Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Sound of Science (video)

[hat-tip: a lot of people are tweeting the link]

Scienceblogging: the Gam – a Q&A with Andrew Thaler

Over the next several months, I intend to do Q&As with a number of people who have done something interesting, useful, remarkable or at least memorable in the world of science blogging. I will interview founders and managers of networks, aggregators and services, pioneer bloggers, professional bloggers and others I think are interesting and have insight and information that should not be lost to the science blogging world.

We are also continuing to develop (and need your input and help) the aggregator where you can discover dozens of networks and communities containing thousands of science bloggers.

I am also hoping to get several more ScienceOnline2010 participants interviews posted before ScienceOnline2011 – those are also all very fascinating people and what they said in those interviews are historical documents about the origins and evolution of the science blogging (and science communication) ecosystem.

I am starting this series with the Q&A with Andrew Thaler, blogger at Southern Fried Science and manager (and one of the founders) of the new independent science blogging network – the Gam.

Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who are you, where you come from and how you got into science blogging?

I’m a graduate student at the Duke University Marine Lab studying gene flow and population structure at hydrothermal vent ecosystems. I started blogging on the encouragement of Kevin Zelnio of Deep Sea News. I really enjoy being able to discuss science with a broader audience. After several months I added David Shiffman and Amy Freitag to the blog to expand the discussion.

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years? How do the big changes in science blogging affect medical bloggers?

I feel like the great blowout had been brewing for a long time. Even at ScienceOnline2009 there were bloggers expressing their frustration with the (then) two major networks. I’m not privy to the inner working of ScienceBlogs, but it seems like there were some deeper problems in the way the network was being managed that caused many bloggers to seek other options. The Pepsi Blog incident was just a catalyst. I think that was largely a good thing. ScienceBlogs came with prestige and a paycheck but the sheer size of the network made it unwieldy. As more direct ways of reaching an audience (Twitter, primarily) became more popular, the benefits of such a large network became less and less important, and the detriments started to become more apparent.

How do you personally read science blogs? Do you use feeds, or social networks, or some other ways of keeping track of the science blogging world? How do you find new blogs?

I have feed reader for my favorite blogs, the ones I like to check every day. For everything else, Twitter is king, although I’ve found that since we started building a network, I find out a lot from other members of the Gam through e-mail and the back channel.

Tell us a little bit more about The Gam. What is it about? How did it come about? By what process do you add bloggers to the network – do they apply, do you invite them, or some other way?

The structure of the Gam began shortly after Science Online 2010. We had invited William Saleu to join us on Southern Fried Science, but we felt that a forth blogger on the main site would be quickly drowned out by pictures of dolls and posts about manatee farts. So when we moved from a free hosting platform, we set up our domain to allow blogs under the domain. After Bomai Cruz launched, we stayed dormant for awhile. I had a vision for a network, but was busy with the rest of my life. Luckily, the structure for building a network was already there.

The Gam is a collection of (mostly) marine science blogs. Our goal is to find good new, less well known, or lower traffic niche blogs, and bring them to a broader audience. Bloggers can be nominated by any member of the Gam or they can approach us with a proposal. Once we vote on the new blog, we send an invite. After a blogger is invited, we can be set up to launch a new blog within a few hours.

Where do you see The Gam within the global science blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what is the target audience, what unique service does it provide?

We definitely have the marine science edge going for us, in conjunction with Deep Sea News, who we’re very close with, we comprise the largest collection of marine science bloggers on the internet. I think we’re more flexible than other blogging networks (all bloggers have total control over their web design, among other things) and we avoid the potentially toxic effect of advertisers. Each blog has a different target audience. Some of us are writing for scientists, some for the general public.

What is next for The Gam (as far as you are free to reveal)?

We have a really exciting site about to launch called Journeys. Journeys will be a group blog featuring writing by scientists in the field collecting data. It’s essentially an aggregation of expedition blogs – those one hit wonders that show up for a few months and then go silent. Because Journeys is a permanent platform, those expedition blogs won’t fade into the internets. In addition, Journeys comes with a built in audience, social media support through an active network of bloggers, and tech support, so writers can focus on writing and research and not worry about blogging from the back country.

