Welcome to the notebook

Before I wanted to be a scientist, I wanted to be a writer.  I spent untold hours in the library, and started my first novel when I was twelve.  (I still have it, on a floppy disk buried in a desk drawer.  It’s unspeakably terrible, if you were wondering.)  But by the time I entered high school, something had filtered out of the societal ether and implanted itself in my mind: writing was fun, fascinating, creative, inspiring – but not terribly practical.  I veered onto another path, one paved with dissections and tide pools and miraculous explanations of how flowers worked.

This new path drew me through college and propelled me into graduate school, where I am now happily immersed (sometimes literally) in the natural world.  The journey also brought me a welcome revelation: Writing and science need not be separate enterprises.  Science is in desperate need of good communicators – people excited to explain scientific ideas not just to other scientists, but to a wider audience.  I’ve explored this interface by writing numerous popular science articles for various publications over the past few years, but I’ve never once embarked on that digital hallmark of my generation: the blog.

Blogs have always seemed slightly self-centered to me.  They allow anyone and everyone to have a voice and an opinion, and I appreciate that.  But it takes a certain amount of cockiness to think that your ideas are worth someone else’s time.  That said, it is useful to have a repository of ideas, facts, thoughts, articles and images.  A practice ground of sorts, on which to test and store ideas and methods, both scientific and writerly.

In previous generations, such a repository would probably have been called a notebook.  So, with that in mind, I welcome you to flip through mine.