The Reluctant Geek

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The Class Page of the Science Communication Seminar

Fall 2007

Meets: Thursdays, 2-3 pm in 3rd floor PharmBio Fishbowl

Who's Involved:
Dr. Margaret Rubega
Dr. Kent Holsinger - Blog:
Amy Weiss - Blog:
Em Komiskey
Suegene Noh
Jessica Budke - Blog:
Steven Hovorka

Why Are We Doing This?

To communicate with each other about electronic science communication; to get into the habit of posting frequently; because Margaret says we have to.

Why Do We Have To Practice Science Communication?

"The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animals. Some of their most esteemed inventions have no other apparent purpose, for example, the dinner party of more than two, the epic poem, and the science of metaphysics." -- H.L. Mencken.

Thank heavens he cited metaphysics and not evolution or ecology.

"One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid." -- James D. Watson

...and speaking of stupid.... here's evidence from Dr. Watson himself that sometimes the best thing a communicator of science can do is shut the hell up.

Anybody Got a Blogging Idea?

  • 6 November 2007 (JB) -- I checked into using these icons in one of my upcoming posts about moss conservation. I am planning to discuss a journal article. I read over their rules for using the icons and they appear to be sound and fair. The goal is to distinguish people discussing serious peer-reviewed research from those that are not. However everyone has access to the icon and there is no easy way to police who uses it. They do have a technorati search so that you can find posts that have this icon. It could be a way to attract an audience that is searching for commentary on original research articles. I might give it a try and see what happens.
  • 30 October 2007 (Amy) -- I first came across this mentioned on Pharyngula, the implementation of icons to mark summaries of peer reviewed research. I think the aggregating feature will be useful, but could see this abused too. What do you guys think?
  • 26 October 2007 (JB) -- Thanks for the info Amy. I added the hack to my blog and have made a long post to test it out. I am having an issue that the new posting window does not like to accept text that has been written in a word processor then cut and pasted into the post box. Otherwise it appears to be working well. Thanks again.
  • 25 October 2007 (Amy) -- I tried at least one blogger hack to get a "read more" function to my blog, but it wasn't on a per entry basis. So I took Kent's advice and just asked Matt over at Ontogeny how he did expandable posts on his site. He replied w/in one hour, and gave me a link to a great site, and the hack works perfectly! For those interested, the details are here:

