Lurker Day

By Sean Carroll | September 21, 2005 6:01 pm

Today is Lurker Day, as explained by Chris at Creek Running North, Lauren at Feministe, and PZ at Pharyngula. (Three of the coolest blogs on all the internets, I should add.) That is, lazy bloggers avoid posting original content by asking their readers who never (or rarely) comment to drop by and leave a note saying who they are and what they like about the blog. (Other blogs also ask for something called “constructive criticism,” or perhaps even for suggestions for improvement; we here at CV see no need for such things. But if you are so moved, knock yourselves out.)

I’m especially curious as to two demographic questions: how many readers are professionally science-related in some way vs. how many are from the so-called “real world,” and among the former, how many are students vs. embittered elders. No pressure, obviously; consider this just a chance to pipe up and say hi if you haven’t yet had the chance to comment.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cosmic Variance, Internet
  • PZ Myers

    Lazy bloggers? You’re a genius — you saw right through me.

  • Lauren

    What about vain? Allow me my vanity already.

  • Sean

    Did I say “cool”? I meant “lazy and vain.” Sorry.

  • alex f

    I’ve commented before (rarely) but I’m a current college student who is one of Sean’s former students. I won’t be a professional scientist, although there’s a chance I’ll go into economics, which sort of almost counts. But I’m interested in science, hence taking Sean’s class and reading his (now shared) blog.

  • Chris Clarke

    what about a fanatical devotion to the pope?

  • Ijon Tichy

    A couple of science degrees long ago. Too dumb to be a real scientist, too lazy to be anything else. Restricted to mind-numbing wage-slavery like most people and studying physics and mathematics by myself in my spare time. That’s 3 pointless, boring sentences too many; 4 if you include this one.

    A busy blog. Frequently, some nice science discussions. Comments can be interesting. Too much politics and fluff for my tastes, but easy enough to ignore. Will always enjoy listening to people smarter than me talking about things I can barely comprehend. Good luck, keep it up, and now I’ll shut up.

  • Ryan Michney

    I’m a physics-astronomy major in my senior year of college. I have read most of Sean’s GR book and a gigantic paper of his about entropy. I’m hoping to be a professional scientist…all those years of school seem like a good way to avoid any real responsibility.

    I started out reading the blog for the science stuff and being sort of annoyed by the politics (since I swore off news a while ago) but science politics is important to keep abreast of…just in case republicans try to change to change the value of pi to 3.

  • Rice

    Hey there, I’m a lurker, I really enjoy the explorations of the universe, there was a time I thought I would go into science but decided against it … so, to answer your questions, I am not a scientist, and I am no longer a student.

  • Adam

    I’m a scientist. But I’m not a lurker, because I won’t shut up. As witnessed by the fact that I’m posting in this thread for lurkers.

  • Dick Thompson

    Degree in Math, 50 years ago. I’m a non-embittered elder. I visit your site every day, and like it except that it often drifts pretty far from its core content of science.

  • Mark Anderson

    Not even remotely science based–I once was an English major; however, I’ve always been “lazily” interested in cosmological issues, especially as it relates to to quantum mechanics–such things always seem more like “fuzzy” ideas, at least in the abstract theoretical part of it, and I’ve always liked trying to apply these ideas in a philosophical context, if any of that makes any sense. . . Your website combines both an eye on the current science and throws in some good liberalized political awareness as well, which always brings me back to check in on it again. Keep it up!

  • Chris

    Hi – I work for the Department of Homeland Security and am tasked with monitoring websites such as this one to ensure that the information being discussed (science-related or otherwise) is not a breach to national security. Keep up the good work! cjl

  • Greg A.

    I’ve commented once or twice. I’m a first year grad student in the middle of nowhere studying physics: I’ll probably (but who knows?) focus on condensed matter physics. I studied math and physics as a undergraduate at a university in Chicago (but not UofC).

    I used to read preposterous universe back in the day. I really like the discussions on matters of physics I don’t know yet, and I generally like all of the political discussion and other “digressions” as well. So, uh, keep up the good work Clifford, JoAnne, Mark, Sean, and Risa!

  • Doran

    Is it possible to be an embittered student? Studying Physics and the History of Science in Red Sox country (am a lackidazical Mets/Astros fan).

  • citrine

    OK, I’m not a lurker as I’ve posted a little from time to time but I’ll be glad to introduce myself. I’m wrapping up my second Master’s degree (in Math, the first was in Physics) while teaching Physics and Math, in addition to job hunting. I like the blog for the thoughtful posts and discussions. Pretty much any topic is fine with me as long as it is thought-provoking and/ or the writer opens my eyes to an interesting facet of their world.

  • Jenn

    how about science and the real world? I’m a lab rat, working in a clinical lab that is situated in a research building. Get to see a little bit of everything that way. (hmm. kind of like here…)

    I’d been checking in on Orange Quark and migrated over to CV when all of you joined forces.

    Back to lurking…

  • citrine

    Any others lurking in their wormholes? :)

  • Astronomy Grad Student

    I was a lurker for a long time in Preposterous Universe, then migrated over here. Lurked for a while, then dared to post a comment. I’ve commented a few times here since then.

    Physics BS degree from a university in the best tropical climate in the world (or at least it seems so to me). Third year graduate student in Astrophysics in a very cold place in the middle of a mid-atlantic/northeast state. Hating the snow/cold, but slowly getting used to it 😉

    Love CV, I visit every day. Everything about it is interesting, from the science to the politics to the random posts about personal stuff. Clifford’s posts are my favorite (most -if not all- of my few comments have been in them). Also love Sean’s GR-lecture-notes-turned-book (very helpful back when I took my first GR course).

  • David

    I’m a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who, amongst other things, searches for Lorentz violations in laboratory experiments from both the
    neutron and the proton. I, too, have been lurking since the preposerous universe days. The discussions here are often quite valuable. Now I’ll go back to lurking.
    Thanks for all of your blogging!

