The Thoughtful Animal

The first two reviews (that I’m aware of) of this year’s edition of Open Lab have surfaced!

First, USC ran a fantastic story on Open Lab and on my experiences with science blogging more generally. It was placed prominently (to my surprise) at the front page of the USC website for a week, and included in the weekly email of the USC College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences! Thanks to Ariel Carpenter for such a great article.

Do Japanese people have a special sushi-digestion gene? What are 10 things everyone must know about comets? Can giraffes swim?

Inquiring minds from the Internet’s vibrant scientific online community want to know.

The Open Laboratory 2010, an anthology showcasing the best science writing on the Web, features pieces on biology, psychology, physics, astronomy and everything in between, according to its editor Jason Goldman, a doctoral student in developmental psychology at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

And for those who checked their science gene at the door of the hospital delivery room, don’t fret. One of the goals, Goldman said, was to make science writing more accessible to the everyman.

“Science is not about middle-aged white men in lab coats with no sense of humor,” he said.

To order the anthology in either pdf or book format, visit online book publisher Lulu.com (bit.ly/fN6hLl). All money goes to covering production expenses and then back into the science community.

And apparently giraffes can in fact swim – but not all that well.

Also, Dr. Al Dove (who had a piece about whale sharks in the anthology) wrote a really, really nice review of Open Lab over at Deep Sea News.

The best thing that I took from Open Lab was a newfound sense of distributed thinking and appreciation of science that I hadn’t grasped before. Many bloggers joke about “hiveminds” and other group-thought concepts, but I took away a genuine feel of that very process from reading about what captures the imagination of my fellow scientists enough to make them want to write about it. In each post I found honesty, passion, imagination, curiosity and creativity shining through in a way that the disinterested “article mill” of traditional journalism is rarely able to match. Sure, if this were other than a self-published anthology the writing could have sometimes used the critical eye of a professional editor, but I’ll take genuine passion over the perfect metaphor any day, and I appreciate Goldman and Zivkovic’s willingness to leave well enough alone in that respect.

In addition, the Southern Fried Scientist reports that Open Lab 2010 has been spotted as assigned reading for the Duke University Marine Lab‘s Science and Nature Writing course.

If you’re going to write a review of Open Lab (please do!) be sure to make Bora and I aware of it. Use the #openlab hashtag, or send us the links directly.