ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Carl Zimmer

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Carl Zimmer from The Loom to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?
Carl_Zimmer_hi-res_color.jpgGeographically speaking, I’m a Northeasterner. Grew up mostly in New Jersey, spent the single years in New York, and now dwell with my family in a little town in eastern Connecticut. In college I was an English major, but the freakish sort of English major who also took physics classes.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
I’ve been a science writer for twenty years. I started out in the Dark Ages, when magazines didn’t have web sites. For my first ten years I worked on the staff of Discover, and I’ve spent the second half as a freelancer, writing newspaper articles, magazine columns, books, blogs, museum exhibits, and various other collections of words having to do with science.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I like to write about biology, broadly defined. That means I have to continually rethink how to do my job. Every branch of biology is moving ahead so fast, from genomics to macroevolution. But it’s all the same story. So I spend a lot of time thinking about how to map the connections, in plain English if possible.
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I’m fascinated by how different genres naturally generate their own rules. If you write for a museum exhibit, you have to be able to stop someone in their tracks and explain something in a brief space. But if you tried to write a book according to those rules, it would be a wreck. When blogs bloomed a few years ago, they brought with them a set of rules all their own. Writing a blog is a conducting a conversation, not delivering a monologue. Now I’m very curious about the new genre that’s emerging with the rise of iPhones, iPads, and other hand-held devices. I’m wondering if they’re going to create a new set of rules. Those rules might deal with how to combine words and images in new ways. Videos might become moving illustrations. I want to see what comes next.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.


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