  • Christina

    A few comments thrown in so not totally a lurker. BS in Physics (by the skin of my teeth). Masters in library science, working towards PhD in information studies (specifically personal information management, etc., of scientists and engineers)… I’m related to science professionally because I work supporting scientists and engineers, if that counts. So I’m really into online communities and blogging. The physics (when I get it) is my favorite. Really dislike some of the politics but I’ll deal, I’d rather have you honest.

    I also started on preposterous and migrated here. I love the fact that it’s a collaborative blog and that you get so many comments.

  • The Anti-Everything

    Grad student in physics (astrophysics in particular), hoping to stick to the academic route.

  • indrax

    Computer science college dropout, with any luck, soon to return.

  • Pyracantha

    I’m not a lurker, you’ve heard from me a few times (sometimes my stupid remarks). Some of you have heard this intro before. I’m an artist and commercial illustrator/graphic designer who took up the study of math/physics in middle age, after the inspiration of a visit to Fermilab. I want to prove by my own example that if physicists can do art, then an artist can do physics. And that an older female can learn math/physics at all with little previous background. I love this Blog because not only do I learn stuff from it but I get to hear a bit of what scientists’ lives are really like.
    Obligatory and self-serving reference: My Website is at, my Weblog on that site is ELECTRON BLUE. Bye for now.

  • cecilia

    I teach English at Sean’s alma mater, but have always loved science, astronomy in particular. Wanted to be an astronomer when I was a kid. Didn’t, but my son did it for me. I like all aspects of the blog. Scientists are citizens too. Not my first post, but I post infrequently. Too busy grading freshman papers.

  • Clifford

    Astronomy Grad Student: “Clifford’s posts are my favorite” – I’m probably supposed to remain all professional and aloof, but hang it: Thanks! You made a particularly heavy week seem much lighter. It makes it all worth it to know that there’s at least one who appreciates the output.

    Thanks all from all here for your comments in general. We appreciate them.

    Yes, more comments on this thread…please keep letting us know what you do as it helps us understand who we’re talking to and with.



  • Zero

    What, you mean you do not have access to the IP addresses of people who read and comment here?


  • Bruce

    I was a lurker at Preposterous, now here. I received an undergraduate degree in biology abut 15 years ago, and worked for awhile at a pharmaceutical start up before it went belly up. Just before I was about to be cast adrift, I was lured into game design and some novel writing, but sometimes I wish I was a cosmologist :-).

    I visit every day (or more accurately, I read the RSS feed when new content appears), and quite enjoy the blog’s wide swathe of topics.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Mykola Bilokonsky

    College Student and Adventurer Extraordinairre. On a bit of a science kick after reading some stuff and so I started reading some science blogs, which is you and carl zimmer. I like your site because it’s about 30% science and 70% thoughts and opinions (about said science or otherwise). It is very readable and always has thought provoking discussion or at least links thereto. Keep up the good work!

  • Tim M

    Senior undergrad taking GRE on Friday! Trying to be scientist.

    Started at Preposterous in April 2004. I like the science and politics. The hurricane coverage was great – one post (by Risa?) that pointed with many links to the mistakes being made cut to the heart of the matter, unlike the bullshit on CNN’s front page.

  • Gururajan

    I am a research student with specialisation in computational materials science.

  • Liam

    Been lurking here for a while – wandered here from Preposterous Universe. I’m a chemical process engineer involved in biotech, with a general interest in all sorts of things…

  • Michael D

    4th Year of Arts/Science double degree at Melbourne University.
    Majors of Physics, Philosophy and Politics – a combination which seems to suit this site. Considering whether I’ll put myself through the tortorous Physics honours program, afterwhich travel will be the first priority.

    Enjoy the site – and is a great distraction from the study i’m supposed to be doing.


  • Richard

    I’m a phenomenology postdoc… Not a frequent commenter. Nice distraction from work though. Oh, and I got my string theory basics at Clifford’s BUSSTEPP lecture course…

  • Steve

    I comment occasionally, but this is a good chance to blow your own trumpet:). It’s fair though that the hosts can get to know who is commenting and where that person is coming from in terms of background and so on. Myself, Bsc. Mathematical Physics; MSc. Bioengineering; Phd, Biophysics/Applied Mathematics. Interests: mostly stochastic processes in physics and biology; nonlinear systems/noise, general relativity/gravitation and areas of mathematical physics. Bit of a dilitante and “jack of all trades” really (yeah I know and “master of none”:)). I find a lot of stuff in math and science interesting actually but not enough hours in the day really to even learn a tenth of what you would like to. Not in academia right now but may return next year full time or part-time depending on funding etc. (I am in the UK). Still publishing a bit though on the side “for fun”(standard journals right now but not the arxiv). Hobbies: powerlifting(gravity is not a weak force). Have my own gymnasium (best place to think).

    Good blog with good range of views, discussions and ideas in science and other topics. Like the personal stuff too, like what people are doing in terms of other interests (eg Clifford’s gardening and biking).

  • Karen

    Mostly a lurker, migrated from Preposterous Universe, which I found via PZ Myers…. I’m a former Silicon Valley computer engineer and now a geology grad student, so I guess that makes me a scientist-wannabe.

  • jer

    i’ve actually posted here once, so i’m not a complete lurker. 20 year old canadian who came here from preposterous universe. i’m in my 3rd year of undergrad doing a degree in arts & sciences, in math and history.
    so…hopefully someday far in the future when i am sufficiently smartified, i may enter into the sciences. but for now, i live vicariously through you.

  • bob

    After hearing Sean at a colloquium two years ago, I turned to the internet to learn more about dark energy and stumbled into the Preposterous Universe.

    Currently a 3rd year physics and math undergraduate, determined to make a living in academia (even having just finished “Slaves to science” in Salon, one of the bleakest articles on the career path I’ve seen).

    One criticism, more of a suggestion- the blog is great, but I think some of the things on this site could do a lot more good in the NYtimes or the Washington Post or even on Fox News, where the audience is more diverse (and in the later case, lost).

