Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

July 23, 2012

Comments on internet publications, what to do?

Filed under: Blog,Blogs — Razib Khan @ 6:27 pm

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:


1) A group of commenters, lead by one particular commenter, persistently verbally abused me as a racist repeatedly even if I was talking about something totally unrelated to race (the commenters admitted that their goal was make sure that I was not invited to the show again through the campaign of harassment). Of course most of these individuals were anonymous. I told the producer that I wasn’t excited about this in relation to my future possible appearances, and he admitted that they were looking into correcting these issues.

2) The commenters are not, in my opinion, as smart as Bob Wright thinks they are. One regular commenter would offer opinions on evolution based on what Stephen Jay Gould write. This a problem for anyone whose bread & butter is evolution (I’m sure the commenter is not knowledgeable enough to know that ...

July 10, 2012

A history of science blogging

Filed under: Blog,Blogs,science blogs — Razib Khan @ 7:00 pm

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, ...

June 6, 2011

3QuarksDaily size writing prize

Filed under: 3QuarksDaily,Blog,Blogs — Razib Khan @ 4:43 pm

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.

September 14, 2010

Wired Science, a new science blogs network

Filed under: Blog,Blogs — Razib Khan @ 10:03 am

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.

August 31, 2010

Science with soul sells

Filed under: Blog,Blogs — Razib Khan @ 12:51 am

Vivienne Raper who analyzed the Wikio Top 100 Science Blogs left a comment below:

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?

675px-CrabNebulaHubbleThe 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:


blogabout

Neuroscience, evolution, and astrophysics speak to normative concerns of our species. That is, they grapple with values. The brain is the seat of our self in a material sense, and neuroscience emerges out of a deep tradition of philosophy of mind which goes back 2,500 years. Evolution has had a fraught relationship with teleology, and some philosophers of biology have quipped that their field to a first approximation can be reduced to philosophy of evolution. Molecular biology is more fundamental in a concrete proximate sense, but evolutionary biology is more fundamental in the ultimate abstract sense. And finally, astrophysics when it bleeds into cosmology rather obviously treads on the ground which was once the domain of mythology, of cosmogony. In a very broad sense these disciplines push against our conceptions of ontology. Astrophysics in the most general sense, neuroscience in a very anthropocentric sense, and evolutionary biology spanning the two extremes.

I think the anti-alternative medicine category also emerges from the same dynamic, but mainly not to appeal to it, but to battle it. Modern scientific medicine does not jive with the deep intuitions of many people of how bodily processes work, They wish for a more “holistic” and “natural” model. I use the quotations because these sorts of terms are more figures of speech in this context than anything substantive. If there was a “holistic” and “natural” alternative engineering discipline then engineering weblogs would no doubt sprout up to battle intuitive pseudo-science.

Mathematics is a strange discipline because I think it too falls into the category of a soulful science. But as Keith Devlin observed in The Millennium Problems translating deep cutting edge mathematics to the general public can be very difficult, because there is less room to use metaphor and analogy than in the natural sciences. Technical hurdles are not barrier if analogy and visuals can substitute, but this does not seem so easy for many deep mathematical questions.

I believe therefore the issue here is to a large extent demand side. People get worked up over controversy, and emotionally invested in topics which cross the threshold of deep emotional commitment. Whether we are simply another primate, or sui generis and a Special Creation, fits that bill. More practical, and very important in an economic sense, endeavors may not fit the bill.

Note: I think other factors are at work as well. Climate science is popular because of its high profile in public policy right now and the potential existential implications. There are probably other hidden factors too. Why is neuroscience blogging more well developed than psychology blogging (or at least so a psych blogger has complained to me)? Neuroscience is a young field which is maturing right now, and perhaps it simply has the right demographic profile which allowed it to bloom very quickly in the next technological context. And I also think fMRI images are preferable to another stock photo of rats in a maze!

Image Credit: NASA

April 4, 2010

John Hawks on the social networking of weblogs

Filed under: Blog,Blogs,Social Networking — Razib Khan @ 8:15 pm

He asks: Has Technorati suddenly gotten useful again? I’m tempted to take a look at Technorati again, though since I switched domains I’ll probably wait up until the shift from ScienceBlogs percolates through the web. One thing to note, John probably relies a bit more on reciprocal linking as the lubricant for discussion because he has no comments on this weblog.

March 23, 2010

Neuroscience blog of note

Filed under: Blogs,Links — Razib @ 10:17 pm

Check it out, Wiring the Brain.

November 7, 2009

Applied Statistics over at ScienceBlogs

Filed under: Blogs — Razib @ 7:19 pm

Just a reminder, Andrew Gelman is now blogging at ScienceBlogs under “Applied Statistics”.

Powered by WordPress