  • 19 October 2007 (JB) -- I also signed up for Technorati and put the 'add my blog to your favorites' button on my website. Yeah a Technorati score of one.
  • 19 October 2007 (KH) -- I finally remembered how to get the information that Technorati has on Moss Plants and more. Here's the link Technorati
  • 12 October 2007 (Amy) -- Did you guys know that Google has a blog search? Well I didn't, but my sitemeter tells me so. I guess someone (in NJ) found my blog by searching "Alton Brown". Awesome, a hit that wasn't just me checking in!
  • 11 October 2007 (MR) -- Moss Blog is looking great! Jessica has a post up about Polytrichum that has FIVE comments on it! And only one of them is from me! As for the rest of you, it's Thursday, and I was serious about that assignment --- come to seminar with either a good start on a blog (at least a serious idea) or a post for the front page of EEBedia!
  • 08 October 2007 (KH) -- Henry Farrell is one of the authors at the group blog on political science Crooked Timber. The Chronicle of Higher Education blog, Footnoted, has an interview with him about academic blogging.
  • 06 October 2007 (KH) -- Nice job. You also have your first link from Uncommon Ground.
  • 05 October 2007 (JB) -- I have overcome the bloggerblock and have made a post to the mossblog Thanks for the assistance, encouragement, ideas, and assignment. If you have any feedback about the post let me know. Comments and critiques are welcome. My plan is to take some crispy moss photos this weekend and write a post about mosses and drought since that is what the weather is currently supplying.
  • 02 October 2007 (SN) -- I just added a link to the blog I'm going to review on Thursday. + Jessica, maybe you should come up with the simplest (=easy to remember) url and secure a page first, and then maybe change your title later if you don't like it as is. Out of curiosity, I looked up to see if it was taken and it was, apparently by someone who has intentions to blog about fairies.
  • 01 October 2007 (KH) -- Are you going to restrict yourself to mosses? If so, then Mossophilia might work. If you're going to cover mosses, liverworts, and hornworts, you could try BryoPhilia. Or pick a very photogenic genus, use it to make a banner graphic, and name your blog after it.
  • 01 October 2007 (EK) -- MossNotes? MossThoughts? MysteriousMoss? MesmerizingMoss? MossandMore? TinyPlants? TheBestDamnPlantsintheEntirePlantKingdom?
  • 29 September 2007 (JB) -- I was checking out Blogger this morning and started searching to see what blog names are available MossBlog is already taken. Nothing is on the blog, however I think that it might have been reserved by Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server "MOSS". There are loads of blogs out there about this product and they seem to think that they have cornered the moss market. That leads to my next question. What to call the blog? I think that wordpress does not have a blog entitled mossBlog so we could stick with that name on that hosting site. I was thinking that perhaps I either need something (A) catchier or (B) that sets my blog apart as being about plants. Otherwise the blog name could just get lost in all of the microsoft blogs. Initial Brainstorming Ideas: mossPlants; miniatureMosses; greenMosses; emeraldMoss; verdigrisMoss; mossPlantBio; mossBiology... and the list could go on. Any other suggestions, comments, or votes for a favorite name? Thanks for the input.
  • 28 September 2007 (KH) -- This is a very opportune moment to begin blogging. There's a $10,000 scholarship available to students who blog. The deadline for submission is midnight PST on October 6th. As for hosting sites, I'd suggest taking a look at Blogger (owned by Google) and Wordpress. Both are free and take care of all the behind the scenes maintenance I do on darwin. The Typepad site uses the same blogging software as I do, but it costs about $5/month for an account. If you were to use Typepad, I could provide more advice about the mechanics than I could with Blogger or Typepad.
  • 27 September 2007 (Amy) -- I have the same exact question about hosting Jessica - I think this should definately be a topic of discussion at our next meeting.
  • 27 September 2007 (JB) -- My plan is to begin work on the MossBlog this upcoming week. I will be pulling together topics for posts from our brainstorming session and other random ideas I have accumulated. Also I want to start work on the physical blog. However I am undecided and unsure where to host it. Does anyone have any recommendations for a particular site? Or Advantages/Disadvantages associated with particular hosting sites? Any comments on the topic would be super helpful. Thanks.
  • 24 September 2007 (EK) -- Speaking of science communication, why not add to what Steven was talking about and have a blog about communicating and teaching science. Most of us have at least had a gig as a T.A. and thus have had exposure to people with differing levels of interest in science. A blog could be me around teaching and communication science in and out of the classroom. It could include funny stories we have had while communicating science, ideas about how to convey a particular topic, successes in communication, the list goes on and on ... but is still tied in to one topic!
  • 20 Sept 2007 (Amy) -- I sort of like the concept of blogging about science (escpecially biology) in popular culture references (movies, songs, TV, products for sale), which I could then lend some scientific expertise and comments to (sort of like we've started to do below). I already have an entry in mind about a Friend's episode I just saw where Ross tries to convince Phoebe that evolution is fact. I'm also thinking a Friday science youtube video of the week (like this spectacular 70s video about protein synthesis). Oh, and I'd have to link to Giant Microbes which were stocking stuffers for all my friends and family 2 years ago. And of course, songs about science. Hmm, ok, I should start taking notes, I really think that would be fun. I think I might make this a joint blog with me and my boyfriend, as he's always sending me links about awesome science things. Any ideas for clever names? My working title thus far is Cells in Culture.

  • 20 Sept 2007 (MR) --MossBlog is moments away! We've just met and brainstormed about ways to make MossBlog a daily-postin', reader-pleasin' online sensation! Blogs about the cuteness of kittens will have nuthin' on Jessica's MossBlog. Look out Blogosphere. Also, we were thrilled to find a reference to ourselves (well, to "Ed" Komiskey) on Invasive Species Weblog's Twitter. Right there while we were in class, talking about how to get noticed online!

  • 18 Sept 2007 - (JB) One of my goals from taking this seminar is to start up a MossBlog. I am not sure how much I want to talk about my research in particular. I am more interested in blogging about cool mosses that I see out and about on a weekly basis and interesting moss biology topics.

~I think that's a great idea for a blog Jessica - especially if you post pictures. (amy)

~ (JB) I definitely want pictures to be a major component. I just bought a digital camera with a really good macro lens function, so hopefully I can get some crisp close up shots.

  • The recent (imminent?) demise of The Weekly World News foiled my secret plan for a blog that consisted entirely of explanations for why stories therein were completely impossible on the basis of what we know about anatomy.

