Joel Achenbach

Washington, D.C.

Reporter covering science and politics

Education: Princeton University, politics, 1982

Joel Achenbach writes about science and politics for The Washington Post's National desk. He has been a staff writer for The Post since 1990. He started the newsroom’s first online column, Rough Draft, in 1999, and started’s first blog, Achenblog, in 2005. He has been a regular contributor to National Geographic since 1998, writing on such topics as dinosaurs, particle physics, earthquakes, extraterrestrial life, megafauna extinction and the electrical grid. A 1982 graduate of Princeton University, he has taught journalism at Princeton and at Georgetown University.
Latest from Joel Achenbach

Science is revealing why American politics are so intensely polarized

Social scientists say polarization is increasingly based on a visceral dislike for the opposition rather than extremely divergent policy preferences.

January 20, 2024

Colon cancer is rising in young Americans. It’s not clear why.

The disease is striking young people who have no obvious risk factors.

December 21, 2023

What scientists know about the Iceland volcano, and what’s still uncertain

The eruption won’t produce the fine ash that shut down air travel across much of Europe in 2010. But it’s not a tourist-friendly event, and the situation remains fluid.

December 19, 2023

Giant space rock made Earth’s ocean boil but also helped early life

Scientists speaking at an annual conference described how the bludgeoning of young Earth may have primed the planet to be more congenial to life.

December 19, 2023

Asteroid pieces brought to Earth may offer clue to life’s origin

The scientific community got its first description of the material recovered by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

December 11, 2023

Astronomers discover six planets orbiting a nearby sun-like star

The new planets could provide a breakthrough in understanding how planets form and why there are so many “sub Neptune” worlds in our galaxy.

November 29, 2023

New CDC life expectancy data shows painfully slow rebound from covid

The United States has dug itself into a huge life expectancy hole, and not just because of the coronavirus.

November 29, 2023

What we actually know about aliens, according to science

Aliens are having a moment. But the evidence says all possibilities remain in play, including the possibility that we are alone.

November 25, 2023

Oldest black hole found, and it may solve a cosmic mystery

Two NASA space telescopes teamed up to scrutinize a distant galaxy and found a clue to the potential origins of supermassive black holes.

November 6, 2023

America’s life expectancy crisis: Behind the story with our reporters

The Post spent a year examining the decline in U.S. life expectancy. Our reporters answered your questions about the series.

October 12, 2023