    Everybody who writes on this thing is thoughtful, well-spoken, and charismatic enough to survive the public spotlight. How about some Late Show appearances? Carl Sagan can do it, right? The public needs to see more of human scientists.

    Ok, back to my swamps now, to lurk and listen. Thanks for the blog.

  • xp

    Ah..a chance for us lurkers to play :) I have a doctrate in (nuclear) physics with a few postdocs under my belt and am now working in computer science. Since I maintain an interest in physics, I followed a link from slashdot (/.) to a series of articles on 100 years of relativity which led to the quantum diaries which led to here. Simply put, as swamped as I am, I barely have time to read much of it (let alone post anything) but I’ve loved the content I have read…the physics discussions and the politics (great posts from Risa). The posting concerning the Federal Research and Policy Making Act, for example, did motivate me to dash off emails to Senators. Boxer and Feinstein (still need to write actual letters *sigh*).

    Thanks for askin’

  • Grad student in geophysics

    Thought I was on the academia track until I got to grad school, basically — now, not so sure. (Reading professor’s blogs tends to be very discouraging, although CV is an exception and usually I come away feeling good about a career in science.)

    I am moving toward policy and ethics, perhaps, and so I like to read a blog that involves talking about issues related to science, without necessarily delving into the details of the science itself.

    And I’ll admit that as a female in a subdivision of geophysics that is overwhelmingly male (often attributed to the fact that most people in the field start out in physics), and after a number of gender discrimination issues as a physics undergrad, I am always delighted to find more female scientists who are proving successful at physics and at academic careers.

  • jake

    Particle Theory Grad Student, mostly a lurker… Followed over from (first) Preposterous Universe and (later) Orange Quark. The former having been followed primarily due to such tremendously interesting physics content (I was working on dark energy stuff when I first found Sean’s blog, and have always been interested in gravitational entropy physics).

    Ironically enough, I *think* Sean is the only poster here I’ve not yet met, actually (but I hear rumors that you’re visiting UW in Seattle soon… ).

    I like the ‘mixed-use’ nature of the blog, but I do think the physics has gotten less technical now that all of you are sharing space (was it intentional, or has it just worked out that way?), which while nice for “the masses”, is sad, because it’s rare that I get to read something physicsy at a level above hallroom conversation, and yet below a research article. So, er… “more physics! of any kind, whatever interests whoever’s willing to post about it!” :)

  • tom

    hi, I’m a PhD student in Astronomy (Uppsala, Sweden). I haven’t read CV for long, only a week or so, but so far I have come back every time my rss-reader said there’s new stuff and haven’t regretted it yet :-)

  • James

    Pro mathematician, recently completed the post-doc phase of the life cycle, came from P.U, not a 100% lurker, but close.

  • Max

    I’ve been a lurker here and at Preposterous Universe. I’m currently a 4th year undergraduate studying physics in the UK and I’m hoping to do a PhD in high energy theory/gravity. Really like the blog, it gives a nice insight into how science really works :)

  • astromcnaught

    Physics degree a generation ago, sort of astronomy for a while, software now.
    I read this blog for the science commentary and perhaps to keep a virtual-kindly eye on Cliffords vegetable patch.
    You folk have actually inspired me to start my own blog!! It’s current readership is approximately zero but nevermind, you can’t build Rome in a day.

    Must say I’m still looking forward to the promised part 2 of the Holographic Principle. Part One I thought was spot-on. I guess if i did post more, then it would mostly be a series of questions.

    big cheers, astromcnaught

  • Davis

    I’m a PhD student in mathematics, doing a bit of the ol’ algebraic geometry (I also did physics as an undergrad, and I still love the stuff). And I’m a serial lurker.

  • subodh

    hi sean…
    phd student in string theory/cosmology (should have been one year, but now its two years to go). love the blog for many reasons. here are a few…

    sometimes its like being at a small conference in that you get to watch some real scientific debate take place, except in a very informal setting, and where the participants are very approachable.

    sometimes its like sitting around with your friends and enjoying a few beers and arguing about the issues of the day… collectively sighing here and there i guess…

    mostly its because in the course of procrastinating through ones day at the office, its nice to have something other than the newswires and the baseball scores (go mets!.. no really!) to kill time.

    but really the clincher for me (sorry to be boring), is that its very rare that you get to hear other people think out aloud or philosiphize or speculate on the issues of the day in the various fields of theoretical physics. we all do it among colleagues, but its just plain nice to be able to listen in on other people doing so, especially certain people whom you might have a lot of respect for, but might not neccesarily run into on a daily basis.

    also the synergy of the people involved in this group project is really neat. i really enjoy everyones posts for different reasons. how did you all meet?

  • astroboy

    I’m a cosmology researcher outside the U.S., who reads Cosmic Varaince (and preposteros universe before that) not only for the excellant science, but also to remind myself that the U.S. has not completely become Jesusland yet.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Simon

    String theory lurker from the fortress of solitude. I’ve been a regular reader for a long time, keeping up with old friends and what’s happening on the other side of the pond.

  • Joe

    PhD student in CMB Cosmology in London, annoyed that someone else already thought of the “embittered and young” joke. Professional interest in String Theory and personal interest in all the other interesting things you guys talk about. Keep it up.

  • Andy

    I’m an undergrad physics/computer science student in New Zealand. I must say the physics in your blog generally terrifies me :) but the whole thing is a really good read. The politics side of things is interesting too, especially since we’ve just had our own election here. The contrast between the two systems is enormous!

    You’re distracting me from a lab report as we speak actually… So my request, if any, would be that you should write less so I can actually get some work done now and then!

  • Leo

    I’m a german lurker who is trying to get a PhD for work dealing with the Black Hole in the Galactic Center.

    CV is as great as Preposterous was. I read it every day. Especially the politics threads are very nice. They are the best source of information and everything I know about the USA I know from you. I find some discussions (e.g. ID) a bit strange though. How can it be that this a real discussion?

