Monday, 16 April 2012

Into cyberspace

The beginnings of my science blogging have taken me on a whirlwind tour of internet science communication, and I've a feeling I'm not in Kansas anymore. If I'm going to write a blog, I need to know what's already out there. Here is what I have seen on the first steps of my journey into the world of Cyber Science...

First and foremost, I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume and quality of the science communication that is available on the web. The dedication of scientists and science communicators out there today can be in no doubt.

Twitter is by far the chirpiest source of science chat, and even the smallest dabble in the twittersphere can lead to a quick reward. There is a particularly strong presence from journals and scientific publishers, who tweet headlines of their latest research papers, making for an excellent way to keep up to date with the latest breakthroughs. These feeds are not exactly pop science though, basically linking to proper full blown research articles. However, the frequent editorials and blog posts are of more general interest.

Organisations such as CERN (@cern) and NASA (@nasa) give regular updates on their big science projects, often with high-budget and well-thought-out multimedia content to browse. For general roundups, there are several dedicated science news feeds which do exactly what they say on the tin. Probably my favourite twitter feed so far is "Astro Pic Of The Day" (@apod,, which showcases daily images from around the cosmos to get the mind truly boggling. Below is today's image of the Eagle Nebula.
If you like twitter, you can follow this blog in stream-of-consciousness form at @scienceontoast. Hey, you can even follow the adventures of a zucchini who lives in space (@Astro_Zuc, or a courgette if you prefer).

There are quite literally thousands of science blogs out there, from dedicated individual bloggers to full time journal and publishers' blogs. There is no way I can do them justice so I'll just mention a couple. Guardian Science (twitter @guardianscience) has a range of blogs, including John Butterworth's Life and Physics, which has eloquent insights into the deepest questions of fundamental physics, explaining experiments taking place at the Large Hadron Collider amongst other things. At the other end of the length scale lies In The Dark, a blog by cosmologist (and, it would appear, poet and romanticist) Peter Coles. This blog has fascinating insights into the large scales structures of the universe interspersed with poetry, music and biographical pieces about the creator (of the blog, that is, not of the cosmos).

I'm sure I have given somewhat a physical bent to this small sample so I should also mention that the Royal Society of Chemistry and Nature Chemistry have very good chemistry blogs/sites. And I'm sure there are good biology blogs out there too......

This foray into online science has reminded me of the world of wonder that I remember as a young boy. In fact, come to think of it, I distinctly remember feeling that thrill in the lecture theatre as an undergraduate (though Peter Coles probably won't remember teaching me cosmology, I remember his lectures). So perhaps while a journey into the grown-up world of specialised research has given me a career and a roof over my head, perhaps it is good every now and then to sit back and appreciate the true magnitude of the science that is on offer to our fingertips, for free.

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