This is probably relevant if you have a blog or run a webzine of some sort. It’ll be much more abstract if you are a commenter, and can’t relate concretely to weirdo creeps who persistently spam your comments and contact you via email. In relation to bloggingheads.tv my own two primary complaints from my experience on that web-show:
Bora Zivkovic has what is basically a short history of science blogging up. I was one of those who was there at the beginning, and I honestly can’t say that he left anything of great relevance out of the narrative. In normal circumstances I don’t think much about what I do, I do. But one thing I will add: blogging isn’t some exotic and peculiar aspect of science anymore, many labs use WordPress as a content management system. Blogs as they were 10 years ago aimed out, toward the populace. Today the info-ecological niches what we would have called blogs fill are much more diverse. Some blogs basically exist to update lab members and interested researchers on their publications and journal club. I add these to my RSS even though I’m not a member of the lab and don’t participate in the journal club because they’re educational to me (e.g., gc bias). Imagine, if you will, that R. A. Fisher had had a blog at Rothamsted. Though this is an opportunity to point you to the R.A. Fisher Digital Archive in case you don’t know about it. We live in rich times for the infovore.
Oh, and in the interests of social media whoring:
Sean already mentioned it, and now that I’m feeling a bit better I want to as well: The annual 3QuarksDaily science writing contest nominees are out. You can vote here. Too many of my friends are up for nomination, so I’m going to avoid making any endorsements. But it’s a nice curation of awesome blogs and posts.
The empire of the boy-king grows! Meet the New Wired Science All-Star Bloggers. David Dobbs and Brian Switek have already set up their domains, but Dr. Daniel MacArthur will be moving in the near future as well. And to think that Dr. Dan was just a commenter over at ScienceBlogs in the spring of 2006 when I first became aware of him. Now he’s a vassal of the prince of neuropundits!
There’s a little more news to come from what I’ve heard, and not from Wired. Soon.
I’m now curious to find out why there are no ‘popular’ blogs in certain subjects. Do working condensed matter physicists who want to engage with the public write about astrophysics? Or are astrophysicists the only physicists who want to blog for the public? Or does the public only read astrophysics blogs?
The contrast between astrophysics and solid state physics is a clue to what’s going on I think. Solid-state physics is very important work. Like agricultural science solid-state physics may not have all the public glamor, but it puts bread on the table of our civilization. So why all the love for astrophysics? I think part of the issue is real straightforward. Astrophysics lends itself easily to a visual “hook,” such as the false-color image of the Crab Nebulae to the left. This isn’t necessarily the heart of astrophysics of course, but it’s a way to connect with the broader public in a literally eye-catching manner. Compare the image search results for “solid state physics” vs. “astrophysics. Not a good sign if the first page is overloaded with head-shots of old nerdy white, Middle Eastern, and brown guys. But that’s not the only issue here. I think there’s a “soul factor” at work. To understand what I’m getting at, let’s look at Vivienne’s breakdown by the umbrella categories: