I’ve been so mired lately in parenting tips and science education that I forgot to read about, you know, science. And I wasn’t quite sure where to jump in. So when I found out we needed a post rounding up SciLancers’ favorite science reads of 2013, I jumped at the chance to write it. What better way to catch up on some of last year’s finest science writing than to have other people find it for me? Below, a quick roundup of some of our favorites.
At the top of Emma Marris’ (bio) list was Ed Yong’s post “Infusion of pseudo-poo cures gut infections in two women”, summarizing a study that almost begs for an IgNobel prize. Despite the potential for bathroom humor to take over, Emma notes the respectful way in which he reports on the research in his National Geographic blog Not Exactly Rocket Science.
“”I just love the study he reports on, and he explains it very clearly with a minimum of sniggering,” she says.
Over at Slate, Emma points out, Laura Helmuth is sure to have pissed off cat lovers everywhere with her piece justifying New Zealand’s proposal to ban house cats, in an attempt to preserve some of the islands’ endemic birds. “In a word: bold,” Emma says.
Virginia Hughes’ fine storytelling gets a nod from both Monya Baker (bio) and Sarah Webb (bio). In her Matter magazine feature “23 and You:
Does that commercial DNA test you just bought violate somebody else’s privacy?”, Hughes delves into the privacy concerns raised by off-the-shelf DNA tests through the telling of a twisting family narrative.
And in the Nature feature The Big Fat Truth, Hughes reported on an emerging body of research suggesting that being moderately overweight might not shorten lifespan — research not entirely welcomed by many in the field of public health. Monya gives Hughes a shout-out for her “great job of capturing differing opinions in a complicated, unresolved issue.”
Kendall Powell (bio) chose Jeanne Erdman’s Nature Medicine feature Telltale Hearts (The article itself remains behind a paywall, but all readers can access the associated text box about the nation’s only post-mortem medical genetics lab associated with a chief examiner’s office).
“It’s one of my favorites for two reasons,” Kendall says. “It’s a riveting narrative tale from start to finish even though it’s about a pretty technical piece of science, and it’s such a great example of a piece of science writing that could make a direct impact on someone’s life.”
As for me, I did actually manage to read a few pieces of science writing over the year. As I sit writing during the much-ballyhooed winter storm Electra, it seems fitting that one of the pieces I most looked forward to reading this year comes from the South Pole: Doug Fox’s(bio) Discover magazine feature “Life Under Antarctica’s Ice”. The lede alone is gripping enough — and once Fox grabs your attention with that, he brings you along for the frustration, tedium, and, sometimes, elation that accompany the best science research.
Fox, by the way, is a veteran Antarctic reporter; check out his take on a previous Antarctic field reporting expedition and all the hard work that went into getting his stories from that trip published, and a more recent behind-the-scenes on the trip behind the expedition he covered for Discover.
On this snowy Boston evening, my mind also drifts back to a sunny summer afternoon I spent reading Amanda Mascarelli’s (bio) “Growing Up With Pesticides,” a piece that’s part of a larger Science magazine package on pesticides.
Being a parent to young children myself, the story resonated with me for its attention to how long-term pesticide exposure affects not just adults working on farms, but the children born to women pregnant while working in the fields. Her kicker sticks with me to this day. Amanda’s reflections on reporting this piece, with support from a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship give a nice insight into the internal questions she had to address in tackling this topic.
Readers, what are some of your favorite reads of 2013?
Image Credit: Todd Lappin, Telestar Logistics on Flickr