Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. – Carl Sagan, born November 9, 1934

Carl Sagan in 1980. [Credit: NASA/JPL]

Like many science writers, I count Carl Sagan as one of my inspirations and influences. However, I think there’s a tendency to mourn his absence (he died relatively young) in the wrong way: by negatively contrasting current science communicators with him, as though there needs to be One True Sagan, with everyone else failing to meet his standard. That’s a fallacy of thought and a failure of imagination.

I think there is a tendency to idolize Sagan, which is (as usual with idolization) unfair both to him and to others who would try to communicate science. In this era of media fragmentation, it may not even be possible for a single figure to be as popular or recognizable, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Instead of a single Sagan, why not many? [Read more…]

Happy birthday, Carl Sagan!

Ada Lovelace, 1815-1852 [Credit: Wikipedia]

For Ada Lovelace Day, I compiled a list of many of the best science writers I know:

Last year, I celebrated Emmy Noether, perhaps the greatest mathematician of the 20th century. This year (largely because I’m swamped with other work), I’m stealing a great idea from Ed Yong, and celebrating living writers who are my friends, colleagues, and influences. This list is in no particular order, isn’t anywhere close to complete, and has some overlap with Ed’s list. My main criteria are that these are writers I read regularly, so their interests mix with mine to some degree. (Writers marked with an asterisk* are people I have met in Real Life, whatever that signifies.) Leave your own favorites and influences in the comments! [Read more….]

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!