support your local science writers (and bloggers!)

BookishJenLuc I see that Not Exactly Rocket Science guru Ed Yong is resurrecting his meme from a year or so ago, asking regular readers to introduce themselves in the comments. All the cool kids are doing it! This seems an awesome idea, and we missed the meme the first time around, so we hereby invite our readers — especially the lurkers! — to say howdy and tell us about themselves. And I invite my co-bloggers — yoo-hoo! — to engage in the comment thread as well. (Exceptions include GPS Tracking Systems, Cellulite Creams, Athens Greece Hotels, and the countless other Affirmation SPAMMERS — you know who you are! — peddling Viagra and designer shoes at discount prices, who leave fake comments just to snag a few free links. (Gollum voice) We hates them, precioussss, oh yesss, we do. They only pretend to like usss to flog their products, and waste our time by forcing usss to delete their inane fake observations. (/Gollum voice)

Speaking of flogging products: While you're all figuring out what to say, might as well indulge in a bit more shameless self-promotion. (Don't worry, we do very little of that around here.) Regular readers know posting has been a lot more sporadic at the cocktail party over the last year and a half. My main excuse is a demanding job as director of the Science and Entertainment Exchange. But writers compulsively write. So I juggle that with blogging at Discovery News, penning the odd book review, and have I mentioned lately that I wrote a book in my spare time? (Bora! mentioned it for me last month, along with a fantastic list of other books past, present and future from science writers/bloggers.)

The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse comes out August 31, and I revamped my author Website in honor of the occasion — it's now vaguely steam-punky and much easier to navigate (there are still a few minor errors because I did the html coding of the main text myself; will fix them soon). So that's what I've been up to, for those who think we're just slackers. As I said at one of my panels at Skepchickon this weekend: I am very tired. I've stayed active on Twitter and Facebook, though — and for the latest breaking book-related news, you can always become a fan of The Calculus Diaries on Facebook.

Brian Switek of Laelaps knows my pain. He wrote his first book, Written in Stone, in his spare time, too. I think I'm almost as excited for Brian's book as I am about The Calculus Diaries, because I've watched him struggle, persevere and succeed in achieving his dream. He's a promising young science writer and I'm proud to know him, in the blogosphere and IRL. He recently posted advance praise ("blurbs") for Written in Stone, and an impressive array it is, too. That's something every author I know is grateful for: the support of colleagues when it comes time to publish a book. So this seems a good time to thank the amazing folks who lavished advance praise on The Calculus Diaries. It takes a huge amount of effort and discipline to bring an entire book to the publication stage, and it can be pretty darned lonely at times, because everyone's off having a life except you. It warms a writer's heart when such esteemed colleagues find merit in his/her work, and take time out of their own busy schedules to say so. Publicly. So thank you! Publicly! Your support means the world to me. 

"The Calculus Diaries is a great primer for anyone who needs to get over their heebie-jeebies about an upcoming calculus class, or for anyone who’s ever wondered how calculus fits into everyday life and wants to be entertained, too!”
Danica McKellar, New York Times bestselling author of Math Doesn’t Suck and Hot X: Algebra Exposed

"Zombies? Surfing? Gambling? Nobody told me calculus could be like this. To my twelfth-grade math teacher: I demand a do-over!" —Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex and The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution

"Back in the day, when I was close to flunking out of calculus class because I couldn't understand why it was worth my valuable time to actually understand it, I needed someone like Jennifer Ouellette to gently explain how I wrong I was.  She's like every English major's dream math teacher: funny, smart, infected with communicable enthusiasm, and she can rock a Buffy reference.  In this book, she hastens the day when more people are familiar with an integral function than with Justin Bieber." — Peter Sagal, host, NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me," and author of The Book of Vice.

"In this wonderful and compulsively readable book, Jennifer Ouellette finds the signature of  mathematics — and especially calculus, of course — in the most unexpected places, the gorgeously lunatic architecture of Spain's Antonin Gaudi, the shimmering arc of waves on a beach. Just following her on the journey is the half the fun. But the other half is learning about the natural beauty and elegance of calculations. Ouellette's ever clear and always stimulating voice is a perfect match to the subject – and The Calculus Diaries is a tour-de-force." — Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.

