The Loom

Back on the Ground

i-93d9c99b24df172d41275af7c5d2927f-wright flyer 300.jpgI’m back from California and the award ceremony I mentioned last week. The trip was fun but a little absurd–I flew across the country and back within 36 hours. It’s time for some serious carbon offsetting. I got to hang out with ABC’s Robert Krulwich without having to go into a forest, and was finally able to put a face to RadioLab‘s Jad Abumrad’s incantory voice. I find I can never, ever predict what someone looks like from how they sound on the radio. Eric Kandel came to pick up a prize for his book, In Search of Memory<. During a discussion with some journalism students, he and I got into a spirited debate about what science writing is for. He thought it should educate a public seriously in need of education. I said that's what high school is for. He was perpetually gracious during our disagreement. Never during the conversation did he say, "Listen, punk, have you been to Stockholm?”

On my return I had to cope with a system meltdown on the MacBook; once I was back in business I faced massive heap of email to get through, not to mention a couple serious deadlines for stories (more on them in a couple weeks). At last I’ve got a relatively calm morning, which I’m trying to savor, since tomorrow I inject some more carbon into the atmosphere for the Thanksgiving trek. I’m going to take avdantage of this brief lull and perform a blogging blitz. I’m going to try to put up as many blog posts as I can before I have to turn to other matters. The posts won’t be long essays on esoteric topics, but they may provide some entertainment as you drift in and out of a turkey slumber over the next few days.

Photo: US National Archives


  1. #1 John Kubie
    November 27, 2007


    What is your argument about the purpose of Science Writing?

    I don’t know what your argument is, but relying on high school science for general public education is a dangerous idea. I’m not impressed. As you know (’cause I got the citation to Jon Miller’s work from an article you wrote), science literacy in the US is not very good.

    I think there are many mistakes in how we educate k-12 students in science: the curriculum is ossified, technological education is poor, science teachers are poorly trained, the tools of science are neglected, science labs are poor, and the sense of current science is missing. Clearly, science journalism can’t fix this on its own. But it seems it can play in important role.

    One thing that a high school science student does not get is a sense of current science: what are the big ideas and where is science going? One role of science journalism is to give a view of current science. For example, if you look at the topics covered in the NYT “science times” over an extended period and ask whether high school science provides an introduction to these areas, the answer is largely “no”. I’d guess that about half of the topics are outside of the realm of high school science. Another area where Science journalism can play a role is introducing people to scientists. People need accurate images and role models.

    But, I’m curious. What are your ideas about the role of science journalism?

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