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Motherboard, Meet Your New Canada Editor

Science journalist Kate Lunau on that time her mom coded a videogame for fun—and what she’ll bring to Motherboard as its new Canada editor.

by Kate Lunau
Mar 7 2016, 9:10pm

Photo credit: Author

In 1997, my mom made a video game. Computer programming was one of her hobbies, like knitting and sewing. She'd spend the evenings at a boxy desktop machine while the rest of us watched TV. (It was an IBM 286 that she bought for $50, so she wouldn't wreck our "good" family computer—a piece of junk even then.) I was a kid in high school, and had no interest in what she was doing, but I recently asked her to tell me about it. She still has all the printed-out pages of code.

In my mom's game, written in Turbo Pascal, you're in a spaceship trying to get home. It's a really basic set-up: You can walk around the ship, pick up items, put them down, or eat them, which is where her good-humoured (and very mom-like) practicality comes out. If you decide to eat the ship's manual or your map, which you need for navigation, you automatically lose, too bad for you. And if you win the game, the song "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" plays while stars flash up on the screen, and you know you're on your way home.

Every good story about science and technology is really about us

As a science journalist, I've reported on cutting-edge technologies that sound a lot more sci-fi than anything in my mom's spaceship game. I've trained with astronauts at NASA and visited a particle physics lab buried deep in a northern Ontario nickel mine. I've written about alien planets, bionic humans, and gene editing. I've met scientists who believe they can stop the body's aging process, and even redefine consciousness, a surprisingly slippery term.

Motherboard is a place to investigate how science and technology shapes our lives—and as Canadian editor, I want to do that from a northern perspective. Here, we've got scientists designing quantum computers, and wiring the ocean floor. We've got the oil sands and a rapidly warming Arctic. Expect stories on artificial intelligence, on cybersecurity, and on the promise of stem cells, which were discovered in Toronto. One question I'd like to tackle is whether technology could actually save us from a changing climate (spoiler alert: probably not, but feel free to argue with me on that one).

Just like my mom's adventure game, every good story about science and technology is really about us: what we want, where we're going, and all the decisions, big and little, that get us there.

Contact me with tips and ideas: kate.lunau@vice.com.