Please Pardon the Interruption While We Sell Out to the Man

By Sean Carroll | November 8, 2008 4:57 pm

Change we can believe in: starting Monday, Cosmic Variance will be bidding adieu to its life as a plucky independent blog, and huddle into the warm embrace of Discover Magazine. There will be a very brief transition period in which the blog disappears entirely, but hang in there — we’ll be back online before you know it.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: you knew us back when we were indie rock, keeping it real, and now we’re going all corporate? Yes, yes we are. If for no other reason than the thankless task of keeping the blog from crashing and handling the technical end of things will be put in someone else’s capable hands, not our clueless ones.

But there are other reasons. Hopefully the association with Discover will open up new opportunities, and bring new readers to our discussions. And we’re happy to be joining an elite community of blogs that are already up and running at Discover:

  • Bad Astronomy: Everyone knows Phil Plait and his enthusiastic dissections of what’s right and wrong in astronomy and much more.
  • The Loom: Carl Zimmer is another old friend, the go-to guywhen you have questions about E. coli (among other things).
  • Reality Base: a great blog by Melissa Lafsky on science, politics, and the wider world.
  • Science Not Fiction: Stephen Cass, Sam Lowry and Eric Wolff cover futuristic technologies in reality and in fiction.
  • Better Planet: Benjamin Nugent specializes in portents of disaster environmental news.
  • Discoblog: dispatches from the quirkier side of science.
  • 80 Beats: Eliza Strickland scoops up the best science news of the day, and doles it out in bite-sized morsels.

So what does this mean for you, our cherished readers? Nothing, pretty much. You should still be able to get here by pointing your browser at “”; indeed, all of the archives should still be available under their old addresses. Likewise the RSS feeds should work as before; in particular, go here:

And of course our characteristic sprightly insouciance will continue undiminished. Admittedly, the glamorous blue theme we’ve sported since our humble beginnings will be traded in for an orange and white palate. But we’ve always been about the substance, not superficial appearances. Right?

  • Brandon

    I do hope you continue to use the pretty blue CMB logo somewhere!

  • Freiddie

    Awww, I liked the pretty blue theme… Looks like you’ll be joining with BA soon.

  • andy.s

    2 questions:

    1. Will we still be able to use $latex LaTeX$?
    2. Will I finally be able to drag-scroll the text on your blog? You know, click on text and drag it to force the window to scroll down?

    It’s a shortcut for people too lazy to use scrollbars, like me. I can do it practically everywhere by CV. Always meant to complain about that but never got around to it.

  • Sean

    Yep, LaTeX is enabled. You should check the other Discover blogs to see if you can drag-scroll — I have no problem doing it now at CV using Firefox.

  • Pieter Kok

    Oh no, not you too!

  • ARF

    Has Discover stopped running pseudoscience articles if you’re moving there? I stopped subscribing to them 10 years ago because they’d started printing serious articles about psychic pets (I kid not). I hope that CV isn’t associating itself with a magazine that publishes articles like that.

  • Jay

    I donโ€™t know. Iโ€™ll miss this place. *sigh*


  • joe

    I guess the salary of a theorist isn’t enough for dear ol’ Sean.

  • Stocc

    I read Cosmic Variance strictly for superficial appearances.

  • Mandeep Gill

    Hmmmm… well, though i do have some initial misgivings on hearing this, i trust your judgement Sean that you know what you’re doing, Sean, and that this will be overall a good change so i’ll at least give it a fair shake before filing any complaints (of course, given i’ve never paid a cent for this other than donating to the cause of those sciencey kids a couple of weeks ago, i suppose i have no basis on which to really complain to begin with..! ;-> ).

  • Savanna

    I’m depressed.

  • R. Totale

    I was always into your early stuff but now…I dunno…you’ve changed, man.

  • Jacob Russell

    Whoaa… I gotta accept in one week Obama having to go mainstream, and now yous guys? I mean, I’m a reality sorta guy, ya know… but how much reality can a guy take in a couple a days? Phillys win, Obama … Cosmic Variance… my connection to the Universe?

    Thank the godamned pharmaceuticals for small favors… this will take at least a few clonozapams to deal with.

    I wish you well under your new subtitle… Yous guys will always be my heroes.

  • Sunny

    It’s not the same! We will all regret this in a few years. Consolidation doesn’t necessary make things better.

    I know what Discover is doing; they want to get their total viewer/visitor numbers up. They pay incremental amount for visitors and then claim a multiple in valuation increase. I have played that game during the previous internet boom time very successfully. This consolidation of niche blogs concept has been tried by so many times by so many different companies before.

    This is what will happen in the next 9 months, you will start thinking that, “you know what, this blog at Discover is fine, but I really need a blog that is my own…,” and as soon as that happens, the spark that brighten this blog will be gone!.

