Science Studio is Live!


You guys. This thing happened. Science Studio. You know, the thing I’ve been bugging people about for over a year now? Yeah, that. You should check it out.

It’s been an incredible pleasure to build this collection. Incredible! So before I wax poetic about those pleasures here’s some boring stuff about logistics. All told we got 220 nominations. After weeding out duplicates and nominations that weren’t eligible, 120 pieces went out to the judges. When they came back to us, we ranked each piece and had to do the hard job of selecting our final collection. You can see the results on our site, and I’m really proud not just of every piece we included but also how hard it was to decide which pieces those were.

For those wondering how we set upon these final selections, I don’t have a great answer for you except to say that it was hard. Turns out, there’s a lot of really cool stuff on the internet. You probably already knew that, but I’ll just confirm for you that it’s true. We watching and listened to things over and over, we discussed (and in some cases debated) and we changed our minds more than once. But in the end, this collection is full of variety, life, excitement and creativity.

So to those who nominated work, thank you. This couldn’t exist without you. To those who created work, thank you. This couldn’t exist without you. To those who helped us judge, thank you. This couldn’t exist without you. To those who gave to our Kickstarter, thank you. This couldn’t exist without you. And to Ben and Bora, thank you. This couldn’t exist without you.

What’s next? That’s a great question, and I don’t know the answer to that one either. We want to keep bringing you great stuff. We want to expand to allow infographics and interactives into the collection. We want to create a place where people can work together, learn from one another and create future Science Studio worthy stuff. So if you’ve got ideas for us, send them along. I’m and I’d love to hear from you. And look out for our 2013 nomination form soon, because after a quick nap we’re ready to start this all over again.


How I learned there might be something to this story telling business afterall

On July 9, 2011 I met Ben Lillie for the first time at a coffee shop in the West Village. I got lost, because the West Village is confusing. But I wasn’t just confused about how West 12th street could possibly intersect with West 4th street. I was also confused about what Story Collider actually was.

In fact, at the time I really had no idea what this whole “storytelling” business was in general. I was in journalism school, doing important journalism things involving FOIAs and stalking people on the Internet. I couldn’t really fathom why people would get on stage to tell an embarrassing, personal story to a room full of strangers. But I was curious, and being curious is how I often get myself into weird situations, like producing a podcast of live stories about science.

The first few stories I worked on for the podcast were fun. I can’t remember what they were about. They were great dinner-party stories, the kind that make everybody laugh and think “that woman is awesome!”  But my journalism-addled brain still didn’t really get it.

Then I produced this podcast.

I think about this story all the time. Probably once a week. I’m sort of obsessed with it. This was the first time I really got what storytelling was supposed to be about. It is funny. It is really funny. And it is intense. Really intense. And in the middle of everything you are totally there, right there with him. I felt all the feels.

Everybody has their own opinions about what kinds of stories are the best. For me, it’s the ones that put me in a totally unfamiliar place, in a situation I’ve never been in and will never be in. A place that I never imagined going, until I was taken there by somebody else. I think that’s why Rosenthal’s story was the first one that really struck me – we are so different, and yet in that moment (a phrase I learned from storytelling shows) I was so there.

Greg Walloch’s story was the same way. Walloch walks with crutches, and his story chronicles one night of absurdity and terror when he gets stuck somewhere, unable to hop a fence.

As a person without a disability, I don’t walk around thinking about being able to physically navigate the world. Walloch does. After hearing his story, I started seeing grates and uneven stairs and fences that I would have never noticed. This is a really obvious example of someone putting you in their very different shoes, but I was new to this and needed obvious examples.

Now, Story Collider has had a million downloads. A million! Probably from people who totally get it, but also probably from people like me who didn’t at first. Slowly but surely, I’m getting it. When I heard Tara Clancy, a bartender from Queens talk about falling in love with theoretical physics, or Christine Gentry telling her story of her Southern father, I got it a little better. They were people so different from me, but whom I could learn something about myself from.

I’m still the annoying one who complains about stories for being “too story like.” I still sometimes don’t get it. But I’m getting there. With help, of course.

Let’s Talk About Money

baby money window


Money. We want it. We need it. But when it comes up in conversation, everybody bows their heads and gets quiet. How much do people make? How do you ask for more? How do you find out who pays what? How little is too little? When do you work for free? Can you even make it as a freelance science journalist?

This is the topic of our upcoming NASW panel, appropriately titled “Show Me the Money” and if you’re anything like me, you desperately want the answers to these questions. But it’s hard to have a good conversation about money because it’s awkward and nobody likes to get into their financial nitty-gritty. So we’re doing a survey! It’s anonymous, relatively quick and completely painless.

We’ll take your answers and analyze them to figure out just how much people are making and how they’re making it. At our panel, we’ll reveal the results, but afterwards we’ll post everything online for the world to see. So, what do you say, are you game?

You made it to the end! As a reward, here’s Scrooge McDuck diving into a pile of money.

Donald Duck money pile

Actors in Dune wore costumes made of used body bags


OMG Fact: In the movie Dune, the suits worn by the Guild members were body bags that were found in a disused fire station dating back to the early 1920′s. The bags had actually been used several times, something that was kept from the cast members until after shooting was completed.

Sports Bras Were Once Jock Straps

OMG Fact: Sports bras were invented when women sewed two jock straps together and slung them over their shoulders. 

Bacon Therapy is so so so so Gross

OMG FACT: You think you want bacon therapy. You do not. It involves doctors shoving pieces of raw meat into the breathing hole of worms living under your skin, which both entices the worm towards the bacon and blocks its air supply.

Calvin and Hobbes on Scicomm

So I’ve been on a huge Calvin and Hobbes kick recently, and I just came across this amazing exchange.




I’m still collecting my thoughts from the World Conference of Science Journalists. I have a lot of them. Here’s one of (perhaps) several posts that relate to those thoughts.

When we launched the Uncertainty issue for Nautilus Magazine, I added a column to my TweetDeck that searched for any Tweets with the word “uncertainty” in them. I thought I might find some interesting links or discussions about uncertainty in our lives that I could use or retweet. And while I didn’t really find anything usable for Nautilus, I did find that I was totally mesmerized by that column. I checked it all the time. It was so incredibly different from my usual Twitter feed – full of people completely different from me who were worrying about relationships and death, God and their parents, taxes, bills, whether they were going to have to go to court again, whether they were pregnant and whether their boyfriends who got them pregnant still liked them.

In journalism we talk a lot about our “audience.” And for most of us, we have no clue who those people actually are. I picture some of my friends from high school – people who are curious and smart but skipped class when they could get away with it. Other journalists I know picture their uncle or their mom. But all these people leave us with the same problems: they’re people we know, they’re people more or less like us. This is a huge problem (I think) with science communication in general. We’re really good at talking to people like us, and we’re really bad at talking to anybody else. (I’ll have more thoughts on that point later, but for now I’ll leave it at that).

Since stumbling upon the uncertainty search in Twitter, I wondered what it would be like to apply it to science. So, here’s a little site. It shows you who you need to win over, and who is already on your side. (Yes, I know that not everyone in the world is on Twitter and that using this ignores large underrepresented portions of the population. We should talk to them too. It isn’t meant to be a cure, just a little window into a slightly different world than your own.)

Let me know what you think. Does this help? Are you learning anything? If so, share!

In case you missed the link up there, here it is again.


Ireland used to have brown bears

OMG Fact: Ireland once had brown bears. They probably didn’t survive the last ice age.

Silver bullets do actually kill things

OMG Fact: Silver does actually kill stuff, just not Werewolves.