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Sleepy, rainy days in North Carolina…perfect for browsing blogs:
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A nice mix today:
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Berry Go Round #31

Welcome to the September edition of Berry Go Round, the blog carnival of all things botanical!

We’ll start with the The Roaming Naturalist who went out into the desert somewhere out in the Western United States and took pictures of Bitterroot, Desert Beauty.

Ted C. MacRae of Beetles In The Bush took a trip to the Sam Baker State Park and saw a Cleft Phlox, which is found in just a handful of Missouri counties.

Christina Agapakis of Oscillator is fascinated with figs and their symbiosis with pollinating wasps so she wrote not one but two posts about them: Edible Symbiosis and Seedlessness.

Sarcozona of Gravity’s Rainbow saw a wild Impatiens with an unusually looking flower – Orange Jewelweed.

Joan Knapp from Anybody Seen My Focus? took a lot of excellent pictures of the Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) in Wilkes County, Georgia.

Matt DiLeo is The Scientist Gardener. The Orange Mystery Dust that painted everyone’s shoes orange during a ballgame turned out to be from the lawn rust fungi. Matt tells us what that is all about.

Mr. Strawberry of Strawberry introduces us to a strange-looking but mouth-watering new cultivar – the Pineberry: Pineapple Strawberry.

Dave Ingram of the Dave Ingram’s Natural History Blog explains how identification of native vs. introduced grasses requires some Learning about Ligules.

Emilie Wolf of Purple Carrots & Fairy Smoke tells you more than you ever knew about apples in Don’t You Just Love Apples?

Jessica M. Budke from Moss Plants and More takes a look at the new attempt to classify 350 species of peat moss in A Tale of the Sphagnums that Weren’t.

“Where should breeders look for traits like drought resistance among the landraces and wild relatives of crops?” asked Luigi of the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog and took a look at a new paper about tomatoes: Getting the most out of wild tomatoes.

The Phytophactor gets help from some strange flowers, like a star flower, to get students excited about Pollination biology in the greenhouse (and then you take a fruit, spice and veggie quiz).

Janet Creamer from the Midwest Native Plants, Gardens, and Wildlife took a series of pictures of a bumblebee, the only pollinator strong enough to force open the always closed flower of the Bottle Gentian.

Greg Laden of Greg Laden’s Blog gave his readers a photo quiz – Name that organism and his readers guessed them all.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Sugar beet biology you can learn from Anastasia Bodnar at Biofortified.

And that’s it for this month. Thank you all for your submissions. Next edition of Berry Go Round will be hosted by Mike Bergin at 10000 birds – make sure you send in your entries in time.

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Berry Go Round coming in about an hour. Sit tight. Keep yourself amused with these links in the meantime:
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Busy day, and also preparing Berry Go Round for early tomorrow. These links should hold you over until then:
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Insects! Outreach and Three Books (video)

From Joanne Manaster:

Joanne shares information about the University of Illinois’ outreach, BugScope and tells of a yearly event featuring insects called The Insect Fear Film Festival. Awesome! Also, three Featured Books by Sonia Dourlot (Insect Museum), Hugh Raffles (Insectopedia) and May Berenbaum (The Earwig’s Tale) All three books have chapters listed in alphabetical order, but not in the way you would imagine

Accidental cells (video)

[Hat-tip Peggy Kolm]

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This was a long and sleepy day. After three days of sauna-like conditions, the AC is finally fixed so I expect I’ll be able to sleep tonight. While you read these:
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Fry Hard – explaining the fats (video)

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Wow! These are good!
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Open Laboratory 2010 – submissions so far

Note: if you have recently moved your blog, please e-mail me the corrected URLs for your entries

The list is growing fast – check the submissions to date and get inspired to submit something of your own – an essay, a poem, a cartoon or original art.

The Submission form is here so you can get started. Under the fold are entries so far, as well as buttons and the bookmarklet. The instructions for submitting are here.

You can buy the last four annual collections here. You can read Prefaces and Introductions to older editions here.

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Tomorrow is the start of a very busy week. Good night till then…
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Not as many links as usual now, but these are really good:
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How to dissect a dinosaur (chicken) – video

Mythbusters – yes, I got to meet Jamie and Adam

Last week, Mythbusters duo of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman came to Chapel Hill and did an event at the Dean Dome on UNC campus as the starting event of the NC Science Festival.

