What I do

By Phil Plait | August 9, 2011 2:00 pm

I’ve seen an uptick in traffic to my site recently, which means new eyeballs and more brains (BRRRAAAIIINS). Welcome! I’m glad you’re here. You’ll no doubt agree that this is the most wonderful, well-written, brilliant, and practically perfect in every way science blog in the known Universe.

But it also means people not familiar with this blog may see things they’re not used to. I’ve been getting a lot of, um, interesting comments in the past few weeks, so perhaps it will help if I post a little intro to me and my blog.


1) I post a lot of pretty pictures of astronomical objects, which I then use to gently inject a little scientific awesomeness into your life. In many of these cases, the picture itself is a link to a much higher-resolution version. When this happens, I will let you know with a bracketed sentence under the picture saying something like "[Click to embiggen.]". This is then nearly inevitably comically followed by commenters telling me huffily that no such word exists, despite it being perfectly cromulent. Whenever this happens, I like to think that a deceased Simpsons character gets its wings.


2) I hang out a lot on social media platforms. I’m on Twitter, and Facebook, and Google+. I’ll note that due to the limitations on Facebook, I cannot add any more friends. But I do have one of those fan pages which you can like or upvote or whatever the kids are doing these days.

Speaking of which, I also hang out on Fark and reddit. I’m also a big fan of StumbleUpon, which has been very good to this blog. If you’re a member of SU, feel free to vote up my posts; there’s a link at the top of every post on the right, just under the title.


3) I will sometimes post about politics, religion, "alternative" medicine, and the like. Reading these posts will no doubt elicit knowing smiles from some, and furious comments from others (generally of the "I thought this was an astronomy blog!" type of complaint). Please, before leaving the latter, read my page on this. I also have a short but sweet commenting policy.


4) There are times I tackle subjects that are complex and subtle. When I do, I try to keep the post short, and use links to other sites or posts that have details. This saves me having to write everything out, and you having to slog through three times as much material as you might need. Istrongly urge you to click those links. Life is rarely simple, and details count.


5) Speaking of which, whenever I use the term "denier" I get grief from some folks too who infer far more out of that word than I imply. This might help.


6) I’m a geek/dork/nerd. I love science fiction, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and many of the trappings of the sci-fi culture. I post about those, too, and sometimes pictures of my dogs and cat and biking trips. I don’t generally get complaints about those though, which I find funny in light of the parenthetical comment I made in #3 above.


7) I wrote a book! Two, in fact.


So there you have it: me in a nutshell. I hope you like it here! I love writing this blog, and it’s still fresh and fun even after all these years. I hope you agree and stick around. There’s a lot going on out there, and I plan on talking to you good folks about it for a long time to come.


Related posts:

Comments Policy
Politics, science, me and thee
I’m skeptical of denialism

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog, Piece of mind

Comments (75)

  1. Sili

    7) I wrote a book! Two, in fact.

    Yeah, but it’s not like you ever had your own programme on the telly.

    Mmmmmmhhhhh – Cox.

  2. Jose

    @1. Sili
    You might want to look up “Phil Plait’s Bad Universe”. It is awesome!

  3. Wait… You wrote a book?

    Okay, now that that’s out of the way, we can resume our regular commenting.

    (For those newcomers, that line was a running gag for a while, shortly after his [second] book came out. I hope we’ve since killed it.)

  4. Coda

    Came here to say what Ken B said. Leaving satisfied.

  5. Keith Bowden

    I think Sili was being silly. (Or facetious, if you prefer.) :)

    He’s also been known to recite to music! (Courtesy of George Hrab.)

  6. Karl Hansen

    hrmph. “cromulent” is NOT a cromulent word.

  7. Tony

    Don’t forget to mention you are a drummer, and that you recorded “Death From the Skies” with George Hrab.

  8. By Cromulent, Conan of Cimmeria loves this site!

  9. Shane C

    Has anyone else noticed how suggestive the space-suited figure and the ring background are in the logo up at the top? Am I the only one who sees this? Perhaps it’s a form of pareidolia…

    And I think the noun form of the word is cromulentosity.

