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The Sciences

Science writing I’d pay to read – August 2011


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It’s time for August’s Science Writer Tip-Jar picks. For those new to this, here’s the low-down: Throughout the blogosphere, people produce fantastic writing for free. That’s great, but I believe that good writers should get paid for good work. To set an example, I choose ten pieces every month that were written for free and I donate £3 to the author. There are no formal criteria other than I found them unusually interesting, enjoyable and/or important. I also encourage readers to support these writers through two buttons on the sidebar. Any donations via “Support Science Writers” are evenly distributed to chosen ten at the end of the month. Donations via the “Support NERS” button go to me; I match a third of the total figure and send that to the chosen writers too. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the picks:

  • Jennifer Ouellette for her joyous paean to yodelling, featuring the Sound of Music, Tibetan monks, the Pavarotti robot, and the “yodellumpet”.

  • John Wilkins for his response to the species-counting study that made the headlines: "It’s hardly an objective fact about the world. We may as well be cataloguing toys."

  • Rachel Nuwer for two great posts: one on the threat to rhinos including Irish horn gangs and “shaving alive technology”, and another on the pandemics waiting to happen among Asia’s wildlife markets.

  • Erika Check Hayden for her scathing analysis of the IOM's report on vaccine safety and why we have "lost yet another battle in the war over vaccines.”

  • The Neuroskeptic for two great posts on whether sleep give us a chance to defragment out brains, and how random chance acts as our third parent.

  • Ann Finkbeiner for a beautiful post on resonance.

  • Vaughan Bell for his look at riot psychology in the wake of the UK riots, and why crowd behaviour is a complex area that’s surprisingly poorly researched.

  • Jerry Coyne for thoroughly fisking the idea that epigenetics is a big scientific revolution. Says he: "I know scientific revolutions; scientific revolutions are friends of mine... epigenetics is no scientific revolution.”

  • Phil Plait for a lovely post on why there have been so many quakes of late, with gems such as "Having a restless planet is a consequence of having a habitable one.”

  • Brian Switek for his take on a one of a kind fossil – a fish within an amphibian within a shark, or “the Permian, freshwater lake equivalent of a turducken”

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