I am not going to recap what happened, as Tyler Dukes, Ross Maloney and Maria Gontaruk did it masterfully last week. I want to think a little bit more about Mythbusters and what their show means in the ecosystem of science media and communication, so please continue reading here….

I went to Block By Block conference….

…and wrote about it at

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Got back from Chicago late last night, exhausted but energized by the Block By Block conference (blog, Twitter). Midway airport has no wifi. Technically, one can buy wifi, which means there is no wifi. And because they use a competitor, there is no way to use iPhone and At&T either. They don’t charge for water, power and use of bathrooms and other travelers’ essentials, so why charge for the equally essential wifi? Ugh.

But anyway, I was reading Brian Switek’s book instead, had great flights there and back, and generally had a blast.

Below the fold – some links for you:
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I’ll be in transit (airport or airplane) at the time this hits your feeds. I may not get online, but you can – enjoy these links:
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Traveling tomorrow, but you can read these in the meantime:
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Block By Block

Next two days I will be at the awesome Block By Block conference in Chicago.

You can see the list of participants, check out the Program and tune in to the live stream of the event.

You can also follow on Twitter – hashtag is #bxb2010.

It is about local, community, online journalism. I am going mainly as a representative of our local science news site – Science in the Triangle.

This is exciting – I am sure I will tweet and blog from there, but mostly I am excited about all the things I will learn and all the forward-thinking people I will meet.

Scientific American – the new look!

Late last night, while you were probably asleep, the Scientific American crew unveiled a re-design of the website – check out the shiny, new look at Scientific American homepage.

The re-design also includes the landing page for all seven of the current blogs – just go here.

As far as I know, each blog has its own RSS feed but there is still no Combined feed, so, in order to aggregate the SciAm blogs on we made a combined feed using FriendFeed – see it here.

Read more about the changes, by Mariette DiChristina and Philip Yam.

The fact that the site redesign is done also means that we can start thinking about, developing and building the new blogging network. This will take some time, but I am chomping at the bit!

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Incredibly busy day, but here are the links:
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Dot. The world’s smallest stop-motion animation character (video)

Hat-tip (and more detailed explanation): Tracy Staedter

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Off to Sigma Xi pizza lunch – in the meantime, read these:
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Journal of Science Communication

Issue 03, september 2010 of Journal of Science Communication is out – always full of articles interesting for further discussion by science bloggers:

Road maps for the 21st-century research in Science Communication:

This is an introduction to the essays from the Jcom commentary devoted to the statute and the future of research in science communication. The authors have a long experience in international research in this domain. In the past few years, they have all been committed to the production of collective works which are now the most important references for science communication research programmes in the next few years.
What topics should science communication research focus on and why? What is its general purpose? What is its real degree of autonomy from other similar fields of study? In other words, is science communication its ‘own’ field? These are some of the questions addressed by the in-depth discussion in this Jcom issue, with the awareness that science communication is a young, brittle research field, looking for a shared map, but also one of the most stimulating places of the contemporary academic panorama.

Notes from some spaces in-between:

Science communication is less a community of researchers, but more a space where communities of research coexist to study and deal with communities of researchers. It is, as a field, a consequence of the spaces left between areas of expertise in (late) modern society. It exists to deal with the fragmentations of expertise in today’s society. In between those fragments is where it lives. It’s not an easy position, but an awareness of this unease is part of how science communication scholars can be most effective; as we examine, reflect, debate and help others manage the inescapable cultural gaps of post/late modern knowledge communities.

Science communication, an emerging discipline:

Several publications have sought to define the field of science communication and review current issues and recent research. But the status of science communication is uncertain in disciplinary terms. This commentary considers two dimensions of the status of discipline as they apply to science communication – the clarity with which the field is defined and the level of development of theories to guide formal studies. It argues that further theoretical development is needed to support science communication’s full emergence as a discipline.

