Monthly Archives: October 2010

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It is pretty amazing how much work I had to do over this weekend! And so much to post here over the next couple of days before I go off traveling to SC and NY and CT….

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Serbian Dreambook: National Imaginary in the Time of Milošević

Some of you may know that my brother is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. He also works as a visual artist in photography, video, and other media, mostly in collaboration with his wife Gordana who is an artist.

In a few months, his book willl come out – Serbian Dreambook: National Imaginary in the Time of Milošević:

The central role that the regime of Slobodan Milošević played in the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia is well known, but Marko Živković explores another side of this time period: the stories people in Serbia were telling themselves (and others) about themselves. Živković traces the recurring themes, scripts, and narratives that permeated public discourse in Milošević’s Serbia, as Serbs described themselves as Gypsies or Jews, violent highlanders or peaceful lowlanders, and invoked their own mythologized defeat at the Battle of Kosovo. The author investigates national narratives, the use of tradition for political purposes, and local idioms, paying special attention to the often bizarre and outlandish tropes people employed to make sense of their social reality. He suggests that the enchantments of political life under Milošević may be fruitfully seen as a dreambook of Serbian national imaginary.

I have read most of the stuff in the book, at least in some earlier drafts, over the past few years, and I know this stuff is good! It will help you understand Serbia – in the wartime 1990s as well as before and after. And it may help you understand some other nations or some other groups of people (perhaps even TeaPartiers if you are dilligent in adjusting for different contexts, histories, etc.).

So, pre-order the book now – it will come out next May but it will be worth the wait.

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First, a question: is it possible for a WordPress blog to have both “Comment” and “Fact-check” buttons at the bottom of each post, commenting on each resulting in comments in different color, e.g., “comment” looking normal (e.g., white) and “fact-check” having a blue frame (or some other way to distinguish)?

I hope you did already, but if you didn’t, please go and vote for Christie Wilcox right now and right here.

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Intensely busy week (obviously, or you’d see more stuff on this blog otherwise). Had lunches with some smart interesting people yesterday and today, though, which is always uplifting. Lots of travel next week. Till then, read these articles and posts:
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Dinner with Anton Zuiker last night, working on ScienceOnline2011, update soon.

Preparing for next week’s travels. Need a room-mate for the NASW meeting Nov.5-7 in New Haven – will pay my part. Let me know if interested…

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These will keep you occupied for a while:

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Lots of work behind the scenes….are you ready for a more eclectic than usual mix of links?
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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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Can’t believe the weekend is over and what a horrendously busy and nerve-wracking week likes ahead….
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‘Social Network’, the movie

Finally saw ‘Social Network’, the movie. I was primed by all the reviews to hate the movie. But I didn’t. I found Mark Zuckerberg to be the only sympathetic character in the entire dog-eat-dog, sexist tech-biz world as portrayed in the film – which is not that far removed from reality.

A brilliant, talented, socially awkward kid with at least mild Aspergers has a vision and a feel for what he needs to do and can do. He may not be interested in money, women and fame, but people who are necessary for him to fund his vision are interested in these, and sometimes he falls for their sweet-talk, makes mistakes, falls and gets up again, and is driven to move on and pursue his dream.

Yes, the movie has factual errors, and yes the movie tried to slander him badly, and yes, what Facebook really means (which is important) is totally lost to the movie-makers who emphasize, like every dinosaurian curmudgeon worth his salt has to, the least important but most offensive (to old-time Puritanical tastes) aspects of Facebook (e.g., the potential for finding suitable dates, or changes in the meaning of privacy they don’t grok).

But in the end it is the old-timers – the lawyers, the old-money guys, the keepers of old traditions, the vile, sexist business wheelers&dealers (including Larry Summers) that come off the worst in the movie – you end up loathing them all by the time the credits roll.

In the end, the only one remaining standing, unscathed and even likable is the visionary, the one who changed the norms of the world to be a little more up-to-date: Mark Zuckerberg. It is easy to identify with him. It is easy to root for him when he uses his intelligence to talk back to the elders who imagine they have authority over him and to put them in their proper place. Who of us was never a kid, confused by the scheming of adults, falling into their traps, and hoping to learn from those negative experiences and go on and change the world for the better?

