Month: November 2010

The Great Masters of Microscopy

Spike Walker in BioScapesSpike Walker
Can you guess what this is?

The December issue of Scientific American is about to come out. The issue will feature our pick of images from the 2010 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition, but you can already see those online as they were posted today, which is also the day of the announcement of the winners.

I helped choose the images that went into our feature (which don’t coincide with Olympus’s own top ten picks) iand I wrote the captions for them, after interviewing each of their creators. In the process I discovered that there is a whole subculture of serious microscopy hobbyists, such as Spike Walker, who took the beautifully abstract shot here, which is actually … well, you’ll have to click to find out.

To see all nine images that will appear in print, plus an online bonus of ten more, visit Life Unseen.

Come to Cairo and Let’s Get Physical

WCSJ 2011

The World Federation of Science Journalist is convening the World Conference of Science Journalists in Cairo next summer.  I was invited to join a panel on covering physics (title: “Let’s Get Physical”), together with Alex Witze, Neil Tourok and Sean Carroll.

The idea will be to try to demistify physics for journalists who feel intimidated by it. Physics writers feel intimidated by it too. We’ve all gone through moments of panic when interviewing physicists. Like when you ask someone to please dumb down their model of superconductivity for you and they say “let’s make an analogy with something simpler, like string theory …” That’s when you want to kill yourself.

Fortunately, you’re not alone. There are people who work at national labs like SLAC and at professional organizations like the American Physical Society or the American Institute of Physics who will be happy to help you wade through “simple” concepts like string theory.  I know this because I have worked (or interned) at each of the organizations I’ve mentioned, and people there were always more than happy to get queries from journalists. Think of it as a suicide hotline for science writers.