From analogue to digital scholarship: implications for science communication researchers:

Digital media have transformed the social practices of science communication. They have extended the number of channels that scientists, media professionals, other stakeholders and citizens use to communicate scientific information. Social media provide opportunities to communicate in more immediate and informal ways, while digital technologies have the potential to make the various processes of research more visible in the public sphere. Some digital media also offer, on occasion, opportunities for interaction and engagement. Similarly, ideas about public engagement are shifting and extending social practices, partially influencing governance strategies, and science communication policies and practices. In this paper I explore this developing context via a personal journey from an analogue to a digital scholar. In so doing, I discuss some of the demands that a globalised digital landscape introduces for science communication researchers and document some of the skills and competencies required to be a digital scholar of science communication.

Coming of age in the academy? The status of our emerging field:

Science communication is certainly growing as an academic field, as well as a professional specialization. This calls to mind predictions made decades ago about the ways in which the explosion of scientific knowledge was envisioned as the likely source of new difficulties in the relationship between science and society. It is largely this challenge that has inspired the creation of the field of science communication. Has science communication become its own academic subdiscipline in the process? What exactly does this entail?

Open science, a complex movement:

Science must be open and accessible, and diffusion of knowledge should not be limited by patents and copyrights. After the Open Science Summit held in Berkeley, some notes about sharing scientific data and updating the social contract for science. Against the determinist view on technological and legal solutions, we need an explicit reflection on the relation between science and society. Both academic and industrial science seem unable to fulfill open science needs: new societal configurations are emerging and we should keep asking questions about appropriation, power, privatisation and freedom.

Greek students’ images of scientific researchers:

Public images of scientific researchers –as reflected in the popular visual culture as well as in the conceptions of the public- combine traditional stereotypic characteristics and ambivalent attitudes towards science and its people. This paper explores central aspects of the public image of the researcher in Greek students’ drawings. The students participated in a drawing competition held in the context of the ‘Researcher’s Night 2007’ realized by three research institutions at different regions of Greece. The students’ drawings reveal that young people hold stereotypic and fairly traditional and outdated views of scientists and scientific activity. Research institutions are faced with the challenge of establishing a sincere and fertile dialogue with society to refute obsolete and deceiving notions and to promote the role of researchers in society.

The rhetoric of computer simulations in astrophysics: a case study:

This article is a case study and rhetorical analysis of a specific scientific paper on a computer simulation in astrophysics, an advanced and often highly theoretical science. Findings reveal that rhetorical decisions play as important a role in creating a convincing simulation as does sound evidence. Rhetorical analysis was used to interpret the data gathered in this case study. Rhetorical analysis calls for close reading of primary materials to identify classical rhetorical figures and devices of argumentation and explain how these devices factor in the production of scientific knowledge. This article describes how abduction, dilemma, compensatio, aetiologia, and other tactics of argumentation are necessary in creating the simulation of a supernova. Ultimately, the article argues that rhetorical mechanisms may be responsible for making some simulations better and more sound than others.

Pandemic on the air: a case study on the coverage of new influenza A/H1N1 by Brazilian prime time TV news:

In this paper we analyze the coverage of the pandemic influenza caused by the A (H1N1) virus by the main Brazilian TV news. Jornal Nacional (JN) – which can be roughly translated with National News – reaches an average of 25 million people throughout the country daily. We have observed that the attention cycle given to the new flu by JN lasted approximately five months with significant space given to the disease. Most of the news highlighted the number of illness cases and the health measures to control the infection. Only a small amount of news dealt with issues related to research and scientific development, and included scientists as interviewees or as information sources. We believe that the coverage made by JN may have contributed to the dissemination of what some authors refer to as a “pandemic of panic”.

Stick Science cartoons

Stick Science cartoon winners announced – see all the finalists and winners here. My favourite, #6 did not win, unfortunately:

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First day at work…not much happening yet, mostly paperwork stuff. So plenty of time to find good links for you:
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Open Laboratory 2010 – submissions so far

Note: if you have recently moved your blog, please e-mail me the corrected URLs for your entries

The list is growing fast – check the submissions to date and get inspired to submit something of your own – an essay, a poem, a cartoon or original art.

The Submission form is here so you can get started. Under the fold are entries so far, as well as buttons and the bookmarklet. The instructions for submitting are here.

You can buy the last four annual collections here. You can read Prefaces and Introductions to older editions here.

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Saw Jamie and Adam of Mythbusters today (live). May blog about it later. In the meantime, read these:
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A happy academic, I am

According to this I am a little younger in my writing than in real life:

Check your own blog here.