  10. Ian

    I’m a relatively new reader and to be honest there aren’t many blogs that I come back to again and again. I generally get bored and move on after a while. But here I am, still reading. I find this a very welcoming, positive, truthful and fun place to be. A little bit of sunshine to add to my life and hope it continues long into the future when we are all heavily bearded. :D

  11. Ethyachk

    @8. Shane C

    I never noticed it before. Now it is SEARED INTO MY BRAIN. Thanks.

  12. Nigel Depledge

    @ Ken B (3) –
    Aw, man, I loved that running gag!

  13. Keith Bowden

    @ Shane & Ethyachk – It’s intentional, as I recall, but I forget the column where Phil went into the new blog logos.

  14. Nigel Depledge

    Keith Bowden (5) said:

    I think Sili was being silly. (Or facetious, if you prefer.)

    He’s also been known to recite to music! (Courtesy of George Hrab.)

    Eh? Sili recites to music?

  15. lqd

    This post has nothing to do with space! I thought this was an astronomy blog!

    (sarcasm)

  16. Nigel Depledge

    Shane C (8) said:

    Has anyone else noticed how suggestive the space-suited figure and the ring background are in the logo up at the top? Am I the only one who sees this? Perhaps it’s a form of pareidolia…

    Yes, many have noticed, you are not alone, and it’s not paraeidolia (sp?) – it really does look like the astronaut is . . . erm . . . answering the call of nature. (As opposed to the call of Cthulhu? No, don’t go there).

    We had all that (and the many, many jokes that came with it :-) ) when the logo was new and Phil did a post about the “new look BA blog”.

    Apparently, then Apollo space suits (being quite stiff when they were pressurised to about 5 psi) forced the astronauts to adopt that pose whenever they relaxed.

  17. Nigel Depledge

    And, look, I even managed to refrain from doing the Poe about the “what’s all this nonsense? I came here for astronomy and here you are posting about the stuff you do? How dare you post stuff on your own blog that hasn’t been vetted by me?!”

    Well, nearly.

  18. Chelsea

    That logo’s so small I never paid much attention to it. Had to peer closely at the screen and squint to see what yous guys were commenting about. What I want to know, Phil, is what you really do for a living when you’re not playing around with the nerdy stuff? Married to a rich woman? hmm? C’mon man, embiggen yer horizons. ;-)

  19. You forgot to mention how intelligent and spiffy your regular commenters are.

  20. rob

    Ethyachk, i think you will find that this photo is a bit more disturbing.

    :) sorry Phil!

  21. Brian

    Shane C: As a matter of fact, several people pointed it out immediately after it appeared. I’ve been trying to forget it ever since.

    Phil: I finally noticed that you added the “Politics and Religion posts” link to your sidebar. Thanks for that!

  22. Keith Bowden

    @13 (Nigel)

    Ooops! Not terribly clear, was it? I was referring to Phil on the music. [blush]

  23. TheBeef

    Well I would just like to say a big thank you. Glad these clarifications have been made, but more importantly glad you keep the site in such good order. I only discovered the site about 6 months ago but it is a favourite of mine. I teach high school science and often like to point my students at some of your articles. Your blog is an excellent example of well reasoned and well presented popular (and also sometimes obscure) science. Great work :)

  24. Chief

    Ah the young pups who cannot take any alternate views with a grain of salt and feel that an attack is the only response.

    I’ve been a dedicated follower of Phil’s site and blog for most of the 2000’s. Lots of interesting topics and ideas that help me understand things more clearly.

    Mr. Platt has done a wide variety of things over the years and I am amazed that he gets any sleep between all the directions that his interests go.

  25. Nigel Depledge

    @ Keith (23) –
    Don’t sweat it, I thought it was funny! (And it’s not often I get to be pedantic to humorous effect!)