    I am not suggesting that you guys don’t do it, or it is necessarily a bad thing; I am just saying that as a reader, the blog won’t be the same for me.

  • Tero

    I really hope you’ll continue to publish full RSS feeds (stick ads to them if you need, but keep them full), instead of going to the one-liners Discover is doing for their blogs. Their feeds really suck :-(

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  • daisy rose

    Rats !

  • Sili

    Make ’em pay through the nose!

  • Good For You

    Although my selfish inclination is to quip, “Say it ain’t so!”; I must congratulate you and say that this is the right decision. To quote Austin Powers, “Yeah, capitalism!” :-)

  • Elliot

    I certainly hope there is meaningful compen$ation involved. The reality is that this blog is intellectual property that you all have built and has value. And you should be proud of that. I also hope that no editorial interference is forthcoming particularly in the non-scientific arena (wink wink nudge nudge)

    Maybe some interesting contests (and prizes) can emerge from this collaboration now that you’ve got a sugar daddy.


  • Mark B.

    I, for one, welcome the new corporate overlords.


  • Sean

    We will still have full RSS feeds, as do many of the current Discover blogs. Just type /feed/ after their URL to find them.

    There are no restrictions on content, so you’ll be seeing what you’ve always seen, for better or for worse. Except that now we will perhaps feel some obligation to post a bit more often.

    And there is compensation involved, but “meaningful” is somewhat of an exaggeration.

    It wasn’t an easy decision to join a larger organization, nor one that we took lightly. We had various other offers that we had turned down in the past. But Discover seemed to offer an attractive combination of increased reliability, full editorial control on our part, and a chance to reach a wider audience, balanced against a less attractive appearance for the front page. We thought the experiment was worth doing; let’s see how it goes.

  • John Phillips, FCD

    First ERV gets assimilated by the Seed bank and now BA and Cosmic Variance are Discovered and there is still more than three years to go to 2012. We’re doomed I tell you, doomed. Only joking as neither ERV or BA have changed their posting content or style, so I can’t see why you lot would. So if joining the swarm helps with the technical side while also paying for the odd beverage or two, what’s not to like.

  • pauline

    Lucky you – and lucky us. The Discover site is wonderfully informative.

  • Neil B ?

    Not that I mind nor is it unwarranted, but does this mean comments will be more scrutinized for questionable language etc. since the blog will be affiliated with Discover? However, I do expect to see continued openness to new ideas, and amateurs and semi-pros. Also, please keep all the old archives somewhere. Best wishes, and I suppose this means even higher visibility. tx.

  • Richard E.

    Congrats — even if it will not keep you all in new swimming pools and the latest and greatest in touch screen mobile phones (or maybe it will?), glad to see you have monetized the blog :-)

    (Do you have the right to pull out if it all goes to custard with the new corporate overlords? Can you keep the name, or will you have to post as “The Blogger Formerly Known as Mark” or “The Blogger Formerly Known as Sean” on some “Contractual Obligations” blog run off a rogue server in Venezuela. Just curious)

  • Supernova

    Hey! Who won the election contest?

  • Aiya-Oba

    Great move, the only thing that stays the same is change.

  • Blake Stacey

    Wait, the Discover hivemind supports $latex LaTeX$? The Seed one doesn’t.

    Sad blogger is now sad.

  • Eugene

    Spill it. How many millions?

  • Jan

    Unlike the USA where internet access is cheap, in some parts of the world it is still expensive. (South Africa) A lot of people access the internet at work. Most of the blog sites get filtered out. When I try to open Bad Astronomy or 80 Beats I get the message – “Access to the requested web page is denied using Burst Technology Filtering Software. The Requested web page is categorized as Free-Hosted Sites.” I hope I will still be able to access your site and that you will not loose any readers through this filtering process.

  • John

    The problem I have with Discover’s blogs is page weight. Loading on my laptop at home is fine, loading on the go or on my iphone is excruciating with all the ads and extra crap.

  • Radha

    I want the old color scheme back! Change frightens and confuses me.

  • Yoo

    Given how closely the move occurred after the presidential election, there’s got to be something fishy going on between Cosmic Variance and the United States Government. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Seriously, congratulations and best of wishes!

  • kletter

    Quote: “Benjamin Nugent specializes in [portents of disaster] environmental news.”

    So, is scientific discussion of issues like global warming and environmental pollution wrong? Is it nothing but doom-mongering, alarmist prophecy? Maybe global warming isn’t real after all? Maybe there are no environmental causes of cancer? Are such concerns really all about soothsaying and “portents of disaster”?

    Just some harmless trash-talking?

  • mtrodden

    kletter – I believe that comment was an example of what humans call “humor”.

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  • nimzo

    Unsubscribe. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • metal

    Oh man! this layout sucks. The older layout was much much easier to read. The reading material is now bunched up against the left hand side of the screen. Guess I will be reading this blog on Google reader now :(


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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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