#SciArt Tweetstorm

Rainbow Microbes by Michele Banks
Rainbow Microbes by Michele Banks

The Grand Poobah’s of science art at the Symbiartic science art blog have declared 1-7 March to be the week of the science art tweetstrom using the hashtag #sciart.

Here at The Finch & Pea we currently have 181 “Art of Science” posts (well 182 now), or 30 per day for the the rest of the week. That should keep y’all busy.

Scientific American and Blogs

Today, the editors of Scientific American published a post announcing a new vision for the Scientific American blog network. It is not exactly clear how that new vision is going to play out. It does seem to mean that many excellent blogs on the network, including those written by friends, will go away.

Blog editor Curtis Brainard’s discussion of controversy surrounding one of their blogs reads like a prelude to today’s announcement.

We are currently revising guidelines with our blogging community with the aim of preventing missteps.

The new “Blog Network Guidelines” are strict, and appear specifically geared to preventing controversies like a blog posting racist and sexist arguments.

It is too early to comment on whether this is the “right” approach. Frankly, I am hopelessly conflicted as a number of friends doing excellent work will be losing a gig. It is, however, telling that Scientific American is recognizing that they have to take responsibility for everything that appears under their brand:

Among other things, people expect a higher level of accuracy, integrity, transparency and quality from media organizations, and that expectation applies as much to blog content as it does to more traditional content such as news and features—especially because many readers do not differentiate between the two types of content.

On a lighter note, this booilerplate disclaimer is ridiculous:

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those ofScientific American.

If the views of “The Editors” do not necessarily reflect the views of Scientific American, whose do? In this case, it seems obvious that the only resolution is to conclude that Scientific American as a publishing company is incapable of holding “views”, which may be upsetting to certain members of the Supreme Court.

Feynman the Creepy Genius

Another tone-deaf post (now taken down)* related to women and science from Scientific American Blogs sparked a great disturbance in our little corner of the internet around the question of whether or not we should care that Richard Feynman was both a genius and really creepy. Our friend, Matthew Francis has an excellent, thoughtful reply to this discussion.

He starts with a particularly important point about the perils of creating a moral equivalence between personality quirks and serious character flaws in our heroes:

Very few heroes can survive scrutiny unscathed. They all have flaws, by virtue of being human. However, hero-worship blurs those flaws,  leveling them: truly nasty aspects of a person’s personality or behavior become on par with little quirks and eccentricities. In that way, we justify our worship.
Dr. Matthew Francis

Another friend, Janet Stemwedel has an excellent post** on the ethics of evaluating our heroes as individual components, the sum of their parts, or something in between, which should inform all our thinking on individuals like Feynman, or anyone else you think is a great [insert profession], but kind of a dick.

Before you remind me that I should be grateful that individuals of such staggering genius with intellects that cast mine in deep shadow have walked among us, I will remind you that it is a virtual certainty that for every Feynman or Einstein, there are several individuals with greater creativity and intellect who have lived under less fortunate circumstances and who we would be praising today but for the fact that they were not given the same opportunities.

Unfortunately, the comments have been predictably disappointing. I used this as an opportunity to make good on the positive commenting pledge I made with Eva Amsen. Maybe you should try it too?

*I have some thoughts on the editorial & perception difficulties of being Scientific American Blogs as currently structured.

**Hat tip to Matthew Francis.

Editorial Expectations

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
Scientific American Blogs Disclaimer

There is no requirement that what you say you are and what your audience expects you to be will be the same thing. It is very hard, however, to tell your audience that their expectations and reactions are “wrong”.

Scientific American finds itself in this position once again thanks to another tone-deaf post on the Curious Wavefunction blog on the Scientific American Blogs network. Scientific American makes the disclaimer that the content of individual blogs on the blog network does not represent Scientific American.

No matter what they say, people are naturally going to assume that something published under the Scientific American branding will represent Scientific American quality and values.  Continue reading “Editorial Expectations”

Happy Birthday, Flying Trilobite & Artologica

©Glendon Mellow. (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

One of my favorite science artists and people, Glendon Mellow, is celebrating his birthday by launching his new website, glendonmellow.com. In addition to being a fabulous artist in a variety of media (including tattoo design), Glendon helps run the Symbiartic blog at Scientific American and is a tireless advocate for both the positive use of art in science communication and supporting the creators of such content.

It is also our own Michele Banks’ birthday. You can celebrate with her by asking her to send you an aesthetically pleasing gift from her Etsy shop. I understand that some of her work from the collaborative art show Voyage of Discovery is being made available too.

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