  • Sean

    You mean we have Mets fans reading this blog? I’m not sure if that’s permitted at all.

  • Mark

    Hi to Michael D (comment 32). I’ll be in Melbourne (at the Physics Department)twice over the next year or so. Perhaps I’ll run into you.

  • vinc

    I’m a graduate student in condensed matter physics.

  • richard

    im a physics undergrad. student in england. followed links from peter woit’s ‘not even wrong’ and found CV about a month ago and have been lurking ever since.

    keep up the good work!

  • shhiggins

    Quasi-scientist; MS biotechnology in ’87, now assay/product development… mostly I reformat molecular assays for unsophisticated users. Trying to learn more about everything, and CV has some great teachers.

  • J.D.

    Just recently discovered Cosmic Variance via a coworker so haven’t been lurking long. I have a Masters in physics and astronomy and still work in the field on the high-energy side of things, although I do more web development and outreach now than anything.

  • Mugizi Rwebangira

    I am currently a graduate student in Computer Science.

    My interest in physics is purely non-professional at the moment although as a youngster I did seriously intend to go into theoretical physics but other things caught my eye. Perhaps if CV existed back then I would now be a string theorist or something 😉

    I enjoy all the posts personal and non-personal. My favorite kind are those that provide an insight into what physicists think about certain issues that I would otherwise not know about as an outsider e.g the “The greatest paper” topic, the “landscape” post,the “theories vs. fact” post and even “Lets talk about kids” (combining “normal life” with academia is a big issue for many people).

    Erm, yeah … Keep up the good work!

  • PW

    Assistant professor of biophysics (yeah, I know…not real physics) at Case Western Reserve University. I found Cosmic Variance by following a link from Peter Woit’s sight “not even wrong” which I in turn discovered reading Cosma Shalizi’s weblog (I actually had legitimate science related reasons for being at CS’s sight to begin with, the rest is just idle websurfing though).

  • Torbjorn Larsson

    Currently software engineer at a biotech startup. Trying to read here and on Pharyngula (hi, PZ!) every day, originally from curiosity about todays latest theories and results. Originally a PhD in Physics (Uppsala, Sweden; hi, tom!) on thin film materials.

  • Mathguy

    PhD in mathematics (combinatorics), associate prof. of mathematics at a midwestern liberal arts university. I really enjoy the discussions of the public perceptions and (mis)understanding of science and have found some good links on this website. Keep up the good work!

  • Urbano

    As a lot of people said of them, I also was a lurker at Preposterous and Orange, now here. And I think that Risa, Clifford and JoAnne were excellent “acquisitions” for the blog world. PhD Student in Astroparticle at SISSA, just besides ICTP, Italy.

  • Philip Downey

    I’m a science person, but a science journalist, not a researcher. I have a degree in Life Sciences (aka biomedical science). I like to know what’s going on in physics and cosmology and get in depth insight into news reports.

  • almostinfamous

    im an RSS lurker studying(now industrial ) engineering after a jaunt through electrical engineering and applied math at ohio university(#2 party school in America!!). in my 5th year, threatening to be a perennial student. i like this blog because it makes me feel smart to read the cool stuff you nerds put up for nerds like me

  • Diego

    I’a a grad student in physics. I first found this site through Peter Woit’s blog.

  • Peter Armitage

    I’m a Condensed Matter Experimentalist with a strong interest in crossovers between CM and particle physics/cosmology. I also try to stay abreast of sociology issues related to science and so this is why I read CV. I came to it through Prep. Univ. I am an American currently based in Geneva Switzerland (but not at CERN), but return to the US next year to take a position at Johns Hopkins.

  • Tim D

    I’m a Ph.D. student in Physics here at the U. of Chicago, and I’ve had the privilege of taking three (3!) classes from Sean. I say I’m a student, although not for long, as I’m defending my thesis on Gamma-Ray Bursts tomorrow morning, bright and early. I’ll probably not stay in academia long enough to become an embittered elder.

    I used to lurk on Preposterous Universe, and I’ve mustered the courage to leave a few comments here on CV (although usually long after the discussion has played itself out :)). It’s a great blog: I love the science and the politics discussions (and I quite enjoy Clifford’s slice-of-life posts as well). Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  • Dissident

    Not a lurker, so I’ll pass on the personals, but thought the Salon piece referred to in comment #37 was so good it deserved a proper link. Here goes:

  • Steve Esser

    I’m a regular visitor; I commented maybe once or twice on Preposterous Universe. I’m an investment manager interested in philosophy and science. Excellent blog!

  • buck

    lurker since cosmicvariance started recently…found u guys thru the announcement on pharyngula when this site started…was not aware of sean’s or mark’s earlier blogs…love the varied perspectives u guys bring to the plate…love the physics posts immensely, but also love the non-physics ones like clifford’s posts on gardening, the arts and such topics that bring out the more everyday aspects of scientists

    born, raised and educated in india (bachelors in engineering), came to the US for my masters in the same field, switched over to working in the software industry, and been living in the US since (7 yrs and counting)

    been a lover of math and physics since childhood, idolized feynman big-time as a teenager, and still (i suspect) a wannabe nerd suffering from a case of severly suppressed physics-envy (damn u feynman!!)

  • http://none Jen Howard

    Hi Sean,

    Well, you and I have met in person, but I’m a lurker at the blog…I’m a book editor, and obviously the way to learn about the kinds of books physicists want is to listen to physicists. Preposterous Universe was terrific, and so is Cosmic Variance.

    Blog reading has been incredibly educational, but don’t worry–mentioning someone’s name doesn’t mean I’m emailing them the next day for a project!

  • Michael

    I’m a physics/cosmology grad who realized I didn’t have the patience to do the sometimes tedious day-to-day work that good science requires. Now I’m an editor at a science magazine. Love the content, both technical and political. It’s good to see folks of reason respond when attacked.

