Author Archives: Rose Eveleth

Sci4Hels Question Time #1 Recap – Beats and Corn Gods

The corn god Tlaloc. This will only make sense to you if you read the post. Image: Baggis

So on Monday we kicked off the #sci4hels Question Time! Which I explained here but is not hard to understand. Basically, once in a while, I’ll ask a question on Twitter and hope that people jump in and respond and have an interesting discussion. That did happen on Monday, although not quite  the way I expected. Let’s review.

The question:

Oh man question time! #sci4hels wants to know: Is science a specific enough beat, or do you have to specialize more?

— Rose Eveleth (@roseveleth) March 11, 2013

On Twitter (and elsewhere), there’s been a lot of conversation about beats. Quartz has switched to “obsessions” but no one really knows what that means.

There were some interesting, and conflicting answers to be had.

People consume all sorts of science writing, which requires all sorts of types of science writers.#sci4hels

— Shaun Hotchkiss (@just_shaun) March 11, 2013

Surely there is a market for both. i.e. science writers who are very general and active researchers who focus on their field. #sci4hels — Shaun Hotchkiss (@just_shaun) March 11, 2013

#sci4hels Power is with science writers who are able to link science to specific causes (eg mix science with advocacy to elicit change) 1/2 — Khalil A. Cassimally (@notscientific) March 11, 2013

#sci4hels To do so, need to understand more than just the science. Hence more specific perhaps not as useful. 2/2 — Khalil A. Cassimally (@notscientific) March 11, 2013

People like Lou Woodley, Laura Wheeler and David Manly pointed out that beats can help writers develop expertise and contacts. Having a beat helps someone know who to ask when they’re working on a story, or understand the latest finding in the context of the broader field. Then I went and said something controversial, as I am often prone to doing: that the internet makes finding sources and background information easy enough that beats aren’t required anymore. To find the right source for something, as a science reporter, you just find the paper, and email the authors. Google Scholar and email have made finding sources a breeze, and the internet has archived all the background you could possibly want on every topic. Not everyone agreed:

@roseveleth @boraz @davidmanly @just_shaun internet can also make it harder – there is so much to sift through! Need to know *where* to look — Laura Wheeler (@laurawheelers) March 11, 2013

@roseveleth @laurawheelers @boraz @just_shaun If you know what to look for — David Manly (@davidmanly) March 11, 2013

Ed Yong came up with an apt analogy:

@roseveleth As in wild, specialists exploit niches well but vulnerable to extinct’n. Generalists more resilient, but some are rats #sci4hels — Ed Yong(@edyong209) March 11, 2013

And then, well, I’m not really sure what happened. But the conversation started to get away from me. At which point I was like:   And then finally gave up. Elsewhere on Twitter, Erin Podolak was actually having a constructive discussion of the question at hand.

Re: beats/specialties I write about cancer, but in such a broad context with so many connections that I don’t find it limiting #sci4hels — Erin Podolak (@ErinPodolak) March 11, 2013

Okay, so what did we learn here. First, that having a guided conversation on Twitter is HARD. It felt kind of like playing this cat piano.

Okay really I just want to use this cat piano GIF, because LOOK AT IT. Second, I should have used a hashtag so I could just Storify this rather than combing through a bunch of Tweets. Next time we’ll be Tweeting with the #helsinkiquestions hashtag. Third, beats are useful if you want to have one. Obviously, lots of people are quite successful at their beats because they’re the experts. Look at Emily Willingham on autism, Maryn McKenna on MRSA and Maia Szalavitz on addiction. Other science journalists have more broad beats. Ed Yong and Carl Zimmer have a loosely defined biology beat on lockdown. Colin Schultz covers all things Canada. Some of us are searching for a beat, and others of us are willfully ignoring the question. Basically, Ed Yong sums it up pretty well here:

@roseveleth @boraz @davidmanly @laurawheelers @just_shaun “The right level of specialisation is the exact level I have” <- All the answers

— Ed Yong(@edyong209) March 11, 2013

So what should we cover next time? Coding? Freelancing vs. full time jobs? The impending threat of computer reporters? Ask us a question!


Science Studio Kickstarter – The Recap

It’s been about a month since our Kickstarter campaign ended, and what a month it’s been. But now, Bora, Ben and I finally have some time to take a look back and see just how it all went down. So here are some statistics provided by Kickstarter, and some more information about what the heck we’re doing with all this money.

First, the statistics! 

We set out asking for $5,000 to help us cover things like prizes for the judges, and our own time. All told, 234 people backed our project and wound up handing over a grand total of $8,160, over $3,000 more than our goal. Which is, in a word, awesome, and also means that we can include video this year rather than just audio. Combined with the grant we got from NASW, we’re pretty confident that we can put something together that’s really great.

Here’s what the Kickstarter campaign looked like over time:

Okay, so, where did all you generous donors come from? Well, most of you came from Twitter. Here’s a breakdown of the top few referring sites:

So, thanks Twitter! You’re the best!

When we were talking about doing a Kickstarter, someone mentioned that we really had to make a video. Now, I’m glad we did, because 2,000 people watched it, and about 40% of you watched it all the way to the end.

Nothing was incredibly surprising here, in terms of trends. Twitter was a powerhouse, but it was also the place we promoted the most. You all love hearing our dulcet tones in the video, no surprise there. What we’d really like to say, most of all, is thank you. And you. And you. And my mom. And you too. We promise we’ll spend your money wisely and make something awesome.

Oh and if you missed out on the Kickstarter somehow, it’s not too late to give us your money! Here’s a handy dandy donate button.