  26. Nigel Depledge

    Aw, man! And Lqd (16) even beat me to the Poe!

  27. Instead of “alternative” medicine I’d spell it alternative “medicine,” but that’s just me.

  28. Dawn

    No… *this* is you in a nutshell:

    “Help! I’m in a nutshell! How did I get into this bloody great big nutshell? What kind of shell has a nut like this?”

    Had to be done.

  29. Donnageddon

    “So there you have it: me in a nutshell”

    That explains the logo…

  30. Kathy A.

    Okay, I’ll complain about #6.

    Due to your constant Dr. Who fanboy posts, I decided to watch an episode again. (Hadn’t watched since the Tom Baker days). Doggone it, now I’m hooked. And so is hubby. Drat you! I hope you’re pleased with yourself.

  31. Grand Lunar

    Phil, your work on your blog (and the website before it became a blog) got me started in the relm of the skeptical community. Basically, you introduced me to critical thinking (and others that promote it as well).

    For all that and more, I thank you. :)

    Incidently, might this quote be appropiate for you?

    “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do, that defines me.”

  32. Phil, you are the best. And I have your book. The first one, I mean. I still have to send you a photo of it for your collection. With a nice view of Patagonia, perhaps an erupting volcano…

  33. Dan

    I’ve got both books and love them dearly. Every time I hear some sketchy “that can’t be right” news story about something in space I always hit the BA blog to get the straight dope.

    Thanks for all you do, I just realized how dependable you’ve always been Dr. Phil.

  34. 2 Degrees South

    5) Speaking of which, whenever I use the term “denier” …

    That implies you use the term fairly often. I wouldn’t have thought there was that much to say about the relative thread weights of women’s hosiery or about old French coins, for that matter.

  35. I’m still waiting for the comic book adaptation.

  36. Joey Joe Joe

    @Nigel (#17):

    The reason the Apollo astronauts adopted the “leaning forward” pose while standing on the Moon has more to do with the weight of the PLSS (Personal Life Support System) backpack. They had to lean forward to prevent themselves from falling over backward!

  37. Jake

    I just wish you’d put your entire post in the RSS feed.

    But you’re great. Don’t change a thing.

  38. podrock

    You also take pictures of clouds, turtles, owls, llama, prairie dogs, bedroom slippers, iguana, carrots, your Close Personal Friend Adam Savage™, etc…

  39. katwagner

    O, yeah, the slippers! HAhahaha! I loved them!

  40. Draa

    I just want to say thanks. You are by far my most favorite internet person. I always enjoy reading your blog. It’s become a daily habit.

  41. Richie

    “I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite site on the Internet!”

  42. Sam

    Post what you want just no ‘LOL cats’ and your great in my books :D

    A boost in traffic is likely to have resulted in the release of google+, I wish you the utmost success.

  43. Clive DuPort

    Dr. Phil,

    I think its great the way you agree with me.

    Carry on!

  44. Thomas Siefert

    That’s no moon…

  45. Liz

    Some people have no sense of humor. Well, actually, they do, but it’s the sense of humor of a geological artifact that’s been stuck in the darkened corners of a secure warehouse. where few people ever come; and those who do, drop off other odd miscellanea.

  46. The Yorkshire Sceptic a.k.a. Cassandra

    On the other hand, some people – me, for one – love the new additions to the English language, so embiggen all you like. Love the creative mind at work!

  47. Don

    Just because your blog rocks you think you can post whatever articles you want!

    … oh wait… nm…

  48. AtomicTommy

    I love your blog Phil, and will continue to stop by as part of my daily read of geek that starts off my mornings before going full steam at work. And I really don’t understand why anyone would complain about your words you use in place of “embiggen”. I mean, how hard is it not to at least chuckle a little at those, and realize it’s all in fun? Either people on the interwebz are way too serious, or really just want to complain about everything.