  • Grimmstail

    I’m a mechanical engineer in central Florida. I’ve enjoyed reading everything so far, science related or otherwise. But I really appreciate the physics related posts.

  • David Guarrera

    Am I allowed to be an embittered physics grad student? Sean, you might recognize me as the student, who, after hearing your CTP talk last week said loudly: “Interesing idea, but I don’t think it’s real,” as, unbenownst to me, you were walking past my very open office door.

    Love the blog, I followed from the preposterous universe. I always leave reading this blog until last while going through my morning blogroll, its like the bonus at the end of sometimes very boring reads, the whip cream to my sundae, the B side of Abbey road….

  • JJ

    I am a recently graduated chemical engineer from Venezuela. I ‘ ve been lurking for some time in many science related blogs. CV (and before PU) and Pharyngula are my favorites. Even if I miss the technical details it is fun to read the animated discussions ( especially if Lubos or Peter Woit are involved :) ) .Being a venezuelan I am White Sox fan (Ozzie Guillen, the manager is a native of here). I guess you will accept a ” mediasblancas” fan in your blog, right Sean ?

    Greeting and Keep Rocking!!!!

  • M

    A student in Probability. I find this blog very interesting and well written (especially Science related articles, but also occasionally other topics)

  • Caolionn

    In transition between student and embittered elder.

  • Amy

    I will dare to go out on this limb as it appears the majority of you are scientists or of a scientific mind.

    I’m very new to the blog world and I’ve only been reading CV for a couple of weeks now and enjoy it thoroughly. I was turned on to it by JoAnne. We went to high school together. It was great fun to see her name in lights and read her musings. And then of course I drifted about and read all of your posts. Great stuff! You are all – for lack of a better descriptor – cool. :)

    Alas, I am quite unscientific. I have no interest in becoming a scientist, I am not studying to be one, and only really know the one (mentioned above) whom I like very much. I am really more of a spiritualist (GASP horror, one of THOSE!) I am also one of those “real world” “kindergarteners” who hears a great whoosing when 99% of the science stuff flies past my head. However, I find your science utterly fascinating. And whether I get it or not, I recognize how important it is to all of us.

    I do appreciate your off-topic musings – as it shows me you all live in the “real world” with me.

  • janet

    I’m not a lurker, but I don’t think I’ve said anything about my academic background here. I did graduate work in cultural anthropology (which I am happy to admit is not a science), but didn’t finish my PhD due to frustration with certain aspects of the field and my department, and a general realization that I’m not cut out for academia. I fiddled around doing educational software development for a few years, and for the last five years I’ve been working as a medical writer, specifically a writer of patient education booklets and pamphlets (y’know: “Understanding Your Colon”). I got into the job because the company I work for likes to hire writers who can self-educate about the medical stuff, not because I have any background to speak of in medicine or biology (I don’t). I’m quitting my job soon (expecting a baby at the end of the year) and am planning to go back to school part time, probably starting next summer, to do some remedial education in human biology and physiology so as to make myself more employable as a freelance medical writer. I have an idea I’ve been rolling around in my head for several years for a book about diabetes — not a how-to-manage book (there are plenty of those already) but a book on what could broadly be called the politics of diabetes. I’m interested in the social aspects of the disease, how it’s portrayed in the media, politics and funding of R&D, and history of and developing trends in medical management of the disease. I’m not sure the book will ever happen, but I hope so.

    So, not a scientist, not an academic, but with a foot on the edge of these worlds.

  • Steven S

    Lurker. I’m a low energy nuclear physicist grad student slaving away at one of our nation’s salt mines national labs. I learned GR from Sean’s notes back in the day and enjoyed his previous blog before this one.

  • Josh

    I’m a grad student at University of Michigan; finishing my PhD in string theory this year and looking for a post-doc. Definitely a lurker here. Also lurk at Lubos’ blog but not really tapped into the rest of the blog o’ sphere…

  • Sam Gralla

    I’ve posted a few times. I’m a first-year graduate student at Chicago. Currently investigating the dialectic of doing fun theory vs. getting jobs. Also marvelling over Benjamin Franklin’s wit regarding science and religion in his letter to Ezra Stiles (an alma mater of sorts…).

  • andy.s

    BA Math ’80. 20+ years as S/W engineer.

    I periodically go on Math/Phys binges. The last one was when I tried to get through MTW’s “Gravitation”; the current one was due to discovering Geometric Algebra via D. Hestenes and the Cambridge GA group; on thing led to
    another and I’m lurking on fizz-blogs.

    I notice most lurkers commented on the political postings one way or another; most seem to be saying they hold their noses and read you anyway.

  • Xerxes

    Physics grad student. My two cents about the blog would also be that it’s much more interesting when the bloggers are addressing their fields of expertise. I can go anywhere for left-wing political discussion. Informed discussion by experts on cosmology and the like is substantially rarer. (No offense intended by this comparison but) Consider the quality of Lubos Motl’s political discussions versus his physics.

  • jake

    Dissident: That piece about the post-doc life doesn’t ring terribly familiar to me – I’ve known dozens of post-docs over my (overly extended, on-again-off-again) graduate career, and while most, if not all, worry about getting a good next job, hardly any work 80-hour weeks (unless you count the time when they’re yes, *always* thinking about their craft), and most (if not all) made over $30k/year (the median in 1997, in physics, was $34k, according to this article in Physics Today).

    If anything, a good post-doc appointment seems like a lot more fun than gradauate school or being pre-tenure faculty. The former get paid barely enough to live on, the latter have just as much worry about job security as a post-doc, and both of those have to teach all the time *while* doing research, unlike when you’re a postdoc (although I realize I’m mostly speaking about theoretical physics here).

  • John Farrell

    Occasional poster to Preposterous and now here. BA in English, but unofficially minored in History of Science. My first book is out now (linked in my name), and if it doesn’t completely bomb…I hope to do more.

  • Not Really a Lurker

    Director John Madden, on NPR’s Fresh Air today: “The idea of ‘hip’ might seem completely incompatible with higher mathematics, but it’s really not.”

