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March 12, 2007


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I remember when James Gleick's book _Chaos_ came out in the late '80s, too. I read it right before taking a class in nonlinear dynamics, and although I remember being kind of critical about the places where the book deviated from the Real Science--such as when Gleick described Mitchell Feigenbaum's taste in shirts, as I recall--I think it was because the notion of a science book written for a popular audience was still so unfamiliar to me. Yes, I'd read _Cosmos_, and yes, my parents had given me a copy of a book with the best of The Journal of Irreproducible Results (the original one--this was back in 1982). But Carl Sagan was a popularizer, for crying out loud, and real scientists did not popularize! I got that message loud and clear and so figured that one had to choose between science and writing. And I chose science.

And now today, we have science books with titles like "Stiff" and "Spook" and "The Physics of the Buffyverse." (And I'd love to do a mashup of chick lit and science!) I think that now that science is yielding ever more thrilling results thanks to the more powerful tools we have, there's more curiosity out there. Maybe I'm a little late to the party, but it's been really cool to see the new approach to science communication take root during those years I was holed up in the lab.


Hey Kristin! I've never understood that aversion to popularization either. The publications that got me interested in science did exactly that: the early Omni Magazine (when Ben Bova was the editor), Cosmos, and even before that, Isaac Asimov's general audience books on astronomy, chemistry, and biology, everything Jacques Cousteau wrote, and the National Geographic. I talked my parents into getting a subscription to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's Oceanus for me, which was a general audience report on their projects. But I also came through the back door of science fiction too, which was just reviled in general, so I was used to the uphill battle. I just wish the scientific crowd would get over it--or quit griping. Can't have it both ways. So brava to you for going with the writing. We need more folks like you and Jen.


> As Barbie said of math, science is hard

You remember that one too, eh? ;-)



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