    Anyway, keep up the good work Phil! I’ll keep reading and reposting on my facebook every once in awhile…

  49. IMPORTANT NEWS: There’s a petition to make the Montreal police take David Mabus’ death threats seriously. Click my name to go there!

    PHIL: I think you should make a blog post about this, like P.Z. did. After all, you’ve been one of Mabus’ targets for a while, haven’t you?

  50. Random Excess

    Even as a child I was not swayed by the claims of UFO people, but we Geminis are known for our skepticism.

  51. DanO

    “3) I will sometimes post about politics, religion, “alternative” medicine, and the like.”

    You have the wrong word in scare quotes. In this phrase, alternative holds its correct meaning, it’s the word “medicine” that in this context diverges from its true definition.

  52. Maggie

    Yeah, what Jake said. Might be that the uptick in readership is due to people like me who have been reading your blog for years but something in the RSS settings got changed (?) and now only part of the article shows up. I don’t mind clicking through though, because your blog is worth that extra effort.

  53. Rob (#21):

    Ethyachk, i think you will find that this photo is a bit more disturbing.

    Gee, thanks for bringing _that_ image back to my consciousness. I thought I had burned every copy of it, but now it’s back.

  54. Charlie Foxtrot
  55. Snowshoe the Canuck

    your blog + your sense of of humour = your topics + your rulz!

    I’m glad the math was straight forward, the coffee hasn’t reached the brain yet.

  56. Donovan

    “6) I’m a geek/dork/nerd. I love science fiction, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and many of the trappings of the sci-fi culture.”

    Dr. Phil Plait,

    On your advice, I rented Space:1999 beginning with episode 1. My family and I then sat through the entire DVD with our mouths gaping, unable to restrain the popcorn in our mouths. We were dumbstruck and confused.

    Does this mean that I should end my fledgling career in science? Are such shows shibboleths, meant to identify those of us incapable of appreciating some subtlety?

  57. Mike Sperry

    Regarding point #1, I personally refer to this process as enPhilPlaitenating the image.

  58. Ut

    Curse you and your embiggening, Phil! Not for the use of embiggen, but for providing a very pretty picture with a clickable link, and not linking to an embiggenation!

    Some of us download these pictures compulsively, you know.

  59. mike burkhart

    Maybe more people are becomeing intrested in Astronomy thats good news.I like Star Trek and Star Wars. I frist saw Alien on tv I was 14 and it scared the hell out of me the part that was scary was when they were hunting for the Alien I knew it would jump out and get em I was on the edge of my seat wating for it,also when it was reveled it was in the shuttle with Ripely I jumped a mile .I can watch it now and have no problems.

  60. Smitty

    Well, depending on the context, droobly may be a better adverb than cromulent. Context aside though, it is usually up to personal taste.

    I think that this entry needs a sticky at the top of the page some how. A button “new readers, click here,” perhaps.

    BUT, I gotta ask… When are you going to go on the Nerdist Podcast? You mentioned Chris on the Geeky Pleasures Radio Show and he mentioned you and read your question during the Nathon Fillion interview. When are you going on?

  61. Buzz Parsec

    You neglected to mention your pareidolia fixation.

    I recently directed a park ranger from Cedar Breaks National Monument to this site, due to it. She gave an awesome campfire talk on “Constellation Myths” which included a slide entitled Pareidolia, complete with the toasted cheese sandwich, Hoagland’s Face on Mars, and other usual suspects. (BTW, I’ve never seen a laptop and digital projector plugged into a log before.)

  62. flip

    I’m a relatively new reader compared to many folks here; but I still feel old enough to say, “Welcome to the new readers!” (Been reading for what, 5 or 6 years now)

    Actually I’ve been absent for a while due to illness, so I kind of feel like this post is welcoming me back personally. And I *have* been on a BA withdrawal all this time. Nice to be back.

  63. Messier Tidy Upper

    @42. Draa :

    I just want to say thanks. You are by far my most favorite internet person. I always enjoy reading your blog. It’s become a daily habit.

