The Wonderful World of Science Blogging

Filed as Features on December 29, 2006 4:38 pm

It takes a fast mind and quick clicking finger just to keep up with the onrush of interesting, informative blogs these days.

My interests include science, and there are a host of blogs out there talking about amazing phenomena and fantastic discoveries enough to satisfy the most voracious curiosity. Many of them are written by real, honest-to-goodness scientists, making science blogs one of the most fun ways to keep up with research. Even better, the added attraction of commentary to the blogs allows both direct interaction with the scientist and sometimes a rare glimpse into how conclusions can often be hotly debated within the scientific community itself.

Of the dozens of science blogs, some are science-specific, some are about science education, and most include the author’s political and social policy views as well. Collections can be found on sites like ScienceBlogs and the bloggers at LiveScience are knowledgeable too. The listings come complete with disciplinary groupings and excerpted highlights. The blogs often link directly to other scientists’ blogs who are not yet listed in these collections, indicating that there are many more science blogs by scientists than one could find by doing a web search on the discipline + “blog”.

Be forewarned, though. Blogs are an outlet for thoughts, analysis and beliefs, so It can sometimes be a chore to sort the sociopolitical opinions from the science. And there are blog sites for collections of scientists dedicated exclusively to non-scientific, ideological concerns. Sifting the science from the non-science can be, in itself, a useful exercise in critical thinking skills, but the growing science blogosphere is well worth the effort.

Because there’s so much incoming news in the fields and so many blogs where these things are discussed, I thought I’d offer a few of the most interesting recent topics in my column as nifty new things to learn from brave blogging scientists about our world (or our universe). For instance, a day and a half before the story went mainstream on CNN, et al., I learned from “GrrlScientist” – a molecular evolutionary biologist whose blog is Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted) that Flora the Komodo Dragon is a happy mother-to-be of baby dragons – all male – who have no father.

I learned that the same female Komodo dragon can produce sexually or asexually, no problem. Very weird. I also learned that scientists know of about 70 different species, including snakes and lizards, who have this ability to reproduce either way. Sure, we parents and grandparents of young boys already knew about the EBG Crisis (Evil Baby Godzillas), so it’s not like self-reproducing lizards were totally unheard-of. But now I have it confirmed in dragons and can wreak intellectual havoc with some passably related question in the Trivial Pursuit tourney down at the Town Pump on Thursday nights. Thanks, Grrl! I’ve bookmarked Living the Scientific Life for its unique and interesting take on the science news, pretty pictures, and contagious wonder about our world.

I was informed by Chad Orzel’s blog Uncertain Principles that I could rent or buy a theoretical physicist of my very own! I always wanted one of those. The product is Scott Aaronson, who advertised in his blog Shtetl-Organized that he’s a Mercenary in the String Wars. Just think about how much fun it would be to hire Scott to make some pompous physics geek’s head explode at the next water cooler lecture! I’m still waiting to see what the high bid is after a week so I can beat it by a penny just like on E-Bay…

Finally, because that same grandson was moaning and groaning about the severe lack of snow days so far this season, I went looking for some professional science blog insight into the whole Global Warming thing. I found James Hrynyshyn’s blog The Island of Doubt, and his thought-provoking question, Have we oversold climate change? I’ve always thought that a notable lack of vowels in a scientist’s name adds a bit of extra credibility if you can manage to pronounce it passably while in the process of impressing others with your accumulated store of obscure knowledge.

To my mind, seeing a scientist who can honestly examine issues related to the problem of translating “best guess science” – with all its uncertainties – and turn them into real suggestions for sociopolitical policy is encouraging. A little political savvy wouldn’t hurt the image of scientists one bit, and will probably accomplish much more than an impatient Chicken Little act could.

I am still surfing this rarified corner of the blogosphere, learning new things as I go. I’ll report again soon on more cool science news and views, with the added dimension of scientists themselves telling us blog-watchers what it all means. Stay tuned!

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  1. By ben jabbawy posted on January 8, 2007 at 9:17 pm
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    Educators are concerned that the U.S. has fallen drastically behind other countries in the studies of science and engineering. A Raytheon Corporation survey of 1,000 11-to-13-year-olds released in January 2006 found that 84% said they would “rather clean their room, eat their vegetables, go to the dentist or take out the garbage than learn math or science.” This raises the question, how can we draw more young people to the sciences?

    Technizzel is an online publication designed to inspire young people to pursue careers in engineering and advanced technologies. Focusing on fields such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, and engineering, Technizzel incorporates age-appropriate explanations and images in order to attract even the most non-science oriented readers.

    Technizzel articles include:
    • Interviews with young people pursuing exciting careers in science and technology
    • Easy to understand explanations of how popular gadgets work and the technologies they incorporate
    • Inside look into companies breaking the typical engineering mold
    • Spotlights on high school students participating in cool science and technology-related activities
    • Highlights of college student groups involved in awesome science related projects

    Benjamin Jabbawy
    Founder, Technizzel
    [email protected]
    http://www.technizzel.blogspot.com