It is my observation that the most successful blogs seem to range very widely in a very flat universe --- they are tightly themed, but the blogger looks at the subject from many angles. So we should be striving for blog themes that will appeal to a well-defined audience.

MiniBlog on the Blogosphere and Internet

  • 5 December 2007 (JB) -- I am giving a lab exam in Developmental Plant Morphology this Thursday. I will be running around prepping plants for the exam that afternoon and may not make it to class. Just wanted to let you all know. Thanks.
  • 29 November 2007 (EK) -- For some reason, only "the kids" attended class today. Did someone forget to give us a memo about why Kent AND Margaret were MIA? I mentioned this to Kathryn after class, and she said, "Well, let's see where Kent is," and proceeded to look up his whereabouts online. Apparently, if you have the "secret password" you can find out where Kent should be at any given time. Strange. Anyway, I learned that Kent was at a Dean selection committee in CLAS during class time. Perhaps Margaret was there too? We proceeded as scheduled and discussed the blogs of Steven and Suegene. Steven's modified idea of a "conservation conglomeration" looks like it will work nicely and Suegene's blog will be an excellent resource for both students and teachers of science writing at the univeristy.
  • 4 October 2007 (Amy) -- Sorry Suegene and everyone, traffic and bad navigation left me unable to make it back in time for class today. What did I miss?
  • 21 September 2007 (MR) There are global warming blogs out there; most notable is RealClimate. You could refer your friends to that one Steven. Or you could certainly start one more attractive to the average college student; less dignified, more what-are-the-climate-implications-of-getting-my-wings-delivered? In other news, check out The Scientist on favorite life-science blogs.Provided (indirectly) by Kent.
  • 21 September 2007 (Amy) -- Sounds like a blog idea right there Steven. Not sure how many global warming blogs exist out in the blogosphere, but I could see you writing a blog on current issues in science aimed at the average college student. Maybe a greenhouse gas of the week. Definitely lots of multimedia things to keep them interested.
  • 20 September 2007 (Steven) -- I've been wondering what people know about current issues in science, and did a quick and dirty survey among my friends to find out. I asked them about global warming, specifically to name a greenhouse gas. I got answers ranging from carbon dioxide, to CFCs and nitrogen. A few didn't know any. From their answers, it seems most don't know much about global warming at all. What everyone could tell me was global warming is bad and will heat up the world. These are people in college, people who are aware of the world around them and make an effort to stay updated with the current news. It's weird to think information I thought was common knowledge really isn't. All of them get most in not all of their information from the internet.
  • 20 September 2007 (Amy) -- I assume some of you have heard about this story, that the women on The View were discussing evolution, and Whoopi asks the new co-host if she thinks the world is flat or round - she did not know! There's a clip here to watch. The end of the clip is the funniest part, if her son ever asks her if the earth is round or flat, her response would be "baby, we got to go to the library". Its so hilarious in a sad way, I don't think of people being so ignorant about science.
  • 19 September 2007 (Amy) -- Okay, mentioning Sitemeter made me think to look at mine. I had never clicked the individual hit details before, but geez, I had no idea they tracked that much information. For example, I had a blog entry where I mentioned digging up tons of Jerusalem artichokes out of my garden. Some one found my blog by searching "jerusalem artichokes" on I also know that this person lives in Deming, NM (they also give me lat, long coordinates), uses Windows XP and Internet Explorer 7.0, and has a monitor with a resolution of 1024x786. I wonder now what people think when I stumble across their blogs via random web searches.
    If you want to see sitemeter details, you can click on Kent's sitemeter on his blog. Clicking on "by referrals" will show you how people are finding his blog via searches. Fascinating.
  • 19 September 2007 (Amy) -- No, my Xanga blog isn't a secret, just a personal one with low readership (ok guys, don't go out and hunt for it, it's basically defunct, and I'm not posting secrets about you).
    As for the sitemeter, unless they allow anyone to look at their stats (which is an option, but I think most people don't enable this) - then the data collected by the site meter can only be accessed by the blog or website "owner".
  • 19 September 2007 (EK) -- I don't know anything about that, Amy, but I did try and find your blog through Google. No luck (but I did find the Xanga one); is it a secret? Also, I'm presenting a blog tomorrow. There is a logo for site meter, but I can't find the actual statistics for that site. Thoughts?
  • 18 September 2007 (Amy) -- About blogs and Google searches...are all blogs on various hosting services able to be returned when someone google searches? When I had a blog on Xanga and a sitemeter, I think a got just a few hits from search engines (another great thing you can see with a site meter, the previous web address). Are some blog hosting services better at getting your blog returned toward the top of the page? If Google bases the order on greatest number of links, for blogs is this the number of links to all blogs on the same hosting site or just links to your personalized blog address ( So in other words, does it matter which hosting site you pick if you want to come up towards the top of a web search??
  • 18 September 2007 (EK) -- Yes, I actually knew that Volin was doing a seminar here. I teach on Thursdays at that time, but I'm hoping one of my fellow T.A.s will trade a section with me that week so I can go to his talk.
  • 9/18/07 (MR) -- Cottleston Pie is a Biology Song!! I have just realized this morning that the great Song of Confusion from the Pooh Bear books is a ballad of biological investigation:

