meta musings

SwamijenlucIt’s rare when we indulge in navel-gazing at the cocktail party,
mostly because there’s so much cool stuff to be seen by gazing outward — really, who has time to gaze inward? But even we can get a bit reflectively "meta" sometimes. Today is one such time, because we have a
couple of special announcements. First, for those in the Los Angeles
area, I’ll be speaking at the LA Center for Inquiry on Sunday, June 15th — yes, it’s Father’s Day, so feel free to make it a family outing! — about "The Rules of the Game: Finding the Physics in the Buffyverse."
I’ll be showing a few clips from the TV series, and showing off the
spiffy new replica crossbow I found in Paris, in one of those
sci-fi/fantasy shops that also carry items like Lady Arwen’s elfin
pendant from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as fake Arthurian swords and katanas. I don’t care if my crossbow is
a replica: it blends nicely with my miniature cannon, catapult, and guillotine. It also makes a killer prop for talks. The catch and release mechanism works, making it ideal
to demonstrate potential and kinetic energy in Buffyverse weaponry,
plus it comes with a nifty stake-like wooden arrow should any errant vampires
happen to stop by.

It’s hard to top the whole crossbow thing for sheer excitement. But I have an even bigger
announcement. Long-suffering regular readers are all too familiar with
my chronic long-windedness when posting; the sheer length of the posts
is one reason why I generally only blog two or three times a week.
Sometimes I get helpful emails from random readers, offering advice for
making the blog more "readable" — at least for them — and invariably, "write shorter posts" is at the top of the list. Like any
self-respecting iconoclastic blogger, I remain true to myself and
ignore said advice.

Until now! Relief is at hand for the groaning masses who, honestly, would love
to read my little blog if only they had the time to wade through all
that excess verbiage. Boredcat
This week marks my debut blogging for Discovery
News, with a completely new blog, Twisted Physics. (I realize there are a few people who think that’s the name of Cocktail Party Physics,
but it isn’t. It’s just in the Typepad domain name, and now I can’t
change it without screwing up all my links.) I’ll be posting there three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The posts are shorter,
sharper, and focused on topics like astrophysics, particle physics,
relativity, cosmology, and who knows? Maybe even a bit of string theory
or loop quantum gravity if I’m feeling frisky.

Discovery News actually
hosts several science blogs, so after you’re done checking out Twisted
, feel free to browse some of the others as well. For instance, here’s my fellow new space-related bloggers debuting this week:

Next Generation: Student scientists in the field with David Chandler
Cosmic Ray: Ray Villard explores planets and distant worlds
Free Space: Irene Klotz looks at what’s happening beyond Earth.
Space Across the Pond: Chris Lintott gives us the European view of the universe.
Space Disco: It’s Dave Mosher’s party and he’ll dance if he wants to.
What’s Up: Touring the night sky with Alan Dyer.

And in case you missed them: Tracy Staedter has an excellent technology and materials science blog called Material World, while fans of mummies and other archaeological pursuits ("Ooh! Ooh! Moi! Moi!" chirps Jen-Luc Piquant) might enjoy perusing the most excellent Archaeorama.

Rest assured, Cocktail Party Physics isn’t going anywhere. It will continue much the same, staunchly independent and wheezily long-winded. How could I give up my bloggy haven? More and more, my other writing outlets are opting for shorter, sharper formats to appeal to
ever-shorter attention spans. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with
that, but be honest: don’t you sometimes get a hankering to really sink
your teeth into a subject? The cocktail party is the only place where I
have the freedom to ramble on about whatever topic catches my fancy on
that particular day, for as long as I want. And sometimes the effort pays off: occasionally a post will lead to an article for a
magazine, or a new book. Case in point: I am currently writing my third book for
Penguin, inspired by a series of blog posts here at the cocktail party
about my clumsy foray into teaching myself calculus.

The way I see it, I’m getting the best of both worlds: a chance to branch out a bit and explore what blogging is like for normal, less long-winded folks, while still preserving my online writing laboratory. Who knows? I might decide I like getting to the point occasionally. It’s a crazy, twisted blogosphere out there; anything could happen.

9 thoughts on “meta musings”

  1. I really like the long-form posts. But of course, I don’t have, like, a job or anything. rb

  2. I hope your new venue works out well for you!
    Oddly enough, the only “helpful advice” I’ve received is from a couple people who said I should change the color scheme of my blog — this AFTER at least many people said they liked the moody-gloomy ambiance my theme had given it. (One of the voices of approval came from an astonishingly beautiful young woman, red-haired and a writer herself; I’d be a liar if I said that didn’t help. Darn it, a scholar’s life should be free from such distractions.) The most popular posts I’ve done, in terms of traffic, links and kind remarks, have been longer pieces. I guess it just confirms the hypothesis that you can’t please everybody all the time.

  3. I’ve been a reader for at least a year, and for my first comment, I can say that I consistently enjoy the long posts. I am a grad student though, which is like being unemployed.

  4. I have to say I love the long posts! I always save your blog until last when going through my feed reader because it’s such a treat to get a well thought out and longish post, in comparison to other blogs which just spit out a couple of lines. That said, I’ll still be adding your new blog to my reader!

  5. Jennifer, please, please don’t ever change your blog. I love it just the way it is. And I do have a job! 🙂
    The length of your blogs let you develop the conversation to examine ramifications and some sidebands, things I think are necessary to effective communication. My favourite science writers are yourself and Olivia Judson (The Wild Side; a NY Times blog). Both of you examine your subject mater in depth, and I like that.
    It also helps that both of you are classy writers, something I merely aspire to be! 🙂

  6. I wasn’t actually fishing for affirmation, but thanks to everyone who doesn’t mind the lengthy posts. 🙂 I should have said that I realize regular readers appreciate the length; that’s why you’re regular readers. And this will remain the place where I explore those interesting sideroads and tangents…. The new blog will be good place to try a different style, is all.

  7. A well-known writer once said that he could have made it shorter if he had more time. Keep writing the way it comes out here; practice terseness on your other blogs.
    Speaking of crossbows – I saw the latest Narnia movie. In the battle scene, the Telmarines use a kind of giant trebuchet – but with a continuously-rotating arm with slings at both ends. The power source was not shown.
    There’s a fair bit of physics involved with these nasties: mv^2 all over the place, centrifugal force, throw distance as a function of weight and release angle, &c, and how you optimize the parts for maximum range and accuracy.
    People still build large-scale trebuchets, to see how far they can throw things like pianos. That may be a too big for classroom demonstration, but maybe someone has built a little one that can do no more than throw a small boy across the lecture hall.

  8. I love Jennifer’s long posts, too, but her all-new short ones also kick butt! And writing short is definitely a challenge.
    Anywho, thought I’d stop by and drop this link for all to see:
    Feel free to tell everyone and their’s brother’s grandma about it 🙂

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