How to be a new-school (mostly TV) journalist, in some time very soon (video)

The video in the previous post, though it may seem like parody today, was actually produced in full seriousness. This one, on the other hand, was produced as a satire, but cuts close to the bone – the trick is: one does not need to invoke social networks or new gizmos&gadgets to talk for five minutes on air without saying anything. The current crop is perfectly good at doing exactly that without any need for new technology.

How to be an old-school (mostly male) journalist, in some time long ago (video)

[From, via]

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Saturday, full of cool stories:
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‘Charles Darwin would have been a blogger.’

‘Charles Darwin would have been a blogger.’ – that was the title of the winning proposal for the Wellcome Trust’s Survival Rival Winners award. You can read the original proposal (PDF) here.

And now, Karen James (website, blog, Twitter) and a group of students and teachers from Scotland are on their trip to Galapagos, live-blogging and tweeting their trip, posting images and videos online and generally doing what Darwin would have done on his original Beagle trip if the technology was available at the time.

As Karen says:

“Now through the 30th of October I am in Galapagos with the Wellcome Trust, accompanying some students and teachers on their trip of a lifetime (in fact, they are accompanying me on MY trip of a lifetime, they just don’t know it). In the spirit of our session at Science Online ’10, my winning application proposed communicating our adventures by twitter, blogs, flickr and youtube, as described here.”

You can and should follow their adventures on the blog (go back in time through the archives to the very first post – fascinating!) and Twitter (actually Twitter list of all the travelers), see their photographs on Flickr and videos on YouTube.

I assume they will also write some final reports after they come back from the trip. And perhaps some of them will come to ScienceOnline2011 with Karen and share their experiences with us there.

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Spent the day on the phone, running around, faxing and mailing stuff, first steps on the way to financial recovery, catching up with old debts, relapsed insurances, expired car-tags, etc… this will take months to afford to fix all!

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Slime mold, navigating a maze (video)


Machine made of Legos, builds with Legos (video)

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Busy day. Wonderful and lively Open Access panel at Perkins Library at Duke this morning. Sorry, no recording….
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Here are some good photos from last night’s blogger bash.

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Dean Kamen – new science and technology show on Planet Green

Now this is exciting:

Dean Kamen is a globally renowned inventor with more than 400 patents, including the Segway, the insulin pump and the robotic prosthetic “Luke Arm.” This fall, the inventor will play the role of investigator—leaving his private island to jet around the world in search of the technologies of tomorrow. In the world premiere original series Dean of Invention, Planet Green joins Kamen on his quest to find the next scientific breakthroughs that will improve life for all mankind. Dean of Invention airs in Planet Green’s VERGE primetime block at 10/9c beginning on Friday, October 22.

Dean of Invention follows Kamen and correspondent Joanne Colan as they explore the emerging technologies being developed to tackle the most daunting global challenges of today. In each episode, Kamen and Colan encounter the world’s latest cutting-edge creations by embedding themselves with leading scientists, doctors and inventors. From space-age robotics to artificial intelligence to biological breakthroughs, Dean of Invention reveals the visionary scientific advancements that have the ability to reinvent the future.

See the show website

Check out additional video

See the YouTube playlist

Here’s a zany product side site — buy your own bionic hand!

And here’s how to find Planet Green on TV in your area.

And a background story about it: ‘Dean of Invention’ looks at life-changing science:

Dean Kamen was game to do a weekly TV show about science.

Under two conditions, that is:

First, he wanted to keep the focus squarely on science — especially its thrilling possibilities for youngsters who dive in.

Second, Kamen, a world-renowned inventor (maybe you’ve heard of his Segway human transporter), didn’t feel like reinventing himself as a TV personality.

“I can be me. YOU can make it interesting,” he told his new partners at the Planet Green network…..

That’s this Friday, so tune in.

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The blogger bash last night was awesome!
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Scienceblogging: Scientopia – a Q&A with SciCurious and Mark Chu-Carroll

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?

Sci: My ‘name’ is Scicurious, and I started blogging in May(ish) of 2008. I have a PhD in Physiology, and I’m currently a post-doc at a rather famous MRU. I got into scienceblogging when I met BORA! I wanted to improve my science writing skills and see how the science writing world looked. My contact told me to talk to Bora. I met him at a coffee shop. The next day, Scicurious was born, first on WordPress, then on Scienceblogs, and now at Scientopia!