Okay, what’s next?

The three of us are busy doing a couple of things. First, we’re building the website for Science Studio – the place where all this awesome audio and video will live. Second, we’re corralling all the swag to send to you. Third, we’re trying to spread the word about our nomination form – do you know any audio or video that’s really awesome? Nominate it!

Okay, I think that about sums it up? Questions? Comments? Concerns? Email us, or Tweet us at @science_studio.

Happy interneting everybody!

Rose, Bora and Ben

On the origin of “meep”

Twitter has recently pointed out that I say “meep” a lot.


I don’t really remember where I got it from, and I don’t really remember when I started saying it, but for those unfamiliar with its usage it generally conveys a sense of fear or embarrassment.

So, I googled it. Turns out, kids in Massachusetts were threatened with suspension for saying it too much. ABC News:

But the nonsense word — which apparently started with the 1980s Muppet character Beaker — is causing a lot of teeth-gnashing for adults at one Massachusetts high school. They have gone so far as to threaten suspension for students caught meeping.

So in that article, they attribute the meep to Beaker. Here’s the musical version:

But another famous children’s character said meep: the Roadrunner. (Well, I think the Road Runner technically says beep beep, but let’s go with it)

And, another set of characters uses the word: The Smurfs. According to Wikipedia, “The Smurfs frequently replace both nouns and verbs in everyday speech with the word Smurf.”

Urban dictionary says:

The most versatile word in the English language, or in fact any language!

Can mean whatever you want it to mean, but the most popular uses are:
1. An exclamation akin to ‘ouch’ or ‘uh oh..’
2. Filling in the blanks where other (rude) words would go.
3. A greeting! I personally say meep instead of Hello…
4. A random expression of happiness used to fill gaps in conversation.

At Wired, they fought back against the Massachusset school’s anti-meep policies:

While we at GeekDad would certainly never advocate disrupting a school, we nonetheless think the principal’s warning sounds awfully like a challenge. We would like to suggest a few possible substitutes, as “meep” tenderizers if you will: “Ni!” is a fine and wonderful classic, and considerably easier to remember than “Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptang Zoo Boing Zow Zing”; “Spoooon!” might work nicely, or perhaps “Zoinks!“; or, if you want to stick with Muppet-related cries, you can’t go wrong with “Bork bork bork!”

And for me, I’ll probably keep using it, even if it puts me in the same league as a couple of middle schoolers and a muppet. Because that’s basically where I’ve been my whole life. Meep.

Since you’ve been gone … okay actually I’ve been gone.

Self imposed time-out for not blogging.

Oh, hey, this is awkward, um, so yeah, blogging.

The good news: I have been blogging! And working! Just elsewhere.
The bad news: I’m going to try to start blogging for real. I even put a reminder in my Google Calendar. Watch out world!

In case you can’t wait, here’s a radio show I did with Colm recently.

The Mystery of the Missing Skull by ColmKelleher

The case of the mysterious sound in the woods

As many of you (and, perhaps your heads and stomachs) know, yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day. A good friend of mine, Colm Kelleher, is Irish. You might think that would make him the perfect person to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with – and you’d be right, except we celebrated by escaping the celebration and taking the train up to Breakneck Ridge for a hike.

The weather was perfect and the trails were relatively empty. But as we walked along we started hearing this weird sound. Colm guessed it was someone rolling something along the rocks. I guessed it was a generator of some sort. When we got close to it, it was this:

Frogs. Lots and lots of frogs. Making lots and lots of noise. The whole little pond was trembling with male frogs looking for ladies, their singing sending ripples all across the water. Here’s one of them ribbiting:

If anyone knows what kind of frog these are, let me know!

Do I make your heart beat like an 808 drum?

The other day, I was running on the treadmill, and Ke$ha asked me: “do I make your heart beat like an 808 drum?”

And I didn’t know how to answer! Because I had no idea what an 808 drum even was. Turns out, it shows up in a lot of pop songs.

It’s in the Far East Movement’s song “Like a G6,” when they they say: “808 bump, make you put your hands up.” Beyonce mentions it in the song Deja Vu, saying “Bass… hi-hat… 808.” And T.I. brags about his “24 blades glistening, an my 808 kikin’.”

In fact, Wikipedia has an entire section devoted to lyrics that mention the drum. So far, there are 34 entries.

So… what is it? Read More →

Happy Wren Day!


Colm Kelleher wished me Happy St. Stephen’s Day today – a holiday I was unaware of until now. Turns out it’s a traditional holiday that was celebrated on the 26th of December in some countries, including Ireland where they call it Lá Fhéile Stiofán or Lá an Dreoilín, or Day of the Wren. Read More →

Does the aurora borealis make a sound?


This week, on WNYU’s science and technology show The Doppler Effect, we had a really interesting sound.

02Track02-AlbertaNoseWhistlerjune96-mono by RoseEveleth

That is the sound of the radio frequencies of the aurora borealis. Read More →

New Life

Now that I’ve updated all the Sounds Like Science posts from the past few months over here, I can tell you what we’re up to. Big things! Like, say, actually blogging regularly! I know, crazy right?

So you can start to expect more posts on here from my sound collection, including a weekly mystery sound. If you’ve got sound ideas, send them my way in the comments section here, or through Twitter.

See you all soon!

Why do we hate the sound of nails on a chalkboard?


If you don’t want to actually listen to the sound, think about nails on a chalkboard for a minute. Did you get the shivers? But why? Why do we hate that sound that much? Read More →