Hello World, Do You Speak Science?

18 February 2013 by Alex Brown, posted in blogging, speaking science

This is "me". Credit: Tess Liautaud


Words. We all use them, in one form or another.

Science. We all use it, in one form or another.

I'm here to join the dots, to make connections between scientific concepts and the way they are expressed. I'm very excited to be starting this blog to share my passion for science and languages with the world. It all starts with the question:

Do you speak science?

There are many ways to answer this, and I will cover several of them over the weeks and months to come. I hope to spark some conversations and provoke some thoughts, and maybe, just maybe, make someone out there love languages or science just a little bit more than before.


What you can expect from this blog

All my posts will cover a topic in science, science communication, or languages (usually combining more than one area). I'm sure there will be some changes over time, but these are the ideas I've got so far:

  • The etymological table of the elements - looking into how each element got its name. There's over 100 posts right there, so that should keep me busy.
  • Lost & found in translation - taking an idea from language and expressing it in another can be very tricky business. The consequences of getting it wrong can be hilarious, or fatal (or, more usually, somewhere in between). This is also true in the world of science & science communication.
  • Stories about studying and working in science in different countries (I've lived in France, the UK, Germany and Switzerland) and the difficulties involved in using English as a common language.
  • Reports on research into how language shapes thought (known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis).
  • Thoughts about issues in science communication more generally, from the use of volunteers in interactive science centres to education policy. I also have an interest in issues such as gender equality in scientific careers (warning: that link contains very strong language), and open access to publicly-funded research.

Entries will no doubt vary in length. Some will be a few brief thoughts about a particularly interesting link (though mostly I use Twitter for that kind of thing, see below), others will be longer essay-style pieces. Most will be somewhere in between. (Normal distributions, anyone?)

I will keep the "voice" of my writing fairly informal, though it will vary a bit depending on what kind of post I'm writing. For example, an in-depth report on a piece of psychological research might be a bit more academic in tone than a quick anecdote about something I misunderstood as a child in school.

These are issues I will be keen to work on with feedback from readers. Generally, if you have ideas for posts, feel free to get in touch with me.


Credit: Marianne Baker I also have a thing for rows of flags. These are in front of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, France.



Some background reading

I will start publishing posts very soon, and I have plenty of material to work with -a few dozen drafts already! In the meantime, I have already written a few posts about these kinds of questions on my first blog (how do you think I got a spot on the SciLogs network?!). You can explore that site, or here are the links to my favourites:

On my other site, I also write about a couple of my hobbies, namely student volunteer charity fundraising in the UK (known as "Rag"), and the little-known sport of floorball. I will keep updating that site with posts about those topics, so do check them out if you're interested.


Credit: Alex Brown Me playing floorball in Zurich


Getting in touch

There are many reasons why I write and choose to publish my work. I especially like to to interact with people who are interested in the the same ideas as me. This is true whether the ideas are "mine", or inspired by others. (Although, as Mark Twain pointed out, no human thought is ever truly original!). If you feel like contacting me about something I have written on the blog, you can use the following options.


I welcome constructive and positive comments on my blog. I haven't specifically worked out my moderation policy will be, but rest assured that it will be inspired by Bora Zivkovic's advice which you can read here. In essence, commenting is a privilege, not a right; I expect commenters to behave accordingly.

To begin with, first-time comments will be held for moderation. Once a user (someone using e.g. a WordPress login, or name-email combination) has had a comment approved, their future comments will become visible automatically. I hope this rule will work to weed out most of the unwanted commenters, though hopefully there won't be many in the first place!


I'm on Twitter @alex_brovvn. Note the double-v in the name, it's a reference to the French name for the letter w, and the w version was taken... I check for @-mentions most days and will engage in most conversations I'm involved in.


Alors, voulez-vous sciencer avec moi?

So, let's get to know one another. You can start by leaving a comment below to introduce yourself. You might want to include some answers to the following questions, but you don't have to.

  • Who are you?
  • What's your connection to science, science communication, or languages?
  • What is your favourite science word?
  • What is your favourite foreign word?


O Butch, mon amour, l'aventure commence! - Pulp Fiction

Allons-y! - Doctor Who

16 Responses to “Hello World, Do You Speak Science?”

  1. sTeamTraen Reply | Permalink

    By hook or by crook
    I'll be first in this book

    Good luck!

  2. alcaponejunior Reply | Permalink

    please double-check your spellin' so those crazy kids at the Bad Science forums don't go all crazy with ;-)

    • Alex Brown Reply | Permalink

      Is there anything in particular I haven't spelled correctly? I've had another look and couldn't spot anything.

  3. Andysnat Reply | Permalink

    Hehe, I know your dad.

  4. elkement Reply | Permalink

    OK - so now I know the story of the double v :-)
    My favorite foreign word is currently "oxymoron"!

    • Alex Brown Reply | Permalink

      Yes, now all is revealed!

      I do quite like "oxymoron", and not just for the Scrabble score.

  5. Susanna Reply | Permalink

    very interesting blog. I do science for a living and I speak too many languages (all right, not that many I just confuse them on a regular basis).
    Today my favorite science word is the French "blacklister", the short form for saying "ajouter une ligne à la fin de la liste noire"/ "add a line to the end of the black list"

    • Alex Brown Reply | Permalink

      Hi Susanna!
      There's no such thing as speaking too many languages in my book! And i know what you mean about gettin them confused sometimes (watch this space for future posts about exactly that kind of thing)

  6. sedeer Reply | Permalink

    Looking forward to lots of great science & language posts -- it's always a pleasure reading your work. Good luck, Alex!

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