Mark: I’m Mark Chu-Carroll. I write the blog Good Math/Bad Math, which is pretty much about exactly what the title says. I write to try to explain good math, and what makes it beautiful and fascinating; and to show how people abuse math to deceive or distort things.

How I got into blogging was by reading blogs. It looked like a lot of fun writing them, but I couldn’t quite figure out an angle – what could I say that people would be interested in reading, that would be different from what dozens of people were already saying?

So I just kept reading. And one day, I was reading one of Orac’s posts about a really stupid vaccination/autism study. Orac had done a typically Orac’ian takedown – that is, remarkably thorough and comprehensive – and yet, it seemed obvious to me, he’d missed the stupidest part of the thing: the whole thing was based on an obviously and deliberately incorrect mathematical procedure. I posted a long comment explaining it – and then said, hey, you know what? I could write a blog about that! And so I started Good Math/Bad Math on Blogger, by copying that comment into the first post.

I thought, when it started, that I’d probably never get anyone to read it, and that I’d probably end up giving up after a week or two. Now it’s been almost five years!

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?
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I hope to see you tonight!

If you come to Durham tonight you’ll get to schmooze and share drinks with a bunch of veteran Triangle bloggers, or veteran bloggers now living in the Triangle, and some new bloggers and some fans. Join us – more the merrier. Who will be there?

Anton Zuiker
me and my wife
Pam Spaulding
David Kroll a.k.a. Abel PharmBoy
Craig McClain
Misha Angrist
Wayne Sutton
Ilina Ewen
Dawn and Brian Crawford
Ruby Sinreich and Brian Russell
Princess Ojiaku
Andre Blackman
Gabrielle Kaasa
Lisa Sullivan
J. Michael Quante
Joanna Wolfe
Rob Zelt
Wendy Livingston
Allegra Sinclair
Stacey Alexander
Alicia Cuthbertson
Kevin Davis
Beck Tench
Jeff Stern
Fiona Morgan
Jeremy Griffin
Dipika Kohli
and more….

There is plenty of space, and you can still register or just show up.

Quick Links….a lot of them…all good.

Tomorrow night! The BlogTogether Birthday Bash – Oct 19, 2010 and The BlogTogether Birthday Bash – what a fantastic line-up! Reads like who’s’who of the local (and in some cases international) blogging world. And many will step up on the stage and tell their stories how blogging changed their lives. It’s free – you should join us. It will be great fun! Click through the links and register.

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The BlogTogether Birthday Bash

Being such a large technology hub, it is not surprising that North Carolina is the home to a number of pioneer bloggers, people who have been at it for a decade or more.

The city of Greensboro took to blogging so early and so intensely (mainly due to the efforts by everyone’s blogfather Ed Cone and the early adoption of blogs by Greensboro News & Record) that it was dubbed Blogsboro in a 2005 article in LA Times. According to some, Greensboro has the highest per capita number of bloggers, and blogging is almost essential for running for local office.

Just an hour to the East of Greensboro lies the Triangle area with its several universities and the Research Triangle Park full of technology companies. UNC school of journalism adopted blogging early on as well. Unsurprisingly, the blogging craze quickly spread around the Triangle as well.

One of such early pioneer bloggers is my good friend Anton Zuiker, who recently celebrated his tenth blogiversary.

One way in which Anton is not a typical blogger is that he is not a natural self-promoter. There are so many things he did that the outside world erroneously ascribes to others (including me, especially me). For just a few examples, he was involved in the organization of the 2005 Chapel Hill BlogerCon and helped Brian Russell in the organization of the 2006 PodcasterCon. He organized Triangle Blogger Meetups for years. He founded Blog Together, the community of local bloggers. He is one of the founding members of SCONC, association of science communicators of NC. He hosts a Triangle Blogger BBQ every year at his home. He left his fingerprints in a number of online publications at Duke, UNC and NCSU.

Without Anton, the annual ScienceOnline conferences would never have happened. The Open Laboratory anthologies stem from a seed that was his idea. Science In The Triangle news-site was originally his idea. He set up to begin with. He organized the first local food-blogging event and the first Long Table event. He is the silent force that brought a bunch of us independent bloggers together, meeting face-to-face, becoming friends, doing business together, organizing events together, etc. – what he calls the ‘Blogtogether spirit’.