[Hat-tip: Larry Moran]

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Busy time – last night Anton Zuiker and I got together and did some work on ScienceOnline2011. This morning I taught my BIO101 Lab. But I did manage to read some good stuff online in-between: here are the links.
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Thank you all for the wonderful response to yesterday’s good news – here in the blog comments, on Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, by e-mail and in person. It was a busy and overwhelming and happy day – also our 18th wedding anniversary! The job starts on Monday, and I will give you updates as I go, whenever there is something to update you on.

In the meantime, a lot of other people wrote interesting stuff online so I will not be remiss in my duty sending you out to all those great articles – under the fold:

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Alert! Some Big And Important And Exciting News!

I have no idea how well I managed to keep this secret – at least 20 people already know this for sure. But you should know as well. There have been some big changes in my life over the past couple of weeks.

My e-mail address, my cell phone number, even my snail-mail address will remain the same, at least for a while. But some other important things will change, as…

…I got an offer I could not refuse.

After the unfortunate Pepsi event, I left and wrote a couple of long, detailed posts about the new science blogging ecosystem, and even got together with a few friends and built a website that can help you track all the changes.

Many people expected I would join another network quickly, so they got progressively more curious as they noticed I did not join Scientopia, Guardian Science Blogs, PLoS Blogs or Wired Science Blogs. I kept getting questions. I heard gossip. But the day has finally arrived for me to announce.

I will be doing this:

Blog and Community Editor, Scientific American : New York, NY:

Scientific American seeks an editor to acquire and manage our expanding blogger network. The position requires at least three years of experience in online editorial positions for science-related outlets.

The ideal candidate will have a facile writing style and a demonstrable track record for successful online community development; a discerning eye for finding engaging scientists in various disciplines who want to engage directly with the public through blogging; the ability to develop editorial packages from the material for print and digital media; familiarity with the production of online material; and the ability to negotiate and manage rights and other associated administrative functions.

The job requires an organized, highly motivated individual who can work in a fast-paced environment and in our Manhattan offices.

Except, I will only be visiting Manhattan offices a few times a year, and will do most of the work from home, here in Chapel Hill. This may change a year from now – a move to NYC is definitely not going to be off the table at that time.

So yes, I will be working with the Scientific American editors and staff in conceptualizing, building, launching and then running a new science blogging network. How could I say No when given such a chance? To do what I love and what I think I can do well, and all of that under the banner of a magazine that was published continuously since 1845.

Mine is actually one of three new appointments at Scientific American announced today. The other two are Christine Gorman who will primarily edit health and medicine features, and Anna Kuchment who will edit the front of the book section of the magazine. You can read about all three of us in the press release. About my role, the press release says:

In this new role at Scientific American, Bora will recruit talented science bloggers and serve as moderator for the community, encouraging discussion and facilitating the exchange of ideas with both the bloggers and Scientific American readers.

Now, as you may know, blogging is nothing new to Scientific American. They have had six blogs for many years now: Observations written by SciAm editors and reporters, Expeditions written by researchers from the field, Extinction Countdown where John Platt introduces endangered species, Solar at Home where George Musser chronicles his attempt to solarize his house, Cross-check where John Horgan covers the news, Bering in Mind where Jesse Bering writes about the Brain and the Mind, and the Guest Blog which hosts the posts by a variety of invited science and blogging luminaries. Their international editions have their own multi-author blogs and networks in several languages.

And then there are all sorts of other cool things on the site, including podcasts, images, multimedia, Ask the Experts and much more.

There is a wealth of stuff on the site already, so we’ll now start figuring out how to build a fun and useful blogging network that is well incorporated into the rest of the site, well connected to the rest of the science blogging ecosystem, and will be a destination for many who are interested in science. It is too early in the game to say much, but I will keep you posted over the next couple of months as we start developing the network.

This also means that I am leaving PLoS after more than three years with the organization. This was a hard decision to make – working at PLoS was a fantastic experience, it opened so many other doors for me, and the office is full of great people I am happy to call my friends. I want to thank everyone there for a great time, for giving me all the opportunities, and for educating me about nuances of Open Access publishing (of course I will remain an OA evangelist!).