    .. and a very addictive one at that! ;-)

    Well said & seconded by me. :-)

    @55. PayasYouStargaze : Keep doing what you do!

    Same applies for that ..

    @39. Jake : Don’t change a thing.

    .. and, ditto, that too. :-)

    Thanks BA. I love your blog. :-)

  64. Undeniable

    Regarding your use of the term “denier”:

    You say that people “infer far more out of that word than I imply. This might help”, linking to a post which includes:

    “A lot of them complain because they say the word denial puts them in the same bin as holocaust deniers. That’s too bad. But the thing is, they do have something in common: a denial of evidence and of scientific consensus.”

    “That’s too bad” Oh really? Actually that does not help at all. I still find your use of the term “denier” to be factually incorrect, counter-productive and offensive.

    PS: Just read about the article in Science in which deniers – sorry! – scientists have discovered that there was 50% less ice in the arctic 5000 years ago than there is now.

    PPS: Otherwise good blog.

  65. Nigel Depledge

    @ Joey Joe Joe (38) –
    You are, of course, correct, but I was actually referring to the position of the astronaut’s hands . . .

  66. Nigel Depledge

    Undeniable (67) said:

    I still find your use of the term “denier” to be factually incorrect,

    And you’re still wrong about this.

    counter-productive and offensive.

    A denier has already decided not to pay attention to the preponderance of evidence, and to maintain doubt beyond the point at which doubt ceases to be reasonable, so how exactly can the use of the term be counter-productive?

    And if you find it offensive, well, tough. I find it offensive that there are millions of people in the US and elsewhere who deny the reality of biological evolution, but that alone won’t change anyone’s mind.

    So, are you going to assemble some kind of argument to support your whiny assertions this time, or merely continue to whine?

  67. Argus Array

    Undeniable wrote this in the last thread on AGW:

    “Is it dangerous? As far as I can see, the answer is quite clearly NO.”

    This page on denial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial) shows the symptoms; amongst them being minimisation – admit the fact but deny its seriousness. Which is what Undeniable appears to be doing when he states that AGW isn’t a danger.

  68. Lysandra

    Oh Doctor Who! The second half of the series starts in a few weeks. I’m so excited!

  69. Donni Doophuss

    I hate the term “denier”. Just because I don’t believe in years of science and evidence and a huge amount of work done by scientists doesn’t make me a denier. I don’t deny the stuff posted on Watts Up With That. Nor do I deny the scientifically accurate stuff published by Lord Monckton and the Heartland Institute. So you see Phil, it is only your prejudice that sees me as a “denier”.
    I think the burden of proof is on those so called “scientists” to prove that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

  70. Nigel Depledge

    Donni Doophuss (72) said:

    I hate the term “denier”. Just because I don’t believe in years of science and evidence and a huge amount of work done by scientists doesn’t make me a denier. I don’t deny the stuff posted on Watts Up With That. Nor do I deny the scientifically accurate stuff published by Lord Monckton and the Heartland Institute. So you see Phil, it is only your prejudice that sees me as a “denier”.
    I think the burden of proof is on those so called “scientists” to prove that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

    I call Poe.

  71. Buzz Parsec

    I didn’t think Donnie Doophuss’s post was a Poe. I thought it was just straight-up snark.

  72. justin

    TO THE AUTHOR OF THIS: Funny how this is called Bad Asrtonomy. i call it a bad case of you sticking your head in the sand. i dont care what you say about the moon landing and claiming you debunked it is also amazing considering the fact you didnt. how do you have footprints next to a lander after an engine fired. in the show about the moon hoax the nasa expert even said the rocket pushes dust when he argues why their is no blast crater. the astronaut said its a fine powder. one point to make to you. i think ive debunked your bad opinions. come on can you explain why no stars were visible or why the marks that were etched in the camera out of place when its clearly impossible. have you studied the van allen radiation belt ever. give me a break idiot. if you delete my comment i will also know you dont have the backbone to debate me which im clearly wanting to do.

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