In which we look back at a very political, perhaps excessively political year on the blog.
I’m picking up the pace of my recap because I’d like to get through as much as possible before the actual tenth anniversary of the blog this Friday. I won’t get through every year, but I’m going to try to do as many as I can.
2007-2008 was a somewhat problematic year for me. On the one hand, there was some pretty good stuff in there, but there were also a number of ugly political squabbles. This was around the time I stopped even trying to read all of ScienceBlogs, and trimmed my RSS subscriptions to only include people who didn’t regularly piss me off. This recap will include the most politics of any of the recaps to this point, not so much because I’m happy with what I wrote, but because it’s an important turning point in the evolution of the blog.
Before we get to the unpleasant stuff, though, let’s talk about good, solid science.
The summer of 2007 was a happy time for us, because we spent a bunch of it on vacation– a trip to the Virgin Islands with my parents, and a three-week vacation in Japan, including the Worldcon in Yokohama. I did manage to get some science in using this as a hook, talking about the polarization of light and its application to sunglasses. The latter got a link from Andrew Sullivan, and wound up being one of the bigger posts of the year. The Japan trip also generated a lot of science content from other people, courtesy of guest bloggers Aaron and Nathan. (My own contributions from the Japan ran more to photo posts and amusing (to me, anyway) anecdotes, including this poll about art, which provides the “featured image” for this post, because it amuses me to do so…)
I did a little bit of research blogging that year. which, coincidentally, is when ResearchBlogging.org launched, including (in roughly chronological order) a quantum optics experiment about quantum measurements, a dismissive take on an attempt to explain biology in quantum terms, and a series of Lab Visit Reports (the first two results on that page are later mentions of the series; skip down to the good stuff) from a visit to my old lab, when Kate was in DC for a workshop. I also did a couple of extremely nerdy posts on vacuum pumps, that I like quite a bit, and an explanation of the physics behind a viral video that I’m happy with.
There was some good meta-science stuff, listing (with help from readers) skills scientists ought to have and what everyone should know about science, and explaining the hierarchy of sciences. There was also a series of sorts on science funding and policy: The Funding Issue, Science Festivals, Science Books, and Science Funding, and Scientists Don’t Have to Do Everything Themselves. The middle of those was re-worked and reprinted in an APS newsletter, and I think they all hold up reasonably well. This was also the first year in which science was not notable, with a follow-up look at past notable science books.
In the recurring life-in-science category (which I generally lump under “Physics” for these recaps), I looked at some numbers for the academic job market (with results very similar to ZapperZ’s recent run of the same check), wrote a generic recommendation letter, polled dorks about calculators, and discussed the transition from physics to finance, which I had forgotten writing up, though I recently referred a graduate considering this move to the alumnus who gave the talk. I should send him a link to the post, too.
I was working on How to Teach Physics to your Dog for most of this time, but also sowed the seeds of How to Teach Relativity to your Dog with a couple of posts that were re-worked into chapter-opening dialogues: Relative Dog Motion and Time Dilates When You’re Chasing Bunnies (the latter was extensively revised, as the original post is kind of awkward). Emmy and I also discussed evolution at one point. Also growing out of work on the book was this post on the caddishness of Erwin Schrödinger, for a little unsavory physics history.
I was recently talking about environmental issues and half-remembered this post about solar panels, which I’ll link here just to help me remember it. And to make a relatively upbeat bridge between science and politics, I wrote a silly post about George Bush and Pluto.
Hoo, boy. This was the year when Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet pissed off everybody in the Nü Atheist brigade, and I spent far too much time and energy on the whole framing fracas. You can pretty much trace the progress of my disenchantment with the whole enterprise through the series of posts that starts with this oblique comment to this pissed-off comment to these two attempts to take a broader view. But really, I should’ve stuck with the dog pictures (which loses something without the “click for more” break, but whatever…).
This frustration had been building for a while, though, because back at the start of the “year” (remember, blog years start in late June), I had put together a list of non-religious charities in response to some churlish complaints about religious charities. It didn’t accomplish much other than getting me a lot of spam email to this day, alas.
In other ranty political matters, there was the Vox Day incident. Which was ultimately more funny than annoying– “Vox” holds some reprehensible positions, but unlike some other crazy people I’ve run up against over the years, he was remarkably civilized about staying confined to one post, and going away when that was done. For a good while, though, that held the record for most comments to a single post, and the traffic boost from that more than made up for some slow posting due to work and travel.
Political posts that have aged a bit better than the above include a look at NCAA graduation rates, a comment regarding death rates that I remember every time I read a dramatic press release, and a realization about pundit shows that has forever put me off the genre.
A little more pop culture this time than last, largely because the category serves as a kind of grab-bag. The most traffic in this category came from this concert review, where a bunch of Bob Dylan fans took umbrage at what was actually a neutral-to-complimentary remark on my part. There was also a fun discussion of creepy pop songs, including a link to an awesome live Afghan Whigs song.
On the literary side, I did a guest lecture in a Science Fiction class, which led to a bunch of posts: a creepy hypothetical, a discussion of the variational principle, and “notes toward” post. The guest lecture went pretty well, so I did it again a couple of years later.
In general stuff, I posted some tear-jerking stories about dogs, some silliness with Emmy, some more commentary about my idiosyncratic stomach problems, and I got a lot of traffic for a silly Naked Gun reference. Go figure.
Of course, the most important personal development of the year came toward the end of 2007, when the FutureBaby who would eventually become SteelyKid came into existence. She was officially revealed in February, though the process of getting there was not without some angst. It all worked out well, though, and provided me with new venues for expressing my inner dork. Which was only the beginning…
But that’s a story for the next year in our recap.