And now, ten years after he started blogging, and almost six years since the foundation of BlogTogether, Anton is organizing something new – The BlogTogether Birthday Bash.

If you live in North Carolina or just happen to be in the state on October 19th 2010, and if you are a blogger or commenter or blog-reader or just a fan of a particular blogger, join us for an evening of conversations and community and fun (and a few drinks).

Come to downtown Durham and have something to eat in one of the wonderful local restaurants. Then come to Casbah at 7pm where there will be a cash bar for drinks. A number of bloggers will stand up and tell a story that in some way relates to their blogging, perhaps how their blogs changed their lives. As Anton explains:

We’ll ask a handful of bloggers to get up on stage and tell a story about what blogging has meant to them or done for them, and share a highlight of something they’re particularly proud of having accomplished because of blogging.

After half a dozen or so prepared stories, we’ll throw it open to the crowd for anyone who wants 5 minutes to share a highlight or read a memorable post or thank someone in the audience for their blog mentorship.

You can see who has registered so far and if you can join us please register today, bring your significant others or friends, and let us know if you are willing to get up on stage and tell us your blogging story.

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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Molecular Insights into Classic Examples of Evolution Symposium Live Webcast

This looks awesome! I’ll be at NASW in New Haven CT at the time (I think my session is exactly at this time – bummer!) but if I could I would watch it. If you can, you certainly should watch it:

“Molecular Insights into Classic Examples of Evolution” Symposium to be Webcast Live from NABT Conference in Minneapolis

Are you interested in evolution, but unable to attend this year’s National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) conference in Minneapolis? Would you and your students like to learn more about how molecular approaches are providing new insights into some of the “classic” examples of evolution you discuss in your class? If so, you will be excited to learn that the annual NABT Evolution Symposium will be accessible via live webcast on Friday, Nov. 5th from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Central time.

Teachers and students are encouraged to tune in to all or part of the free webcast for an opportunity to hear internationally renowned researchers discuss their fascinating, cutting-edge work in molecular evolutionary biology. Classrooms all over the world will even be able to submit their questions online and have the speakers respond in real time!

For more information, including speaker names, talk titles and times, please see or contact

To view the live, free webcast, simply go to at 11 am Pacific/12 pm Mountain/1 pm Central/2 pm Eastern and log in as a guest. (Note: We suggest you do this in advance to test the connection and make sure you can access the site without problems. When you log in successfully you’ll see a “Congratulations” message. If you have problems, please contact

See the NESCent site for more information:

This year’s Evolution Symposium features four exciting speakers whose research in molecular evolution is revolutionizing our understanding of familiar and compelling examples of evolution. Learn more about Sean Carroll’s work in Drosophila wing coloration and Hopi Hoekstra’s research into the underlying molecular mechanisms of coat color in beach mice. Butch Brodie will present research on the toxin arms race between newts and garter snakes, and Allen Rodrigo will talk about the practical and research value of studies in viral evolution.

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Have a great weekend!
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A busy week coming up!

Sometimes, everything happens in the same week:

Tuesday at noon at Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi pizza lunch lecture: Images of Darwin and the Nature of Science, talk by Dr.Will Kimler, NCSU.

Tuesday at 7pm at Casbah in Durham: The BlogTogether Birthday Bash.

Wednesday at 8pm at Duke: Waves of Mu (which means I will have to miss Science Cafe Raleigh – March of the Fossil Penguins, at the same time. Ugh!).

Thursday at 9am at Duke: Open Access Publishing panel.

Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour 68: Taking Science Online (video)

An hour-long show with Dr.Kiki last night, about science media and blogging, ScienceOnline conferences, science communication in North Carolina and more – you can download the file here, watch as mp4, or just watch here:

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Happy Friday!
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Scienceblogging: Field of Science – a Q&A with Edward Michaud

This is the series of interviews with people doing interesting things in the current science blogging ecosystem.

Today I got to ask Edward Michaud from Field of Science a few questions.

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?