  • RJIH

    Math undergraduate from Lund, Sweden, with an interest in some of the fundamental questions in physics and computer science. One thing I like about CV (and many academic blogs in general!) is how you sort of get to know the authors — you get to see another side of the professors which sometimes can be hard to catch as a student, at least on my level.

    Though it should be stressed that I continue to read academic blogs on their academic merit, and to be honest with you there’s sometimes a bit too much politics in here for my taste. Actually, that’s why I stopped reading Preposterous after a while, I felt the science/politics ratio was too poor for me.

    That’s not to say I don’t like most of your writings. I’m still here, ain’t I? Continue the good work!

  • Redshift

    I’m a middle-aged software engineer who’s been an amateur cosmologist since I was a teenager. Now I spend too much time on blogs and am trying to figure out if I can manage a career change, since while software pays the bills, it doesn’t excite me as much as it used to (and frankly, has never excited me as much as science.)

  • x34T92

    I’m a senior in college, majoring in physics. I’m looking for a graduate school where I can pursue Intelligent Design/String Cosmology. Any recommendations? I’ve heard Baylor might be a good choice.

  • Plato

    Well we are into day 2, so it is really not lurker day anymore is it.:)You know who I am, right?

    I am not a lurker either. I have spent the last couple of years following the dialogue of gentlemen/ladies of superstringtheory and others facets of science, who are at the leading edge of science. Those who resist stringtheory, to see where they are leading us.

    While I am not to swift sometimes, my heart has always been in the right place:)

    As to being a bitter “ole fool” and “not real” like Dickt, I bath in the realization of completing years of raising family, and find my wife and I, at the peak of what life has brought us in terms of family and Grandchildren. My adult children now return what I had given them and am very proud of them.

    There’s not much I have not seen in this avenue. It has always been out of the kindness of my heart and respect, that perspectives were introduced. I am very proud of this, and now, such moments bring more blessings.

    There is no one here that really can say that this journey “has not” taken me to new perceptions, as a lay person. “My journey” is my blog. My attempts, at understanding. I hope to continue to learn from people here.

    You are my elders:)If such a stance is held, the respect for us little ones, takes on a even greater responsibility. If you learn to look in the face of these new little ones, you’ll understand how great that responsibility is.

    Museums are more then just recollections of article and material things. There have been people behind them all along.

    To the resurgence of the Wunderkammern then, and the real world.:)Do you think one could hide the abstract from the integration of science, and how we can now see this planet of ours?

    Keep up the good work here

  • spyder

    Was aqualung a lurker?? Well then i am not one. But as a retired humanties type (philosophy and religion first, then teacher education) i have always studied(academically for 40+ years), and continue to study, consciousness, which is inextricably linked to cosmogony, and thus requires me more and more to strive to understand cosmology and theoretical physics. I grew up in a household of scientists–mother taught med school, father was one of our nation’s rocket scientists, sister has a Ph.D. in nutrition science(specializing in food for research animals), brother is MD/Ph.D. in advanced cancer therapies. There was no other path for me except to pursue undergrad and graduate work in the history and philosophy of religions.

  • spyder

    btw—it just became Fall at 1414 hrs(PDT) or 2214 GMT

    Happy autumnal equinox and may those of you at risk in the western Gulf Coast be safe and wise.

  • Greg Burgas

    I’m just a regular guy. Most of the science stuff here goes right over my head (I’m an English and History) guy, but I still check back three or four times a week. I like the blog. When I do understand the science stuff, it’s fascinating.

  • David M.

    Having had the pleasure of taking both Sean’s undergrad GR course a couple of years ago as well as his and Shadi Bartsch’s Atheism class I thus found my way to Preposterous.

    I’m now at CERN for a year with the ATLAS experiment on the LHC…then probably heading out to Stanford, but we’ll see. So far it looks like I’m in for the long haul (in experimental research, that is).

    I enjoy just about everything written here…but most of all the politics and evolutionary discussions. (Sean should just post his course notes for that one!)

    ~dave m.

  • Nicholas

    Was a lurker at Preposterous, now am lurking here :)

    Third year Physics Student at Georgetown University, at this point planning on going on in my studies to pursue a PH.D. in Theoretical Physics.

    I also am put off by the politics at times-it can be overbearing.



  • Kim Krieger

    Lurker (transferred from Preposterous Universe).
    Science journalist–I cover physics, technology, and related policy, and follow the blog for professional interest. The occasional wondrously obscure arguments with other physics bloggers (most notably a certain Harvard string-theorist) are also quite entertaining. Thanks for blogging!

  • Peter Erwin

    I’m mostly a lurker, but I’ve posted occasionally. Being an astronomer, I fall into the “professional scientist” category. I’m mostly an observationalist (extragalactic), though I’ve done a little bit of theory (pure Newtonian gravitational dynamics, I’m afraid; none of yer fancy 21st Century stuff). BA in astronomy and medieval history — two separate subjects, not one weird combined major! — PhD in astronomy from the cold upper Midwest, postdoc in the Canary Islands and now in Germany.

    This is generally a very good blog, though I sometimes feel there are perhaps too many posts per day to keep up with regularly ;-). The most interesting topics for me are the science-related ones, particularly as they feed my thinking and musing on just what it is we scientists are doing, and how, and how we can do it better.

  • Dave Barry

    I lurk on a couple of the physics blogs, posting at occasionally. I’m doing an honours year in maths at the University of Queensland, and will probably start a PhD in atom optics theory next year.

    The very frequent posts make this blog very good.

  • SS

    I’ve been a grad student in a prestigious astrophysics department for a long time now — and still many have not caught on to what a fraud I am…

  • ME

    I’m another lurking string grad student. I trekked along from Preposterous Universe – I enjoy Sean’s no-nonse attitude Anyways, CV is always the first stop on my morning blog-walk!