"As amusing as it is enlightening, The Calculus Diaries is no dry survey of abstractions. It’s a guide to everyday life—to car trips and roller-coaster rides, diet and exercise, mortgages and the housing bubble, even social networking. As Ouellette modestly recounts her own learning curve, she and her husband become characters alongside eccentrics such as Newton and Gaudi and William the Conqueror. Like a great dance teacher, Ouellette steers us so gently we think we’re gliding along on our own." —Michael Sims, author of Adam’s Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form and Apollo’s Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination.

"Jennifer Ouellette's calculus confessional is a delight, and an example of the finest kind of science writing.  Her book reveals to its readers the gritty inner workings of the most important idea humans have ever thought.  (Yes, calculus is that big:  it's all about understanding how things change in space and time, and there just isn't much more important than that.)  Ouellette's wit, her elegant wielding of metaphor, and her passion for both math and funky culture produce this crucial insight:  every equation tells a story, she says, and she's right, and the tales she tells here will captivate even the most math-phobic." — Tom Levenson, author of Newton and the Counterfeiter; Head of the Program on Writing and Humanistic Studies and Director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT

"If you ever thought that math was useless, read this book. Want to survive a zombie attack? Win at craps? Beat a zombie at craps? Well, listen to Jennifer Ouellette. The math she describes might just be your best hope if you don't want your brains to be gobbled by the undead." — Charles Seife, author of Zero: Biography of a Dangerous Idea.

"Like the movies Batman Begins, Spider-Man, or Superman, The Calculus Diaries is the story of how an insightful, creative, and hard-working young person acquires superpowers and uses them for the benefit of society. Only this tale is true: Jennifer Ouellette can't fly or spin a web, but she can spin a yarn. The Calculus Diaries documents the author's seduction by mathematics and her conquering of it–Eureka!–to see the world with sharper vision. For too many people math, calculus in particular, is an albatross. But Ouellette reveals math for what it is, a powerful tool for solving problems and the exquisite language we use to describe nature. Reading this book will make you smarter. And more powerful." — Eric Roston, author of The Carbon Age

"A charming and gentle introduction to important mathematical concepts and their relevance to everyday life." — Leonard Mlodinow, author of The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

20 thoughts on “support your local science writers (and bloggers!)”

  1. I am a graduate student in physics who studies “computational neuroscience.”
    I think I’ve only commented once here before because the posts here are great but don’t tend to lend themselves to discussion. Cocktail Party Physics was the first blog that left me no choice but to get over my distaste for the word and read regularly, almost 5 years ago now. I think I’m grateful for that, but maybe I should be sending you a bill for the countless hours I’ve lost to my Google Reader since then…

  2. Aw, shucks. Thanks for the kind words, Jennifer. I am glad that you are looking forward to my book, as I am certainly anticipating yours! (And, as I have said before, 2010 is a great year for women science writers, with great new titles by you, Mary Roach, Rebecca Skloot, Deborah Blum, Maryn McKenna, and others.)
    Also, you wrote “That’s something every author I know is grateful for: the support of colleagues when it comes time to publish a book.”
    That goes double for me. Without the help of writers like you (plus Ed Yong, Tom Levenson, Carl Zimmer, Mark Henderson, and others) the manuscript for what is now called Written in Stone would still be languishing on my hard drive. In fact, I remember discussing my germ of a book idea over the phone waaaay back in the winter of 2008, and your famous Science Online talk about using blogs as “writing laboratories” made me get serious about my own writing. To put it simply, I couldn’t have done this without your help, and I appreciate the encouragement you have given this neophyte.

  3. This is a census, right? You can’t make me fill out the census.
    Oh wait, I guess by commenting on this being a census I have essentially filled out the form.
    Well, then on to the shameless plug: I am Rhett Allain, a student, physics faculty, and blogger at DotPhysics.
    I think I like reading blogs just as much as I like writing. If you want an example of the stuff I write about, check out:
    What is Arnold made of? In this post, I show (using physics of course) that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not human. He must be a robot.

  4. Just thought I’d check in and say “hi”! I’m a physics faculty member with a specialty in classical optics (once derisively referred to by a colleague as “19th century physics”), blogger, and generally attention-deficit human being.
    Looking forward to the book, and hoping to convince my math-phobic wife to give it a look!
    (P.S. We’ll have to get in contact sometime when you’re less busy about the cross-blog collaboration we mentioned briefly on twitter!)

