Yvonne Carts-Powell

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Mariette DiChristina: “Science Is an Engine of Human Prosperity”

In beautiful, Science, writing on August 26, 2014 at 7:01 am

“Science is not a set of facts or received wisdom that’s been handed down.It’s a system for innovation and advancement—and humankind’s best invention yet for pursuing the truth and an understanding of how the world works.”

Read more of Scientific American editor Mariette DiChristina’s eloquent defense of science, and basic science funding, presented to the US Congress earlier this summer: Mariette DiChristina: "Science Is an Engine of Human Prosperity" – Scientific American.


12 delightful resources for word nerds everywhere

In hilarious, writing on August 5, 2014 at 7:52 am

Words are the tools of my trade (okay, numbers, too, sometimes), and they’re a lot of fun to play with. Bonnie Swoger put together 12 delightful resources for word nerds everywhere.

If you wish to make a gene from scratch | Oscillator, Scientific American Blog Network

In beautiful, Science, technology, writing on July 8, 2014 at 7:24 am

I love science journalism. Sometimes I hate it, too. All too often, the public ends up reading a perfect storm of wrong information that occurs when science writers use imperfect analogies to get their point across (as article wordcounts shrink from multikiloword features to mere Tweets) and/or journalists untrained in science cover stories without sufficient background to understand the topic (or even ask appropriate questions). Remember when the Internet was a series of tubes invented by Al Gore? This year, it’s synthetic biology’s turn in the barrel of abuse.

Christina Agapakis, over at the Scientific American blog Oscillator, tries to undo some of the damage by explaining how “designing a gene with synthetic biology” is really not like writing a software program, despite an article published by the New York Times. It’s a good read: If you wish to make a gene from scratch.

printable nanolaser

In Science, technology, writing on June 10, 2014 at 7:57 am

The cool thing here is that the researchers at Australia’s Monash University have created a very tiny laser that uses surface plasmons and is made of carbon. That’s pretty neat by itself!

The press release linked below, however, goes a bit farther:
The carbon means that it could, possibly, be made by printing it on flexible substrates, which could, possibly, include clothes. The device might, possibly, be able to replace some or many of the components in a cellphone. Therefore, the press release title claims: Your T-shirt’s ringing: telecommunications in the spaser age.

New schedule

In Administration, writing on November 15, 2013 at 10:51 am

Hi folks,

I’ve taken a break posting here, but I still have stories I want to share.

I’m going to try posting once a week for a while, on Tuesday mornings. I may be flaky, but that’s the plan.

Meanwhile, I hope you all have had a chance to check out The Briefing for your science and technology news. I am sector editor for physics, which includes space, and I’m really enjoying it.

Addressing unintended disrespect in your professional community

In writing on July 11, 2013 at 8:30 pm

As a woman, I am invariably in the minority at the scientific conferences I attend. I’ve encountered sexist comments and actions at those events. I didn’t like them, but I dealt with them in as professional a way as I could manage.

In my experience, attendance at science writing conferences is closer to gender parity and I’ve encountered very little sexism there. So it is particularly disheartening to hear of sexism at a conference of science writers: Addressing unintended disrespect in your professional community. | Doing Good Science, Scientific American Blog Network.

From Academic Journals to the Media

In Science, writing on June 28, 2013 at 7:25 am

I have given several talks (and lots of private interviews) to scientists about dealing with the media, although I’m mostly talking to physicists and engineers. The gist of which is that both scientists and reporters are used to working with certain goals and assumptions and jargon and limitations, so even with the best will in the world miscommunication happens and published media stories get things wrong. This is especially likely with controversial or political topics (e.g. anything to do with sex) or complex topics (anything to do with particle physics, higher math).

A Cornell Human Development researcher wrote about her experience having a study picked up by the media, then used and sometimes abused. She said it was mostly a positive experience, but… here, read her blog post about it:

Sex Science News: From Academic Journals to the Media | The Sexy Science of Sex.

Poop transplants (or “Why I am not a medical science writer”)

In hilarious, Science, writing on June 19, 2013 at 7:09 am

I am not a medical science writer because I doubt I could write this story without resorting to a whole lot of poop jokes.* Also, because I couldn’t do as good a job as science writers like Tabitha Powledge, who wrote a good roundup of science blog entries that have been covering poop transplants.

On science blogs: Oh, pooh | ScienceWriters (www.nasw.org).

*Also, I am not a medical science writer because I love and have devoted years of my life to studying physics, but am not nearly as fond of biology.

Thought of the day: Charm jargon in particle physics

In Science, writing on June 7, 2013 at 7:54 am

“Charmless” means something very different to a physical science writer than to a travel writer. Then again, I’m wading through sentences like this: “The study of CP violation in charmless charged two-body B decays provides stringent tests of the Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa picture of CP violation in the Standard Model.” (from the CERN Courier)

Then again, even when quarks have charm, they aren’t charming. At least not to me.

Harvard’s Whitesides Gives Brilliant Critique of Mammoth U.S. Brain Project

In Science, writing on June 5, 2013 at 7:55 am
diagram of brain

Image by Polina Tishina.

This is pretty cool. George Whitesides is a much-revered researchers and a very smart cookie. And what he’s talking about here is, basically, the importance of science writing. Given Obama’s backing of massive funding for neuroscience, the scientists have an obligation to tell (non-expert) people what, they are doing with the money, and why it is important. He talks about creating a narrative (something science writers do All the Time), and about answering questions like “what are you doing?”, “what do you hope to learn?”, and “how is that going to help us?” in the simplest terms possible.

I tell you, this is really hard. If you’ve ever tried to explain a subject that you love to a hyperactive 5-year-old, then you have some experience with this: if you can’t catch their interest in the first half second, they’re gone, off to something more rewarding like playing in the mud. (I’m not actually being facetious here: playing in the mud is an important part of childhood and it gives instant feedback.) Editors have little more patience, because they know that their audience has plenty of playing-in-the-mud alternatives. You gotta hook ’em, intrigue ’em, and keep them reading to the end of the sentence, and then next, and the next.

Whiteside is articulate and interesting as he tries to teach his colleagues the why and how of science communications: Harvard’s Whitesides Gives Brilliant Critique of Mammoth U.S. Brain Project | Talking back, Scientific American Blog Network.

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