My professional life is wholly separate from my passion for science and web development, so to best understand who I am and where I come from in relation to Field of Science, it seems more appropriate to tell the story of how I came to found it: ’00-’05: The best science blogger I know doesn’t blog and rarely writes about science. She posts anonymously in a forum that will remain unnamed. Hers is by far the fittest intellect I have ever encountered. I spend the first half of the decade in the online company of this person and others of her ilk (i.e. people smarter and better educated than I). … ’05-’08: I take note that the Internet helps those who help themselves. Given how much I enjoy the medium, I try my hand at it. Soon after I conclude that web development is my cup of tea. … ’08-Present: With tried and tested skill set in hand, I decide it’s time to quit messing around and try to create a space that will hopefully appeal to the people I find most interesting–scientists–all while betting that on the Internet, nobody knows I’m a dog. That space is Field of Science.

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?

For the science blogger, it truly is a new day (even though it might not feel like it). From idealistic newbie to cynical seasoned pro, if there was ever a time to blog at your best, this next year is it. A new world of science blogging just opened up, so not only is there new territory full of unoccupied niches waiting to be filled, the old world order no longer rules the day.

Competition is key, and in that respect the schism (a mistake) is the best thing to happen to science blogging since, well, ScienceBlogs. My take on where things go from here starts with the new, more diverse science blog network landscape.

I suspect that the sudden valuation of science blogs is a bit of a bubble in that the credibility the corporate publishers think they’re buying with their science blog networks can never truly be quantified, leaving them perpetually vulnerable to the subjective whims and prejudices of the next Owner, Editor, Department Head? I expect to see some of these networks fall innocent victim to buyer’s remorse.

Fortunately for the commercial networks, they won’t be struggling to justify their existence in a corporate echo chamber. In the newly competitive environment: flexibility, freedom to experiment and test new/fresh ideas, and simple numbers give the noncommercial networks a substantial advantage over their more top-heavy, structurally and financially constrained corporate counterparts. The commercial networks that prove the most successful will likely be the ones not too proud to follow the lead of the innovative collectives and nonprofits, because they are the new proving grounds, and where the next “elite” science bloggers will cut their teeth.

At some point during the summer ScienceBlogs stopped being the center of the science blogging universe. That’s a fundamental break from the past, and as a consequence the future of science blogging has been unstuck with the spotlight now on change and innovation. The power is back in the science blogger’s hands. An example of this new power would be supporting the elite science bloggers at their commercial digs by a) reading them and b) linking to them when they’ve said something right, wrong or worthy of note. The reason for this is as I mentioned above, it’s hard to quantify the “authority” a science blog network gains a publication, but traffic and pagerank are measurable, and if the science blogging community supports its lucky elite, then two things happen: those commercial networks grow (read: more room at the top), and presumably scientific literacy increases, which is good in and of itself, but also happens to be the best way to grow the audience for science blogs everywhere.

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 use feedreader because I’m old school like that. I’m also no stranger to Twitter, but because it’s still new school, I can’t really admit to using it just yet.

Where do you see Field Of Science within the global science blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what unique service does it provide?

Field of Science is a big tent, from the occasional blogger who wants a larger audience for those rare posts, to the frequent science blogger who has their sights set on bigger things, it exists to serve its bloggers whatever their aspirations.

I tend to order the science blog networks as if I were an upwardly mobile science blogger. From that vantage Field of Science is the lowest rung in the ladder. It’s a voluntary first step for science bloggers interested in exploring the network effect. By raising a science blogger’s profile, Field of Science helps to guard against great content being overlooked. It’s also the case that perceptions play a huge role in the authority readers assign content. The casual reader reads a science blog the same as they do any other blog. Being powered by Blogger, Field of Science is positioned to turn the credibility deficit blogspot blogs suffer by default, into a credibility surplus, without changing the blogging experience for the science blogger one iota.

Personally, I hope to some day see a Field of Science blogger graduate to a paying gig, and to feel like their association with Field of Science played a role in making that happen. If I had one wish for Field of Science, it would be that it become conventional wisdom that a proven route to the upper echelons of science blogging passes through Field of Science.

Otherwise, my vision of Field of Science is always that of a patient and thoughtful science tribe that excels at finding and promoting voices in science.

What is next for Field Of Science?

I’m currently bouncing between redesigning the main page and the standard template for blogs, as we’ve outgrown out last design. I’m looking at the problem from the perspective of future partner networks as well. That is, creating an architecture that can be shared across multiple science blog networks. I’m also working on the problem of preserving a blog’s individual character while still delivering the benefits a network.

