4.)

December 12, 2010

"Open Mind." (WGVU.)

December 11, 2010

"The John Batchelor Show."

November 30, 2010

"Topical Currents." (WLRN.)

November 17, 2010

"Think." (KERA.) Also, "Nine to Noon." (Radio New Zealand.)

November 16, 2010

"Statistics are facts, right?" (KPCC.)

November 9, 2010

"Culture Shocks with Barry Lynn."

November 4, 2010

"The Kathleen Dunn Show." (Wisconsin Public Radio.)

November 2, 2010

"Roundtable." (WAMC.)

October 28, 2010

"Bogus Figures" (AARP radio), "Viewpoints" (WTKF) and the "Dr. Alvin Jones Show." (WCBQ.)

October 26, 2010

"StudioTulsa." (KWGS.). Also, "Strategies for Living" and "Let's Talk." (WBOI.)

October 22, 2010

Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. (KFI-AM and other radio stations.)

October 19, 2010

Moncrieff. (106-108 FM, Ireland.)

October 11, 2010

The Journey Home with Diego Mulligan. (KSFR.)

October 8, 2010

Bloomberg News. (Bloomberg TV.)

October 6, 2010

IEEE Spectrum. (Podcast.)

September 28, 2010

Talk at Strand bookstore: Proofiness. (828 Broadway at 7th St, 7:00 PM.)

September 25, 2010

America's News HQ. (FoxNews.)

September 19, 2010

All Things Considered. (NPR.)


Virtual Unreality

Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You So, How Do You Know It's True?


Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception

Sun in a Bottle

Sun In A Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking

Decoding the Universe

Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, From Our Brains to Black Holes

Alpha and Omega

Alpha and Omega: The Search for the Beginning and End of the Universe


Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea