It’s been a good and somewhat momentous year. In July, I left my job of seven years to become a fulltime freelancer. Before, the blogging and feature-writing were all leisure-time activities, and they’re now my bread and butter. With just five months in, it’s working out nicely so far and I get to spend a bit more time on the stories I write for this blog. I hope that the quality of the content here is, if anything, improving as a result. Some events of note:
- I wrote 272 posts for Not Exactly Rocket Science, excluding the weekly “missing links” collections, and including my 1000th post milestone.
- I started a new blog called Nature Wants to Eat You, celebrating nature’s terrifying mouths, jaws, tongues and teeth.
- I started a new tip-jar initiative, where I pay the ten writers whose work I most enjoyed in each month. It’s worth noting that reader contributions increase the amount I actually end up donating by around 5 times.
- Not Exactly Rocket Science became one of the first blogs to feature in the Best American Science Writing 2011.
- I got to host this incredible commencement speech from Robert Krulwich about the people who don’t wait, and the future of journalism.
- I learned that I really do have all I need for a blog.
- I turned 30.
I did other stuff too! Some long-form features…
These are some of my proudest work. They’re where I really get to flex my writing muscles. There are six here, but I’ve actually written ten this year. Four of them will be out in early 2012.
- Nature – Out of body experience – master of illusion (Henrik Ehrsson’s amazing body-displacing work)
- WIRED UK – Space – Medicine’s final frontier (what happens to infectious bacteria in space)
- Eureka (Times) – Beauty and the brain (how the brain reacts to beautiful art and music)
- BMJ – Disease hunters (monitoring the spread of emerging diseases in the Mekong)
- NERS – The Renaissance man: how to become a scientist over and over again (Erez Lieberman’s genre-spanning work on 3-D genomes and the evolution of human culture)
- BBC Focus – Mind-altering bugs (the mind-bending parasite Toxoplasma gondii; no link to piece)
…and lots of news stories and columns
- Last Word on Nothing – The Nature of Octopuses(read this one – it’s one of the things that I’m most proud of this year)
- Nature – How the elephant got its sixth toe
- Nature – Hummingbird flight has a clever twist
- Nature – Yeti crab grows its own food
- Nature – Bacteria encode secret messages
- Nature – Nile crocodile is two species
- Nature – Electronic skin could replace bulky electrodes
- Nature – Pruney fingers grip better
- Nature – Twisted structure preserved dinosaur proteins
- Nature – Timeline of Fukushima coverage
- Nature – Categorising all animals – a snip at over US$200 billion
- Guardian – Giant unicorn whales with tusks? That’s why I pay my licence fee.
- Guardian – Worms can inherited a memory of longevity from their parents
- Guardian – Teenagers’ IQ scores can rise or fall during adolescence
- Guardian – You’ve got seven days left to prove you’re a science writer
- Discover – The bug with built-in sidekicks
- Discover – The scatological hitchhiker snail
- BBC – How do your bacteria help us?
- Slate – Genetically modified mosquitoes bite
- CNN – Who were the 99% of Ancient Rome?
- Open Notebook – Adam Rogers shadows a fungus detective
- Wired UK – Year in Ideas: wireless mind control and genome hacking
And even a spot of radio…
In which I tell the collected listeners of BBC Radio 4 that they’re sacks of bacteria
As always, I owe a huge amount to the editors who have kicked my pieces into shape, the friends and colleagues who have supported me, and the readers who have deigned to read the messy piles of words that I bash out at my desk. Writing is a lonely and sometimes dispiriting business, and every kind word helps. I’m grateful to all the people I connect with, from all over the world, who make it worthwhile.
And, as has become obligatory but never any less important, my utmost thanks to my wife, Alice, who continues to make it all possible