As recently as three or four weeks ago, I was involved in developing PLoS Blogs and was slated to move my blog there. But the offer from Scientific American changed that – I will either move this blog or start a new one at the SciAm network once it is ready to launch. My e-mail will be discontinued pretty soon and I assume I will get a new one from SciAm, but my personal address,, will always work. Or DM me on Twitter, FriendFeed or Facebook, or post a comment here on the blog. I am not going anywhere – if anything, you will see and here even more from me in the future!

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Busy day today. Busy day tomorrow. Some links anyway….
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Introducing Wired Science Blog network!

There is a new science blogging network in town – the Wired Science Blogs!

The launch was announced earlier today by Betsy Mason (Twitter), the editor of Wired Science. She will be assisted, as Online Community Manager, by Arikia Millikan (blog, profile, Twitter) whose experience in managing online communities (from, through Psychology Today blogs to Haiti Rewired) is unprecedented.

The new network is starting with an All-Star line-up of science bloggers:

Brian Switek (Twitter) has moved his blog Laelaps from here via here to the brand new shiny Laelaps on Wired.

Maryn McKenna (Twitter) moved from here, via here to the new version of Superbug at Wired.

David Dobbs (Twitter), previously here and here, alights today on the new Neuron Culture on the network.

Brian Romans (Twitter), is moving his blog from here to the new Wired version of Clastic Detritus.

Rhett Allain (Twitter) will keep blogging about physics, but instead of at the old place, he’ll do it at Wired, on Dot Physics.

Jonah Lehrer (Twitter) was the first one to move to the Wired network, from here to the new Frontal Cortex

Daniel MacArthur (Twitter), currently here, will also join the crew shortly, moving his Genetic Future blog to an URL that will be something like this.

And the original Wired Science Blog will continue publishing with multiple authors (including, I assume, both Betsy and Arikia).

The combined RSS feed is not ready yet, but you can grab the feeds of all the individual blogs you are interested in. And don’t forget that the network now has its own official Twitter account – @wiredsciblogs.

This is a great new development in the evolution of the science blogging ecosystem. Congratulations to the Wired team on the good job and to the bloggers for landing on such a cool network. We’ll bookmark, subscribe and read…

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Calm before the storm….
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Open Laboratory 2010 – submissions so far

Note: if you have recently moved your blog, please e-mail me the corrected URLs for your entries

The list is growing fast – check the submissions to date and get inspired to submit something of your own – an essay, a poem, a cartoon or original art.

The Submission form is here so you can get started. Under the fold are entries so far, as well as buttons and the bookmarklet. The instructions for submitting are here.

You can buy the last four annual collections here. You can read Prefaces and Introductions to older editions here.

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Good morning….
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Good night. Tomorrow is another week….
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Images on

If you upload your images that in some way relate to science blogging (e.g., from various related conferences, meetups, events, etc.) and give them a tag #scienceblogging on Flickr, they will appear on the front page at (scroll down a little bit to see them). See the related blog post.

Carnival reminders

The Carnal Carnival #2 – Vomit:

The next Carnal Carnival will go up on Friday 9/17, hosted by Carin Bondar, and the theme is vomit.

Which means you still have a few days to send your barfiest posts to:
carnivalcarnal AT gmail DOT com
or to
carin AT carinbondar DOT com


3 days until The Giant’s Shoulders #27

There’s only 3 days left before the deadline of the next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders history of science blog carnival! It will be held at Entertaining Research, and the deadline for entries is September 15th. Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!


Berry Go Round – call for submissions to the plant blog carnival

Yes, I will host Berry Go Round, the Botanical blog carnival this month.

The deadline for entry is September 28th at 6pm Eastern time, and the carnival will alight on the 29th.

There are several ways to submit your entries – go here for instructions. If nothing else works, send me the URLs at: coturnix AT gmail DOT com.

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It’s still weekend, right?
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Teaching tomorrow, The Monti in the evening, a busy weekend, so read these until Monday:
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‘Instant Elements’ using Google Instant Search (video)

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Busy (but good) day today, more tomorrow, some links to keep you busy till then:
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The Most Awesome Wedding

Last weekend, we went to a wedding in New Jersey.

