It Was Foretold Long Ago…

By Carl Zimmer | June 30, 2008 5:26 pm

Kittyboo take 2Allow me to introduce myself by way of a homecoming.

It was at Discover that I started writing about science, a couple years out of college and with no clear idea of what I was going to do. My first two articles came out in the same issue in November 1989. One was illustrated with a picture of E. coli colonies, each glowing its own color of the rainbow. The story described the work of a scientist named Keith Wood, who had isolated the gene fireflies use to glow in 1984, and who went on two isolate genes for other colors from Jamaican beetles. The other story described a hybrid underground of poets and novelists who were just starting to use computers. Some were experimenting with something called hyperfiction, in which pages of a text were linked, so that a reader no longer had to be trapped in a one-dimensional narrative.

I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but those two pieces pretty much epitomize my life today. During my time at Discover, my passion zeroed in on biology–in particular on the intersection of old-fashioned natural history and cutting-edge technology. I was a senior editor at Discover in the 1990s and then left to write books on things like parasites and walking whales, and most recently I wrote about E. coli–including experiments in which scientists made E. coli glow in different colors to understand how genetically identical clones can behave as unique individuals. Even E. coli has fingerprints.

Along the way, I also became fascinated with new formats for writing about science. I came to the world of publishing just as the computer was taking over. The folks in Discover’s production department had yet to give up slicing articles up with Exacto knives and gluing them to pages. I persuaded my boss to get a modem for the magazine and discovered web pages scientists were setting up. I lobbied for us to get email addresses, and helped set up Discover’s web site. At the time, I did these things mainly because they were fun; their use–their inescapableness–would come much later. Four years ago, I discovered people who were doing for science writing what others had done to stories with hyperfiction. They were blogging. I joined in, and blogging has become a regular part of my writing life–a notebook, a playground, a personal wire service.

Today I’m moving my blog to Discover, where I got my start. I’ll also be writing a monthly column for Discover about the brain, which will provide much fodder for additional blog posts. It’s good to be back.

[Image source]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: General, Microcosm: The Book

Comments (21)

  1. Well, I guess I’ll be subscribing to Discover again.

    You totally blew Phil’s surprise in your farewell post at Sb, by the way. *LOL*

  2. W. Kevin Vicklund

    I remember those two articles, Carl. Reading Discover was one of the few joys of having to spend time with my father at that age, especially before he got the computer.

    Is Zachary Blount still going to have a guest post clarifying the experiment?

  3. Martin

    I cannot figure out the RSS feed for your new blog, only feeds fror various sections of all of Discover.

    How do I subscribe only to the Loom?

  4. Good move, Carl! Congratulations, and a nice new look too. Time to redirect those feedburns.

  5. Jude

    Okay, so now your photo is on the right instead of the left…

    As long as that’s the main change, I’ll be happy.

  6. Looping successful

  7. Well, that’s all the motivation I need to renew my subscription with Discover. Congrats on the move, Carl.

  8. Congrats Carl! Of course you will be missed at Sb, but this sounds like a fabulous move. Looking forward to the column as well…

  9. Karen

    Well, I hate to see you leave ScienceBlogs, but this seems like a great move for you. I thoroughly enjoyed your Guide to Human Origins, and have been equally impressed with your 1337 science-blogging skillz. I also owe you a debt that can never be paid for pointing me in the general direction of PZ Myers. Rest assured, that while I usually only bring myself to post in PZ’s circus (and then only occasionally) I will be lurking here.

    Science groupies FTW!

  10. Eva


  11. Zachary


    Congratulations on the new home! The Loom looks better than ever! I

    W. Kevin Vicklund,

    Yes, I am still going to be sending a post for Carl. It is just taking longer than I had expected because there is so much that I feel should be covered, and it is taking time to pull everything together into something coherent and readable.


  12. Tom from the Bx

    Hi Carl,

    It’s cool that you are back at Discover, and I am glad that you mentioned the exacto paste-up.

    I think that you should celebrate by posting your Camden ice age story.

  13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Slick move on account of Discover. We will (continue to) enjoy picking your brain, perhaps more so then it isn’t all afflicted by creepy crawly parasites.

  14. Carl,

    Congrats on the new digs. Sometimes you can go back home!

  15. A happy return, Carl.

    It is amazing how many folks Discover has sent into the science writing world over the years (thanks, folks — it’s been a good ride so far); it is a pleasure that the old book has life in it yet.

    Time to update the blogroll, I guess.

    best, Tom

  16. William

    I cannot figure out the RSS feed for your new blog, only feeds fror various sections of all of Discover.

    How do I subscribe only to the Loom?

  17. Carl,
    Much success in your new venue. I always thought that “The Loom” was by far the best Science blog (even though PZ was given the award).
    I look forward to your discussions on the brain especially the origins of conscious awareness and the evolution of its transcendent reality.

  18. Umm, OK, it’s perhaps not quite as cool as the Simonyi Chair. But still pretty cool!

    Oh, and by the way: your punishment for that dreadful pun (“discovered a new element”, indeed!) needs to be severe.

  19. Steviepinhead

    Ha! You can’t escape me this easily, Carl!

    Congratulations on the new endeavors and new incarnations. It was a few early exchanges on The Loom that led to what’s now turned into several years of slogging in the Evo-Creo trenches — frustrating, revealing, educational, and amusing years.

    Thanks so much, and all the best!

  20. Mike from Ottawa

    I’m glad to see the move because the filters here at work block scienceblogs. No knock on scienceblogs – my favourite blog is there, Darren Naish’s Tetrapod Zoology.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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