Thank you so much for your time. I hope you and some of your bloggers will be able to make it to ScienceOnline2011 in January so we can continue this dialogue in real life.


Name of the site:
Field of Science (FoS)


Feed URL:

Edward Michaud

Date of launch:
September 26, 2008

Number of bloggers on the day of launch:

Maximum number of bloggers in the history of the site:

Current number of bloggers:


Average monthly traffic (visits/pageviews):

U.S. Government Printing Office: Comic Book (video)

Print-nostalgics print a pro-print comic-strip with a comic result….


Why are dinosaur fossils’ heads turned up and back? (repost)

From the ArchivesThis is an old post from June 2007 (click on the button to see the original), but I thought it would be a good one to re-post for the next edition of Carnal Carnival:

OK, it’s been about 20 years since I was last in vet school and I have fogotten most of the stuff I learned there. But I remember a few things.

I clearly remember the Pathology class (and especially the lab!) and the Five Signs (or stages) of Death: pallor mortis (paleness), algor mortis (cooling), rigor mortis (stiffening), livor mortis (blood settling/red patches) and decomposition (rotting). The linked Wikipedia articles are pitifully anthropocentric, though, and there is much more cool stuff to learn when comparing various animals.

The most interesting (at least to me) of the five signs of death is Rigor Mortis. If you go back to the very basic physiology of muscle contraction, you may remember that ATP is needed for the cross-bridges to be released (i.e., to separate actin from myosin). After death, ATP breaks down, the cross-bridges cannot be released, and the muscles remain stiff for a period of time until decay and decomposition start breaking down muscle proteins. Exactly when rigor mortis sets in, and when the muscles start softening up again depends on a number of factors, including species, body size, proportional muscle mass, physical condition, physical activity prior to the time of death, age, cause of death, environmental temperature and humidity.

I also remember the word Opisthotonus, a backward arching of the head and neck caused by injury of the cerebellum, meningitis, and some types of poisoning (e.g., strychnine). Opisthotonus also occurs after death as a result of rigor mortis.

Back in vet school, all I was interested in was equine medicine (so I studied other species only as much as needed to pass the class), so I spent some time studying that all-important Ligamentum nuchae in the horse. If you ride and train horses, that is one of the most important pieces of equine anatomy, the biggest and strongest ligament (actually a fused composite of hundreds of smaller ligaments) in the horse’s body, connecting the poll (top of the head, a ridge on the occipital bone), the top-line of the neck, withers, back, loins, rump and dock (the base of the tail).

I thought back then that the contraction of the nuchal ligament was the cause of the occurrence of opisthotonus after death. The ligament is so large and powerful, no groups of muscles are supposed to be able to counteract this movement. Particularly in later stages after death, as the muscles start decomposing, nothing would stop the ligament to pull the head and neck up.

Apparently, I was wrong:

Smith (1921) mentioned the function of the funicular ligamentum nuchae. He believed it assisted the muscles in keeping the head extended as, for example, when grazing. He also said that shortening of the ligament was responsible for the dorsiflexion (opisthotonus) of the head/neck after death. This is not the case since severing the ligament does not release such dorsiflexion; rigor mortis of the dorsal cervical muscles causes opisthotonus after death.

Now, Grrrl and Brian Switek point to and discuss at length a new paper by veterinarian Cynthia Marshall Faux, and famous dinosaur paleontologist Kevin Padian, who argue that the opishtotonus seen in many dinosaur fossils is not a result of rigor mortis, but a result of pre-death brain injury or poisoning. Contrary to the quote above, they did not observe opisthotonus in dead horses.

I am intrigued. Not persuaded yet, but open to changing my mind if their evidence is persuasive. Perhaps opisthotonus has different causes in different fossils, depending on the species and the individual case: some got poisoned or brain-injured, while others curved due to rigor mortis. After all, an Archaeopterix is not exactly built like a horse. What do you think?

Apparently, Kevin Padian promised to come by Grrrl’s blog and answer questions in the near future. I’ll let you know when this happens. Update: Kevin Padian responds and Brian has an update – see the comment by the ostrich breeder there as well stating that these birds assume the position, which is similar to their sleeping position, many hours before death, thus eliminating both rigor mortis and poisoning as causes of opisthotonus. I remember similar position of the neck of quail I worked with when they were not feeling well and were going to die within a day or so.