  • Dimitra Atri

    First year physics grad student from the University of Kansas. Discussions, obviously are interesting. I somehow feel that we miss Prof. Feynman here! Imagine, Feynman blogs :)

  • jepe

    Former-lurker; finally couldn’t resist commenting on Presposterous Universe…

    Biophysicist (quasi physics, as someone mentioned above), former industrial “real world-er” turned academician.

    The two worlds have more in common than they may want to admit….
    Good colleagues in both worlds seem to have the same phenotype; and the not-so-good colleagues…well, their phenotypes are rather invariant across the academia/industry line too…

    Pushing for a union of physics and biology will grow beyond traditional biochemistry/structural biology…of course this may only increase my embittered elder content.

    I thrive on my daily fix of Cosmic Variance….keep it going folks! It’s greatly appreciated for inspiration, news, and physics!

  • Dallas Trinkle

    Condensed matter theorist turned material scientist (but still theorist/computer modeler). Currently postdocing (at a gov’t lab), and beginning the academic search.

    I came here to read a link (probably on evolution), and decided to make it part of my daily skimming/reading. Keep up the good work.

  • Victoria

    I saw this post the day after the fact…but I thought I’d comment anyway. I became a lurker at Preposterous Universe after I wrote an article for Swarthmore College’s newspaper about Sean’s lecture at my campus. His lecture was intriguing and I thought he did a really good job of lecturing to several levels of physics understanding. My mother was at the lecture and was able to understand the basic concepts, despite the fact that she never had any formal physics training in school. The student majors and faculty members were clearly engaged in the talk as well.

    I enjoy cosmic variance’s discussions and check in almost daily to see the most recent post. Thank you all for your thoughts, intelligent discussions, and interesting explanations of various astronomical concepts.

    I’m an astronomy major in my senior year of undergrad, and I am unsure of what my plans after college will be, beyond getting to Japan at some point, by hook or by crook (though doing astronomy research there would be so nice…).

  • Karen

    lurker, real world, no science background whatsoever

    I am the mom of a 3rd year physics grad student (particle, experimental, US.) Surfed over from Quantum Diaries which I read to see just what my son’s life is like even though, like many sons, he never writes or calls. If I don’t understand the science it just gives me topics for conversation and the kid gets practice explaining it to the lay people. Life looks pretty cool (especially compared to the real world.) Enjoy.

  • carmen

    Lurked for a year in the preposterous universe, and am very glad to now contemplate the cosmic variance.
    “Real-worlder” with degrees in classics and law, currently a legal aid attorney. I read the blog daily for respite and entertainment. (Also, helps me keep up with holiday meal conversations as mom is a biologist, dad is a geo-physicist, sis is post-doc steady-state
    gal). Thanks to you all at CV for your effort and thoughtful posts.

  • Garrett

    Just an average reader…

    I live a few thousand feet up a volcano in the middle of the tropical Pacific. Got my physics Ph.D. in theory six years ago, then turned left to study what I wanted and try to solve the whole puzzle instead of getting a post-doc or real job. I just couldn’t swallow the string cool-aid, but I really love GR, QFT, differential geometry, Kaluza-Klein, etc. So I work on my own stuff — right now trying to figure out BRST geometry in a way that makes sense is kicking my butt! I earn enough money for food and surfboards by working the interstice between academia and the real world — teaching a college class or two, picking up the occasional consulting gig, and playing the stock market. Mostly though I alternate days between working on theory and playing in this beautiful ocean.

    I enjoy your posts. It’s good to have a place I can see physics discussed casually, instead of just religiously pouring over the papers that post to the arxiv. As I’m a bit isolated out here (I am the physics department), weblogs like this substitute for listening in on departmental conversations.

    If anyone’s planning to vacation in Maui, drop me an email. :)

  • Diane

    Definite lurker. This is my first ever post. I’m a recent UofC grad (Biological Sciences) and am currently a first year UW Genome Sciences grad student. My boyfriend, who often reads CV over my shoulder, is also a recent UofC grad (Physics and Math), is a first year UW physics grad student (so he might run into Jake from comment 40 at some point), and took both undergrad and grad GR from Sean. I read Preposterous, which I found via a Popular Science article, for about a year before it evolved into CV. I understand very little of the physics mentioned on the site, although aforementioned BF tries his hardest to get me more interested in it. I like the politics vs. science and women in science discussions, though. Although I’m a biologist, I’m in a very computational department, so male grad students still outnumber female grad students about 3:1 in my program. I understand that this is much better than the situation in many physics departments, so it’s encouraging to hear success stories from female scientists in academia, which is a path I’m trying to pursue. I also really enjoyed the conference on women in science at Chicago, which Sean has mentioned on the site.

  • jls

    Female graduate student, soon-to-be postdoc, in particle theory. This is one of my favorite sites to read.

  • CM Ex.

    postdoc at UofC/Argonne working in cond mat experiment.

  • Mike Molloy

    I found Cosmic Variance via a reference Chad Orzel of Uncertain Principles made to Sean’s site, Preposterous Universe. Around the 3rd or so time I visited PU, Sean announced the birth of CV, which led me here. I guess I’m professionally science related in *some* way, though probably not what you have in mind. I’m a former philosophy grad student who now works in biotech. What I find most interesting at this site are the introductions to various theories, e.g. string theory and general relativity. These tend to be rather over my head, but there’s usually one or more passages that are accessible enough to be interesting to me.

  • Anne

    Another former Preposterous lurker who’s now moved on to lurking at CV. I took GR from Sean at UofC during my undergrad and am now a second-year grad student (solar/astrophysics).

  • OGeorge

    Unembittered elder and natural history illustrator knowing just enough about a whole bunch of stuff to be truly dangerous.

  • Alison

    I’m a social scientist – a sociologist who teaches at the college level. Other than the basic interest I have in science and how the world “works” and is structured, whether physically, politically or socially, I very much like this site for adeptely integrating all off these relams. Thank-you for the illuminating perspectives on all matters related to all manners of science.

