Favorite Quotes from Science Communications in 2014

There was so much good science writing in 2014. I can’t say I’ve read it all, and my reading is always a conglomeration of journal articles, science writing, short reports, long reads, and books. Here is a hodgepodge of quotes from science writers, interviews with scientists or journalists, and scientific journal articles that caught my eye this year.

“The idea that emotion impedes logic is pervasive and wrong.” – Virginia Hughes, “Emotion Is Not the Enemy of Reason,” Only Human

“If not for a virus, none of us would have been born.” – Carl Zimmer, “Mammals Made By Viruses,”  The Loom

“Planet formation is sloppy and creative and wildly varied.” – Corey S. Powell, “When the Earth Had Two Moons,” Nautilus

“The governor had seen the media coverage [about the climate change tipping point] and had questions about the science but was particularly interested in the level of agreement within the scientific community. [Anthony] Barnosky says that the gist of the conversation [with Governor Brown] came down to one question: ‘Why aren’t you guys shouting this from the rooftops?’

“’We thought we were,’ recalls [Elizabeth] Hadly.” – Virginia Gewin, “Science and Politics: Hello Governor,” Nature News

“No biology student should get a diploma without a single course in identifying organisms.” – Nature summary of J. J. Tewksbury’s BioScience article

“I fall in love every time I look at a cheese rind.” – Rachel Dutton, in Ewen Callaway’s Nature News article “Scientists and cheesemakers gather for (microbial) culture”

“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.” – Hans Selye, in Jo Marchant’s Mosaic article “Can Meditation Really Slow Aging?”

“The truth is I didn’t really understand what science was until graduate school.” – Rob Dunn, in interview with Lea Shell, Your Wild Life

“I laugh when people say print is dead. Name one industry that gives as many births on its dying bed.” – Samir Husni, in interview with Susan Currie Sivek

“I had this interesting personal experience of going from self-identifying as a physicist or mathematician to self-identifying as a sociologist. What I noticed over the course of that transition was that people started reacting to my work differently, and that when you expressed something as a math problem, people were somewhere between impressed and terrified, and they would say things like, ‘How can you even figure out stuff like that? That is amazing.’ But when you start to express the very same sort of questions in terms of real sociological examples, things that people actually have experience with, they would say things like, ‘Oh, that sounds like common sense!’ and ‘I could have told you that. That’s obvious.’ I would think, ‘Is it really that obvious? Because I just spent three years trying to figure that out, and I am pretty sure it is not obvious. But thank you for your feedback.'” – Duncan Watts, in an interview with Edd Dumbill 

“If people could learn to be mindful and always perceive the choices available to them, Langer says, they would fulfill their potential and improve their health. Langer’s technique of achieving a state of mindfulness is different from the one often utilized in Eastern ‘mindfulness meditation’ — nonjudgmental awareness of the thoughts and feelings drifting through your mind — that is everywhere today. Her emphasis is on noticing moment-to-moment changes around you, from the differences in the face of your spouse across the breakfast table to the variability of your asthma symptoms. When we are “actively making new distinctions, rather than relying on habitual” categorizations, we’re alive; and when we’re alive, we can improve. Indeed, ‘well-being and enhanced performance’ were Langer’s goals from the beginning of her career.” – Bruce Grierson, “What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?”, The New York Times

“Oh sure, there are benefits to having an intimate knowledge about the world around you. There is the thrill of discovery, the deep intellectual satisfaction that comes with knowing and the ever expanding appreciation and reverence for the complexities of the universe. There’s all that good stuff, and then there is the comments section of the Internet. Spend a few minutes browsing that treasure trove of humanity’s best and brightest and your intellectual satisfaction will degrade into rage faster than the decay of element 117. There are only so many times you can say things like, ‘Science doesn’t work that way,’ ‘Yes, microwaves use radiation but not THAT kind of radiation,’ or ‘Fool! You’ll kill us all!’ before all those mad scientists from the movies start looking pretty relatable. None of them started off pointing a death-ray at the moon. They were probably just marine biologists who had to explain one too many times that whales aren’t fish.” – Craig Fay, “The Frustrations of Being Scientifically Literate,” Scientific American Guest Blog

“It’s actually a very unpleasant experience to read a Nature paper, or to read a Science paper.” – Randy Schekman, in an interview with Métode

“40 percent of press releases contained explicit advice not indicated in the journal article. Another 33 percent of claims in press releases used stronger language than in the journal article. Finally, 36 percent of press releases inferred that a finding was related to human health when the study was not actually performed in humans.” – Bethany Brookshire, “This Study of Hype in Press Releases Will Change Journalism,” SciCurious

“We are more closely related to Dimetrodon than Dimetrodon was to T-Rex.” – Emily Graslie, video “Dimetrodon Is Not a Dinosaur,” The Brain Scoop

“The numbers are where the scientific discussion should start, not end.” – Steven Goodman, in Regina Nuzzo’s Nature News feature “Scientific Method: Statistical Errors”

 

 


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