Watch me in about an hour…Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour

I’ll be on Dr.Kirsten Sanford’s science show Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour live on at 7EST/4PST, tune in in less than an hour.

The recording will be available tomorrow on their site and on YouTube.

Update: So, how was it for you? I love doing audio interviews (radio, podcasts), but having my face visible…. let’s say I am not yet as comfortable with it as I should be. So, was it OK?

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Back home from NYC. Three full, busy, energizing days, working with an amazing group of people! Now trying to catch up, so these should keep you occupied in the meantime:
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Remind Me (video)

#NYCscitweetup and Quick Links

We had a great time last night at the #NYCscitweetup. A lot of good people showed up, including @brideyrevisited, @robinlloyd99, @NoahWG, @j_timmer, @LouWoodley, @anthinpractice, @genegeek, @virginiahughes, @nparmalee, @apoorva_nyc, @genomicslawyer, @arikia, @culturingsci, @cassierodenberg, @maiasz and @BoraZ. Now that I will be coming to NYC often, perhaps that can be used as an excuse to make these kinds of meetups a regular feature.

And now, to today’s links:
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ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Anne Jefferson

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 Dr. Anne Jefferson 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?

I’m a hydrologist – meaning I study water – and an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. My pursuit of groundwater and rivers has taken me all over the country from my childhood in Minnesota, east to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for my undergraduate degree, back to Minnesota for a MS, out west to Oregon State University for a PhD and post-doc, and now to the south. My interaction with on-line communication has similarly meandered; I learned HTML and created a website as a high school student but only came to science blogging a few years ago.

Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?

I’m fascinated by the way that surface water, groundwater and landscapes interact at all timescales, from a single rain storm to millions of years. What controls whether a rain drop ends up running over or through the soil into a stream channel within hours to weeks versus sinking down and becoming groundwater that spends years to centuries underground before maybe emerging in that same stream at a spring? How does that partitioning of water between surface and ground affect the way landscapes erode? And how does that partitioning affect the hydrologic behavior of streams and their sensitivity to floods, droughts, and climate change? Those are the sorts of questions I began exploring in the geologically young volcanic rocks of Oregon and I’m now trying to translate to the old, fractured crystalline rocks of North Carolina. Plus, Iiving in the rapidly growing Southeast, I’ve begun asking how human landscapes overlay on natural hydrologic processes. I’m really excited about a project I’m working on with a stream biogeochemist and ecologist to look at how stormwater management practices affect the hydrology, temperature, and ecology of small urban streams. (Come work with me on the project!)

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

My job consists of a wonderfully stimulating mix of research, advising graduate students, and teaching. I sometimes think that each of those activities is enough for a full-time job – but they are all part of one pre-tenure assistant professor job description! My goals are to do and teach good, interesting science with my students and help them succeed, because I know that in their success lies my own. I’m also the single parent of an energetic three (and a half) year old, so my second shift involves learning dinosaur paleontology and explaining viral versus bacterial illnesses in non-technical terms.

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

I’m interested in how the Internet can serve as an important community and resource for individuals who might otherwise feel isolated or disconnected from others like themselves. This might be the lone geologist in a physics department at a liberal arts college, it might be a Latina hydrologist in the northwest, or it might be a woman graduate student struggling to figure out how she’s going to combine her plans for an academic career with her desire to have a family. I teamed up with Kim Hannula, Pat Campbell, and Suzanne Franks to look at how women geoscientists use blogs for mentoring and professional development, and we published a paper summarizing our findings and recommendations for the way we could improve the potential for on-line communities to support diverse geoscientists. (You can read more about it – and the open-access paper here).

I’m also interested in how the Internet, and science blogging, can create opportunities for informal, life-long science education and supplement the traditional science classroom. When I write posts for Highly Allochthonous, I’m trying to write for the non-scientist, or at least non-hydrologist, who is interested enough in water or geology to Google the right keywords over her morning cup of coffee.

But the person I picture in my head is the middle or high school science teacher who is looking to go beyond the textbook and bring richer context into her teaching or learn more about earth science to be able to do a better job answering inquisitive students’ questions. Having worked with science teachers in the past, I am acutely aware how few resources are available in many schools, and that’s part of why I’m so thrilled to be helping out with the DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students drive through our Highly Allochthonous Earth Science Challenge.

