What I’ve Been Reading

Fruit bat enjoys smoothie; Laurel enjoys fruit bat. From The Featured Creature

Blogger Neuroskeptic weighs in on the greatest sins a scientist can commit… and the proper punishments. Anybody else reminded of the fabulous punishment/crime song in The Mikado?

Neuroskeptic also gets a nod in this New York Times article about the dangers of misrepresenting neuroscience in the popular press.

Here’s an interesting take on game-ifying science; how much is it worth simplifying to get people interested (and how interested will they be, if your “interactive” game gives them no room for input and teaches them little?)

Seriously cute animal alert.

Dr. James Watson (DNA Nobelist and maker of dubious remarks about women in science) discusses a new edition of his memoir on discovering the structure of DNA. (H/T to Ed Yong)

Also, I fortuitously ran late the other day (how often do you get to use a phrase like that?!) and happened to hear my local radio’s broadcast of “Skywatch.”  It’s put as a collaboration between the Space Telescope Science Institute, those guys who control the Hubble, and the Maryland Science Center. As a science-interested, stargazing-inclined person who never got much beyond eighth grade astronomy (it’s amazing how much you can learn and still remain ignorant in a lot of ways)  I’d recommend Skywatch to everyone. Here’s their website.

A Playful Tone

Like a lot of my fellow early-stage grad students, I just submitted an application for a grant from the National Science Foundation. It’s a curious grant; more like a college application than your typical description of a research project in search of funding. Applicants aren’t bound to actually perform the research that they propose, and where ordinarily you might be prompted to include a list of publications, presentations, and accolades, instead this application includes a personal statement.

Here’s what a lab mate wrote on the personal statement I asked him to review: “There is a playful tone to your writing.” Coming as it did on the heels of a critique of the preceding paragraph, and a rejoinder to pay at least a little attention to the prompt, I don’t think he meant it in a good way.

It’s true. I admit it. There is a playful tone to my writing. I wrote the essay in the spirit of a college application, in hopes of being liked. I aimed for a voice, a confident and fun-loving one, instead of just a list of achievements and accomplishments. I told a story about my mentor in college, and another story about the Science Question Box in a classroom I volunteered in, and I was only narrowly dissuaded from telling a third story about a girl I met at a dance performance. The question is, was the playfulness out of place?

I hope not. I hope there’s room for a light-hearted, fun-loving approach to science in the highly competitive world of research, because that’s how I seem to be wired, and that’s where I would like to work. I guess, this time, the funding committee will decide.