  5. Jeannette Bedard

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now and never commented (actually I’ve never commented on any blog). I enjoy the posts here and find reading them a great way to avoid working on my thesis.
    I’m a graduate student in physical oceanography, which means I’ve mastered some of the superpowers of calculus (a painful process!). Recently, I started a blog on somewhat random topics here:

  6. @Brieux: We’ve been talking about how to generate more conversationally inclined topics. BUt really, we just write about what interests us and hope others find it interesting too.
    Happy you all delurked to say hi and by all means leave links to blogs, blog posts, etc….

  7. I’m interested in science, almost all of it, as an amateur. I was born in London almost 60 years ago. I did a first degree in Chemistry followed by a Masters and a PhD in Chemical Spectroscopy, which took me into corners of all the Natural Sciences. But then I fled academe due to the lack of permanent jobs and spent my working life in IT. I have recently taken early retirement from a job as a senior IT project manager. Nevertheless I retain an all-round interest in science and natural history which I follow through New Scientist, Scientific American, Discover and other blogs — but of course as an amateur I can pick and choose to read whatever grabs my interest. On my blog I also cover anything which takes my interest, especially given my self-selected role as a practising catalyst, quietly enabling others to develop by providing different philosophies and views of the world.

  8. I’m a wide ranging reader who must have found you through a blog link years ago. I enjoy the sassy yet sincere writing and the effort to communicate science to describe the world.
    Think there’s any chance that the laser fusion project at Livermore labs will come through? That’s the latest focus for my “technology will pull our fat out of the fire” fantasy.

  9. Ah, at least one other reader I know (Hi Rhett!) but that’s hardly surprising.
    I’m a physicist and science communicator, and I’ll be on a panel at AAPT on social media in the classroom with Jennifer next week! I’ll look for those bags under your eyes…

  10. @Stephanie: looking forward to seeing you! RE: bags under eyes — you have no idea. I’ve gotten very good at makeup tricks to diminish them, and go through tons of Visine for the bloodshot eyes. Drinking way too caffeine, too. I wish I were joking. But I’m not. I really am exhausted….
    @Nimble: I’m a fan of the Livermore fusion project, but every physicist I ask about it says we’re nowhere near achieving viable fusion energy. It takes more energy to achieve fusion than the amount of energy they get out of it, so it’s just not ready to compete with fossil fuels. But one day!

  11. Partially Deflected

    Jen – is it that it takes too much power to produce fusion, or too much power to contain fusion? I’d always heard it was the latter.
    My background: I’ve been programming since the days of punch cards and plug boards. Currently working in the field of Mental Health, but spent some time in the Air Force dealing with satellites and nukes. Also a strong background in fire & police dispatch and communication.

  12. Hi. I’m a creepy lurker. This week I’m a poet. In the past, I’ve been philosopher, critical care nurse, bio-ethicist (still can’t shake this), writer (fiction, non-fiction, tweets) — a sort of factotum with very few actual skills. Considering starting a blog as an excuse to write more. I think you know my life-partner and sperm donor, Coturnix. He’s a dreamboat. You are a very fine writer, very fine. Hope to meet you in the Triangle in January, or perhaps even in LA. xoxo

  13. Hi. I’m a creepy lurker. This week I’m a poet. In the past, I’ve been philosopher, critical care nurse, bio-ethicist (still can’t shake this), writer (fiction, non-fiction, tweets) — a sort of factotum with very few actual skills. Considering starting a blog as an excuse to write more. I think you know my life-partner and sperm donor, Coturnix. He’s a dreamboat. You are a very fine writer, very fine. Hope to meet you in the Triangle in January, or perhaps even in LA. xoxo

  14. Terry Bleizeffer

    I’m a geeky user experience architect/software designer who is always looking for ways to make math and science more interesting for my 11 year old son and 10 year old daughter… especially my daughter, who thinks math is “stupid”. I often use the topics in the blogs here as dinner conversation… like “You heard about the big oil spill, right? What is it a bad thing?” Next thing you know, I’m talking about hydrophobic materials.
    We have a very hairy cat (named “Poofers”) and the kids decided Poofers could probably clean the gulf by herself.
    Moments like that are priceless… thank you for helping to make them happen.

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