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?

Blogging, tweeting, and reading blogs and twitter actually helps me stay somewhat up-to-date with the scientific literature in a much broader sense than if I were solely reading journal articles. I’m also increasingly finding that blogging affects the way I teach. For example, this semester I’m teaching a seminar on climate change science that meets a university communication requirement, and I’ve had students do critical analyses of news media reporting on climate change. My choice of that assignment and my approach to doing it has been heavily influenced by discussions I’ve seen and participated in on blogs. I think some on-line presence, even if it is just a well-crafted and up-to-date web page, is a necessity for a young academic, so that people reading your articles and prospective students can find out more about what you do. But beyond that I think there are corners of academia that view online presence as a distraction. I just hope that my tenure committee will see that my online activities are not detrimental to my research productivity and are instead a valuable form of outreach. I’ll let you know in a couple of years.

When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference?

I started reading science blogs in about 2006, but didn’t start writing at Highly Allochthonous until 2008 or so. The geoblogosphere is a great, tight-knit community, so it’s hard to pick favorites, but if you forced me to pick one, I’d go with Eruptions by Erik Klemetti. Erik and I actually went to grad school together at Oregon State and it’s been great to reconnect through blogging and to feed my volcano addiction with his frequent updates and always gorgeous photos. At the Saturday night banquet, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the Deep Sea News crew, and making their acquaintance was certainly a highlight of the conference.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

There are two particularly memorable parts of ScienceOnline2010 for me. First was the realization that despite the vastness of the science blogosphere I knew, it was only a small part of online science communication efforts – which range from open-access publishing to podcasting and beyond. The second memorable part of ScienceOnline2010 was the session I moderated on “Casting a wider net: Promoting gender and ethnic diversity in STEM.” We had a great unconference-y discussion with lots of thoughtful contributions from the audience. Among the points that stick out in my brain were discussions of the challenges of continuing mentoring relationships beyond the time a student is in a particular program and of spot-lighting the work of minority scientists without forcing them into being role models or spokespeople if that’s not what they want to do. I find these sorts of discussions from diverse viewpoints incredibly helpful as I continue my on-line and off-line efforts to increase the recruitment and retention of women and minorities in the geosciences.

It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

How “truthy” is Twitter? (video)

Information spreads quickly online, especially in the age of social networking. The ‘Truthy’ project, based at Indiana University, seeks to map the spread of ideas on services such as Twitter and help identify artificially-created memes. By examining how messages get bounced from one member of a network to another, and by examining the context around those messages, the researchers think they can identify ‘astroturfing,’ the creation of false grass-roots political movements. Want to participate in an mini-experiment? Tweet using the key words ‘#truthy, @scifri, and @truthyatindiana’ and the project leaders will try to track their spread.

More about the Truthy project at

[Hat-tip: Leslie Taylor]

Quick Links

This is posted at the SciAm office. Long, exhausting but exciting day yesterday. Real work start right about now….

#NYCscitweetup will meet at the Kilarney Rose at 7pm tonight. Join us if you can.

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How ink is made (video)

More info at The Printing Ink Company [Hat-tip]

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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The recording of the Skeptically Speaking show about Science Journalism is now available online

You can download it or listen to it here.

Quick Links

I will be in NYC next three days. Not sure if the hotel has free wifi (cannot and will not pay) so online access may be sporadic. The trip is mostly work, but we’ll also have fun on Tuesday night, at 7pm – follow #NYCscitweetup hashtag on Twitter as we still need to figure out the location. If you are there and have time, join us.
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Little Red Riding Hood, the modern version (video)

You may want to click through and watch in Full-Screen mode for the best effect.

[Hat-tip Alison Campbell]

Quick Links

Have a good weekend….
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Graphene- The Musical (video)

Quick Links

Interesting stuff today….
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Sigma Xi pizza lunch lecture: Images of Darwin and the Nature of Science

From Sigma Xi:

Join us at noon, Tuesday, Oct. 19 here at Sigma Xi to hear NC State University evolutionary biologist Will Kimler talk about “Images of Darwin and the Nature of Science.” Prof. Kimler researches the history of evolutionary ideas in natural history, ecology, genetics and behavior.

Thanks to a grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center, American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for the slice count) to

Directions to Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society in RTP, are here