I wrote this 'Blog Review' for the latest edition of Au Science Magazine published in June 2012 (more info below)
Move over books, it’s the Age of the Internet, and blogs are the literature of choice.
These aren’t the blogs of the Myspace era that shared too much information about teen troubles, break-ups and parent problems. The new wave of blogs are well written, informative, can help keep you up-to-date with the latest and greatest, or quite simply exist to provide entertainment. And as we are Au Science Magazine, I have taken a look at some of the science blogs out there in the crazy land of the Internet.
Science blogs are often hosted by expert science writers and/or scientists. They debunk the latest news stories, explain the latest research as it is published and, best of all; they are easily readable on a quick lunch break.
Quite possibly the biggest science blog cheerleader is Ed Yong. An award-winning British science writer who has written for New Scientist and the Guardian among others, he also writes Not Exactly Rocket Science (NERS), a blog hosted on the Discover Magazine website.
NERS covers a range of topics from fungi to fMRI. Although, Ed’s personal interest in zoology is clear, insects and animals feature heavily, cuddly animal blog this is not. He also provides debate on current science issues as they happen, like conversations from a conference about controversial scientific studies on the h5n1 flu virus. News, topics and debate are all fresh, new and timely.
Ed’s background is in science, with an ma in Natural Sciences from Cambridge and I have no doubt that his degree helps him pull out the best and most interesting news from published scientific papers. E d started blogging to, ‘flex [his] writing muscles on different topics’ in a style of his own. His goals, as he explained in an interview are to, ‘make the complicated seem simple, the obscure seem fun and the unknown seem tangible’. Which is a great quote to describe exactly what his blog achieves.
His style is humourous and playful; take the headline, ‘Tiny insect soldiers with butch forearms are actually medics’ as an example. What Ed manages to do really well is create entertaining, understandable, informative and importantly, factually correct articles from science that would probably be ignored by the mainstream press.
Many of the stories Ed covers are not found anywhere else, so, if you aren’t reading Ed’s blog or working in the field he covers, you are missing out. The title of the paper that gave the headline about ‘tiny insect soldiers’ above is, ‘An inherited virus influences the coexistence of parasitoid species through behaviour manipulation’. Not something you would find on the bbc News website. But Ed manages to transform it, like many of his other pieces, into a short, concise and perfectly to the point article worthy of a place on the ‘most read’ list. Ideal for that tea-break science fix.
One of the most enjoyable things about blogs is that you can comment on an article and let the writer know your thoughts and that you enjoyed reading it (or not). Authors usually reply to comments and discussions can start. This interaction with the author adds an extra dimension that books do not allow.
NERS is just one excellent example of a number of fantastic science blogs on the internet. If you want to read more good science writing on the web, Ed helpfully collates the best science writing he has seen and posts it on his blog under the title, ‘I’ve got your missing links right here.’ And if that is still not enough for you, Ed is also active on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook where he often shares links to other science writing on the Internet.
Other science blogs worth a click:
Au Science Magazine is produced by students at the University of Aberdeen
Online at http://ausm.org.uk/