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie,

A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly.

Ask me a riddle and I reply

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie.

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie,

Why does a chicken? I don't know why.

Ask me a riddle and I reply

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie.

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie,

A fish can't whistle and neither can I.

Ask me a riddle and I reply

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie. (-- A. A. Milne)

  • 9/17/07 (MR) -- That NRME Guy is already coming here Em, you will find if you look at the dept'l. seminar list, that Jon Volin is the Thurs afternoon EEB seminar speaker on Oct. 11. So be sure to sign up to meet with him on the 11th. I met him last week; I got the impression he is likely to charge things up in NRME quite a bit.
  • 14 September 2007 (Amy) - Em, you said you uploaded it to EEBedia, so that's the first step. The next step is to copy and paste the page name of your file, then insert it onto EEBedia using the code...

You of course can add right, left, or none of that to change the position, and the px is just to change the size.

  • 14 September 2007 (Em) -- Okay, seriously, how do you put a picture on a page? I uploaded a picture. It looks like it was here, but when I try and put it one my page, no dice. Boo.
  • 14 September 2007 (Em) -- I learned today that the new head of NRME is a guy by the name of John C. Volin. Apparently, he joins us from Florida Atlantic University where he was the director of the Environmental Science Department. He studies plant physiology and invasive ecology. Even cooler, when I looked at his publication, I realized he has collaborated on a couple papers I have already read. I think I will have to speak with him.
  • 13 Sept 2007 (Margaret) -- Well, I must spurn Amy's science song link as shamefully incomplete, as it lacks any reference to the Amphioxus song (or It's A Long Way to Amphioxus). Here's a link to a / performance of the song by folksinger Sam Hinton, and another to a page with a (purported) history of the song, and complete lyrics. You all ought to know that I regularly sing this song, with all the gusto of which I am capable, to my Biology of the Vertebrates classes. That they are always stunned goes without saying.
  • 13 Sept 2007 (Amy) -- As mentioned in class, here's the link to the webpage full of science songs. I highly recommend "Eohippus" (I think the passing of all evolutionary time should just be sung as lalalalalalala) and for fans of They Might Be Giants, "Why Does The Sun Shine". And here's my EEBedia page, Songs about Plants, which is a listing of non-educational songs that mention plants.

Class Schedule

To upload a pdf use this form (username/password required)

NOTE: The LCD projector is reserved for our meeting time; but if you are presenting and need it,you are responsible for retrieving it and bringing it to class.

Date Speaker Topic Check Before Class
Aug 28 Organizational meeting
Sept 6 No Meeting
Sept 13 Margaret Rubega Introduction to the basics of blogging as a form of science communication  :Pdficon small.gif
environmental blogs.pdf
Sept 20 Em Komiskey
Oct 4 Suegene Blog Review Discovering Biology in a Digital World
Oct 11 Amy Blog Review The group blog, Cosmic Variance
Oct 18 Steven's Blog Review Pondering Pikaia
Oct 25 Jessica Budke Primary Secondary and Comparing blogs about ants.
Nov 1 Margaret Rubega Review of the Big Kahuna of Science Blogs, Pharyngula
Nov 8 Kent Holsinger Tools that make blogging a little easier Google Reader Google Notebook The blogging software I use MovableType It's the software behind Typepad
Nov 15 Margaret and Em Ideas for a potential blog
Nov 29 Steven and Suegene Ideas for a potential blog
Dec 6