It snows metal on Venus

Maat_Mons_on_Venus

OMG Fact: on the planet Venus, it snow metal.

Welcome to OMG FACTS

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I’ve just renamed by blog. You probably didn’t notice because, well, why would you.

The idea of this blog when it started was to be about sounds. I love sounds. I think they’re so weird and cool. But I also realized that I just don’t have enough time to write about sounds all the time. And I also realized that they’re not the only really weird and cool thing I like.

So, inspired by this Tweet:

 

I redub this blog OMG FACTS. Here is where I’ll put things that I think are cool and weird and interesting, but that no one else seems to care about.  Welcome.

Are You Ready for Helsinki?

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Turns out, Helsinki doesn’t look like this anymore. Image: Helsinki University Library.

Hi there, remember us? It’s been a few weeks, as we all got caught up in work and travels, but we’re still here! The World Conference of Science Journalists is right around the corner so let’s look back for a second at what we’ve done so far, and then forward to what our panelists are looking forward to most. Read More →

Me Me Meep, The Past Few Weeks of Rose

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I’ve been told that I’m bad at telling people what I’m up to, so allow me to indulge in a little bit of self promotion for un momentito.

The past few weeks have been crazy. In a good way, of course. So here’s a recap.

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#sci4hels Question Time #4 – How Should Science Journalists Deal with Breaking News?

Image: Bernard Bujold

Image: Bernard Bujold

Last week was sort of a nightmare for everyone. Between the Boston marathon bombings and ensuing man-hunt, the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas, the earthquakes in China and Iran, the bombs in Baghdad, and whatever else I’m missing. Oh, did I mention the elvis impersonator who mailed ricin to the president? Yeah, that happened too, and nobody paid attention because we were all too busy wondering what had happened to the world. It was that kind of week.

Really, though, all the attention here in the United States was on Boston. The coverage was messy, and I don’t want to go into that. There are lots of smart people already thinking about how journalists went wrong (and right) when covering the actual events as they happened. What I want to talk about is how science journalists deal with this sort of a news event – one that is not a science story unless we make it one.

What are our obligations as science journalists when Boston happens? When Aurora happens? When Newtown happens? Do we have to cover it? And if we do, how do we do it right? We’re all going to have different opinions on this, so here are some thoughts from the #sci4hels panelists (and Bora, who we’ll call the founder of the panel). Here’s what we think.

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#sci4hels Question Time #3 – Ladybiz Edition

So, you might have noticed a few things about the #sci4hels crew. We’re early career, we like gifs, we cover a broad array of subject areas and media, and we’re all ladies.

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Erin Podolak puts it this way:

Bora chose us by sifting through the work of dozens of new science journalists, by narrowing down his list slowly to make sure that he chose three panelists and a moderator whose experience and interests would make the best lineup. He ended up with four women. As four women who now have an international platform to discuss our profession, should we address our gender or not? Is it the proverbial gorilla in the room? Do we have some kind of duty to use our powers for good to try to tackle feminism and journalism just because we can? Are we putting some kind of target on our backs for criticism by calling attention to our gender?

Among the #sci4hels team, we talked a bit about whether or not we should touch the gender issue. Together, we decided to go there. We all have different reasons, I think, but regardless of why, we asked the question. And I think we got a ton of useful answers from all sorts of different people. So, without further ado, here’s my summary of the conversation. Read More →

Podcast Pride Party – My Favorite Podcasts to Work On

Today, the podcast that Douglas Main and I made about a particularly successful tumbleweed saleswoman was posted to Boing Boing. That podcast was definitely one of the most fun to work on, and it got me looking back at some old podcasts I’ve made. So, in the spirit of blatant self promotion, here are my very favorites of my own podcasts in recent memory.

Tumbleweeds – this one has a quirky twist ending, which is what made it so fun to work on.

The Bottle Story – this is a much more recent podcast that I actually never showed to anyone, but I really like.

Girl Talk – sometimes girls, like, talk, sort of funny? But chances are that as you chastise them, you’re picking it up too. This one went along with this story in the New York Times. (LISTEN HERE)

Phantom Vibrations – you know that feeling when you think your phone is ringing, you’re SURE your phone is ringing, but it’s not? Here’s why that happens.

That’s Disgusting – but why? What makes something disgusting?

 

Do you have some podcasts you really like? Nominate them for Science Studio! We’re collecting the v

#sci4hels Question Time #2 – How do you Get Noticed?

hobbits clapping

Welcome back to Question Time! Last week we had our second Twitter discussion, and let me tell you people it either went way better or way worse depending on how much you like corn gods. Here’s the Storify:

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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