My wife, being in the wedding, went earlier in the week. My teenage son is too cool to go to a wedding so he stayed with Grandma, programming something on his computer. So my daughter and I got on a train early Friday morning (the Carolinian) in Durham. I don’t think she has ever been on a train before! As for me, I traveled by train a lot back in Europe, but not so much in the States – a trip to Charlotte a decade ago, a quick ride in San Francisco in 2007, that’s about it. And this is a looooong ride – about 10 hours from Durham to Newark, NJ.

The train ride was very comfortable. The train is clean, spacious, people on it nice, so I wonder why we don’t use train more often. Ten hours is a lot of time. My daughter and I chatted some, went to the diner car to get some food and drinks a couple of times (though we did stock up on chocolate, chips and sodas before boarding), looked out of the window, etc. She loaded a few movies onto her laptop and watched a couple of those. I read some of Carin Bondar’s delightful book ‘The Nature of Human Nature’. There were parts of rural North Carolina and Virginia where there was no signal for my iPhone, but for the most of the trip the train passes through urban areas and, although there is no wifi on the train itself, there was sufficient signal for my iPhone to be useful. I spent a lot of time reading science blogs via and realized how useful the site is (and that it does not really need a special mobile version – it works fine as it is).

We arrived in Montclair, NJ in the evening and were first taken to a high point (High Lawn Pavillion, for those familiar with the area) from which we could see the night skyline of Manhattan. We stayed with the parents of the bride. Actually, one of the brides. This was to be a wedding in a same-sex marriage, a first one I attended. And also a Jewish wedding (not a first for me, though).

On Saturday, we had time to get on a bus and spend the morning in Manhattan, have lunch there, and meet some friends (you may have seen some pictures I posted on Facebook – my wife has much more still to upload). The Saturday dinner was organized by the parents of the other bride and the wedding itself was on Sunday (we drove back on Monday – a drive much easier and smoother – and with the truck stops much cleaner – than what I remember from 19 years ago, the last time I went that way by I-95, in the opposite direction – North).

This was probably the most fun and relaxed wedding I ever attended (it is hard not to be nervous at one’s own, so I’ll refrain on commenting on that one). The rabbi had fun. Both brides had fun. Everyone in the synagogue had fun. Not a dull or tense moment during the entire ceremony. It was beautiful, it was spiritual, yet it all felt so normal, so natural, I had to remind myself at the end that I was participating in history. A ceremony like this, just a few years ago, would not just have been impossible, but unthinkable.

The two brides come from two very different families. One from the North, the other from the South. One Democratic, the other Republican. One Jewish, the other Christian. In many ways – polar opposites. Yet both families stepped up to the plate and embraced each other fully.

It was not just Lisa and Erika being revolutionaries and trailblazers. It was not just that Lisa and Erika got married to each other and a couple of hundred of us were there. We were not just observers, but participants. I like to think that each one of us came out of it a better person. That each one of us is now a seedling, making the world a better place wherever we may be.

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Wellness and Writing Connections Conference

Wellness and Writing Connections Conference:

The annual Wellness and Writing Connections Conference will be held October 22-23, 2010 at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center in Atlanta, GA.

This two-day conference brings together a number of powerhouse leaders in the field of writing for health and healing. Breakout sessions include writing and healing in wartime, writing and compassion fatigue, and writing in integrative medicine, in addition to topics in journaling, memoir, psychological journaling, student writings, and more.

Now, more than ever, creative expression, writing, and the arts are being used in medical settings to process experiences of illness and trauma. Research led by Dr. James Pennebaker has shown that the use of writing has physiological benefits to health and can aid in healing from both physical and emotional trauma.

The Friday evening keynote address will feature Roy Fox, Professor of English Education and Director of the Missouri Writing Project at the University of Missouri. The keynote address on Saturday evening will feature Brenda Stockdale, Director of Mind-Body Medicine for the Radiology Clinics of Georgia. Additional speakers include Lucille Allegretti-Freeman, Tim Blue, Susan Borkin, Angela and Dennis Buttiner, Claudia-Hill Duffee, Carolyn Graham, Claudia Hough, Elaine Handley, Leatha Kendrick, Laura Miller, Diana Rash, Jean Rowe, and Barbara Stahura.

To find out more information and to register, contact Director John Evans at or visit and the Facebook page.

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