MacArthur’s Defense of Print and Paywall is a Bad Excuse

Posted 17 August 2014 by Paige Brown Jarreau


Disclaimer. I am about to review and critique a New York Times profile of Harper’s Magazine publisher John R. MacArthur. I make no claim to being able to adequately do so. But as one of the “youths” “blowing off steam” on my blog (who still calls this a weblog?), I at least have some personal experience in the matter. “‘I’ve got nothing against people getting on their weblogs, on the Internet and blowing off steam,’ he [John R. MacArthur] said.... Read more

Swim Like a Shark

Posted 14 August 2014 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Carcharhiniformes Shark Dermal Denticles. By Mary Keim,

As Shark Week sinks its teeth into your TV and social media channels, from megalodon – the 50-foot-long “mega-toothed” shark that while extinct chomps on in our imaginations – to Zombie Sharks, you might not realize that we stand to learn a heck of a lot from sharks. A 6th sense—and a 7th: sharks navigate using electromagnetic fields & pressure changes #SharkWeek — pew environment (@pewenvironment) August 13, 2014 Among the many things we can learn from sharks –... Read more

We don’t talk about this.

Posted 9 August 2014 by Paige Brown Jarreau


Have you ever critiqued or corrected another science writer online, to have them become defensive in response? Has this type of conflict ever lead you to avoid writing about certain topics? According to the theory of motivated reasoning, there are two basic types of reasoning motives: accuracy goals and defensive goals. We often look at motivated reasoning on the part of science communication audiences. But science writers themselves are not immune to motivated reasoning processes. Imagine an individual is going... Read more

The Worst Pain Known to Man… It’s a Stinger

Posted 7 August 2014 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Paraponera clavata – museum specimen. Dorsal side Locality: Petit Saut, French Guiana, France. From Wiki.

A man stands ready, nervous but staunch. His face and hands are painted in warrior colors – black and red. Today, he will become a man. His initiation will be pain – pure, intense, brilliant pain. Walking over flaming charcoal with a nail in his heel pain. But his pain won’t come from fire, nor from a rusty nail. It won’t come from being attacked by a bull, a lion, or any other large, fierce creature. It won’t come from... Read more

I read this by accident. How to engineer your own virus and Ebola resistance.

Posted 4 August 2014 by Paige Brown Jarreau

A representation of the "spike" or glycoproteins on the filamentous Ebola virus. Shutterstock:

Most people read science by accident. You’re online – browsing Reddit, reading news spastically on Twitter, or Stumbling. All of a sudden – BAM! HIV-Killing condoms. The Chemistry of Farts. What’s happening to me, I don’t read science. Oh wait, this is pretty cool… That’s right, “happenstance plays a key role in how people stumble across science news online.” In fact, in a 2006 Pew Internet and American Life Project study, John Horrigan reports that two-thirds of internet users say... Read more

Sensational Science Saves Lives (yep, that’s why you clicked)

Posted 2 August 2014 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Animal attacks are always front-page news. Shutterstock:

‘‘Let a Gazette come out filled with the finest descriptions of prosperity, general health, growing trade, internal peace and prevailing virtue [and] it will be read almost with indifference and thrown away ... In contrast, let a Gazette inform us in detail [of a plague, civil war, or dreadful famine and] this paper would deeply engage the attention, be read over and over again and pronounced a valuable paper’’ – Independent Ledger, January 26, 1784 It’s all your fault. (Ok,... Read more

The Self-Edited Woman

Posted 31 July 2014 by Paige Brown Jarreau


In 2004, Susan Herring and colleagues showed that “contemporary discourses about weblogs, such as those propagated through the mainstream media, in scholarly communication, and in weblogs themselves, tend to disproportionately feature adult, male bloggers.” And yet, female blog authors represent, in numbers, as great or greater a voice in the blogosphere as male bloggers. Many research studies have focused on exploring the reasons behind women’s relative lack of prominence in the blogosphere. A 2006 number-crunching analysis showed that men’s blogs... Read more

Science Blogging: Got Comments?

Posted 30 July 2014 by Paige Brown Jarreau


In a recent study of science bloggers, Merja Mahrt and Cornelius Puschmann found that the blog author very much influences the degree of commenting on his or her own blog posts. How? Through language complexity and topic selection. In a content analysis of over 200 posts at,,, and (the German partner of, these researchers found blog posts that received the most comments dealt either with common controversies (climate change, vaccinations, food safety) or political... Read more

Science Blogging that Boomerangs

Posted 27 July 2014 by Paige Brown Jarreau


“This impedes reasonable public risk communication in the long run and creates a social group of people who harbor fears and anxieties not grounded in reality, but are immune against correction.” - A Boomerang Effect of an All-Clear Message on Radiation Risk. Experts have concluded in many cases that the risks of nanotechnology, electromagnetic fields and nuclear energy are acceptable in the ways we currently use these technologies. Risks assessments of nanoparticles, for example, are typically complicated and rarely lead... Read more

Science Blogging as… (fill in the blank)

Posted 25 July 2014 by Paige Brown Jarreau


In science writing, there’s always something new to learn, some new adventure to try. Keep a beginner’s mind, look for new adventures, and have fun. — Dan Ferber (, @DanFerber) Today, I decided to collect science writers’ thoughts on blogging from Ed Yong’s 2010 round-up of stories on the Origins of Science Writers. I thought it would be interesting to see how the 100+ science writers who commented on Ed’s post – many now professional science writers, journalists and editors... Read more