  • Rob

    I learned relatvity partly from Sean’s lecture notes in the late ninties while I was at New Mexico Tech. When the textbook came out, I googled him because I had just moved to Milwaukee for grad school in gravitational physics at UWM in the general area of Chicago, so I ran into his blog.

  • Scott O

    I’m an assistant prof in physics in Canada, so I guess that makes me an (un)professional scientient, and the very young end of the embittered elder spectrum. Neutrinos are my thing, and I hope the Phillies win the wild card so they can be beaten by my beloved St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs. (Sean, are you a Philly Phanatic, or is it just a Sixers thing?)

  • Mark

    Hi Scott, I’ll be out at UBC giving the theory seminar in a few weeks. Maybe I’ll run into you then.

  • Moshe Rozali

    We usually don’t allow experimentalists in our theory seminars, but I suppose we can make an exception this time.

  • Kate

    When not perfecting my lurking skills, I’m working on a DFA (Doctorate of Fine Arts) on science and theater. I started my lurking at Preposterous after meeting Sean at the STAR conference.

  • sal

    Humanities degree, work in programming/database. Came from PU (bet he didn’t check that when he started it). Like math & science, but not that good at it (ACT percentiles (1978) – English 99, Social Studies 96, something else 98, math 46, and that only because was good at geometry, for some reason.

  • al_art

    I wasn’t even lurking on lurker day. I’ve been a computer programmer for about a decade, but I’m about to return to grad school to become a middle or high school math teacher. I started reading political blogs shortly before the election last year, stumbled upon a science blog a few months later, and via links in posts and comments have collected dozens that I now read more regularly than the political blogs. I have a generic liberal arts degree, so much of the science is beyond me, but I like seeing what’s of current interest to scientists and I’m especially interested in the interaction of science and politics (which is a more central issue on the biology blogs). I’ve commented only about a half dozen times total on other blogs (and never on this one); I don’t write quickly and by the time I’ve organized my thoughts the conversation has moved on.

  • David

    al_art (comment 122),

    You said: “I don’t write quickly and by the time I’ve organized my thoughts the conversation has moved on.”

    Don’t blame yourself, it’s not your fault. It’s just that people usually don’t think before they write.

  • Tom Renbarger

    I’m closer to being a semi-lurker than a full-blown lurker. I’ve been a post-doc in the observational cosmology group at UCSD, run by Brian Keating, for the past year. The three years before that I was a post-doc with Shaul Hanany’s group at the U. of Minnesota.

    I’m in lurk mode now as we are in the final push of lab testing for BICEP, which ships to Pole on Oct. 17. I think our sky coverage is just small enough that we will not be seriously affected by cosmic variance, actually. :-)

  • Tom Renbarger

    Forgot to include — as for the embitterment portion of the question, I would say that at worst I am in the process of becoming embittered, definitely a case of present imperfect with that shipping deadline looming on the horizon. I’m not sure if I qualify as an elder, either.

  • Mark

    Say hi to Brian for me. He and I were grad. lab partners.

  • A. Zee

    Couldn’t there be another category besides students and embittered elders? I am a still rather sweet elder who in spite of my life of leisure read some blogs some of the time, but perhaps not in my “Waking Life”, lurking until this very moment in the flow of time. In any case, I am a big fan of Clifford’s and Sean is the one who first showed me how to construct a web page (by cannibalizing his.)

  • Clifford

    Tony… Hi…What a pleasant surprise! Just goes to show: “you never know who’s reading”.

    Folks…this is the guy who wrote that excellent introductory field theory book I’ve mentioned a few times….



  • cooper

    Just a lurker. Non-scientist. Majored in CS and do software work now. Love CV though!

  • Prashant Mullick

    PhD in Chemical Engineering, now developing new products and processes for a major chemical company in the US.

    I’ve been following Sean’s posts over from the Preposterous Universe for about a year now…

  • Eugene


    Academically, I am Sean’s sole progeny so far (and hoping to be joined by another soon), now chugging along as a postdoc at Yale!

    I mostly lurk, since any post I make tend to be (a) ignored (b) shot down (c) plain wrong, though all my posts are full of deep insight that can be extracted only after long and hard meditation.

  • JoAnne

    Amy: PVHS women rock!

  • Elliot

    Studied Physics/Math as an undergrad. Mostly an avocation. Like everyone else (of course ! ?) continually working on the ultimate TOE. Am interested in the work of Bekenstein, holographic principle, and applications of information theoretic approaches to cosmological problems. Currently work in telecommunications (it pays the bills) Just recently found this site and find it quite interesting.

  • Stephen Altamirano

    I am an undergrad at Stanford, and I’m almost definitely going to major in Physics. I was excited to see a physics blog somewhere on the net (I think I found this through Pharyngula), and in enough time, I hope to know enough to start my own.

  • Gary Knapp

    Sorry, I was vacationing on Lurker Day. I have a MS in mathematics, but have worked in mathematical finance in the US for the last 20 years. I studied algebraic geometry and am thrilled by the role it has come to play in physics. I also like the posts that battle inumeracy in the media and society. Blog on!

  • nereus

    been a long time lurker from p.u. days but, unfortunately, haven’t read much here lately. first year grad student interested in particle theory/cosmology. this blog is certainly one of the best available. thoroughly thought out posts that are very well communicated. great mix of physics and other, although it seems less physics as of late. sean – in my opinion the best blogger on the internet. first was introduced to your stuff when i used your g.r. text as an undergrad several years ago and have continued to enjoy your writings ever since.

  • frank

    long time lurker who migrated to cv here from pu. first year grad student interested in particle theory/cosmology. cv is one of my favorite stops – unfortunately havent gotten around here much lately(hence the tardy post). keep up the great work. really enjoy your thoroughly though out and well communicated posts. good mix of physics and other, although less physics lately it seems. sean – best poster i’ve found on the net. was introduced to your work when i used to your text while studying gr as an undergrad several years ago and have enjoyed your writing ever since.


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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