What with Aunty Flow and thus an enforced break from both fiction writing and mad Doctor Who watching, I got quite a bit of reading done this week. Possibly too much. This is gonna be a long Los Links. I'm afraid I shall have to split things into groups.
A week on the Web wouldn't be a proper week without a little controversy and/or a good pile-on. This week, it was Simon Winchester's turn. Now, readers know I like Simon Winchester's books quite a lot. But when a writer indulges his inner alarmist, makes wild claims without backing them with evidence, and then refuses to make a course correction despite every geoblogger in existence pointing out the problem, well. Reap what you sow and all that.
And so I give you The Simon Winchester Saga.
Writing Popular Science Books Doesn’t Make You a Scientist: Brian Romans must have borrowed the Smack-o-Matic. Sample sentence: "Wow, you can almost hear the scary music building to a crescendo at the end of that last phrase. Effective writing for sure — if you’re writing fiction." Ouch!
How to (and how not to) talk about earthquake hazards in the media: Chris Rowan shows science journalists how to do a proper job. Take it to heart!
i write angry note to Simon Winchester. AGAIN.: Geologist Christie Rowe wrote directly to the source of the nonsense. Their exchange is enlightening. Science journalist, meet actual scientist!
Earthquake triggering, and why we don't know where the next big one will strike: Christie Rowe's Scientific American piece - essential reading for those who want to understand why claiming California's next in line are so very, very wrong.
I liked his books... : Bryan at In Terra Veritas makes the crucial point: "If science was always intuitive, Aristotle and Plato would still be the top dogs as far as understanding the natural world go." Yes!
Giant California Earthquakes and the Radiation Cloud; California Falls into the Sea: Geotripper Emerges from the Apocalypse... : Garry Hayes at Geotripper wrote quite possibly the funniest response to all of the gloom-and-doom nonsense ever.
And, for those who like their meta, Blogs as boundary layers: Brian Romans, Simon Winchester, Facebook and earthquakes together at last has got what you need. Rather important points about linking, I should think.
The Simon Winchester Saga wasn't the only topic that exploded this week. The animal rights nutjobs also blew up all over the scene. I like animals. It's a good idea to treat them decently. But that doesn't give animal rights activists carte blanche to commit murder, mayhem, and terrorism.
Animal rights terrorists target students as the "soft underbelly of the vivisection movement": Truly insane and scary shit. Orac gives it the not-so-respectful insolence it deserves.
Animal Rights Terrorists Are Coming After Your Students...: Dr. Isis has a few ideas on how to respond to the threat.
On the targeting of undergraduates by animal rights extremists (and the dangers of victim-blaming).: A nice piece by Janet D. Stemwedel on why criticizing victims of animal rights activist attacks is just as wrong as blaming rape victims for their own victimization.
Let's not lose focus here, people. The bastards to blame are the ones who believe it's perfectly fine to destroy human lives to protect fucking fruit flies, okay? These asshats are no better than the terrorists who murder abortion doctors and terrorize women over a bit of tissue. They need to be faced down and stopped before they get completely out of hand.
Right? Right. Moving on, then. The Japan earthquake and its aftermath are still in the news. A few very good links here:
Ignoring tsunami records: a "cascade of stupid errors": Michael Welland is pissed off, people, and is right to be so. If you read nothing else about Japan this week, let it be this.
The Most Dangerous Illusion: Lockwood gives those who think the idea we can control nuclear energy is the "most dangerous illusion" a proper spanking, and shows them what the "most dangerous illusion" truly is. After reading that one, treat yourself to some comic relief, and read Don't Panic. Waitaminit.... No, Panic. Trust me. You've earned the belly-laugh.
And for those who want to know more about the unfolding nuclear disaster, Evelyn Mervine and her father have continued with their outstanding interviews.
On to general science, then. Ye gods, what a week! Too much goodness.
The danger of appealing stories: anecdata, expectations, and skepticism: You've read Hannah Waters's wonderful post, right? Wait, what, you haven't?! Go now and read it forthwith! Everyone needs to read this post. It should be required.
The Trouble With Teens: Carl Zimmer demystifies the teenage brain. Now you'll know what they were thinking when they do something truly fucked-up.
Seeing Through Yourself: The Fundamental Reason For Binocular Vision: Mark Changizi explains why we don't have an eye in the back of our heads. Warning: Will cause you to do funny things with your eyeballs.
On Beards, Biology, and Being a Real American: Joe Hanson made me cry laughing with this one. Talk about yer comic relief!
The Scientific Case Against Craterism: Want moar funnie? This is so the post for you! The Sensuous Curmudgeon really captures the essence of IDiots in this one.
Drilling into the planet: Why we want to sample the mantle (and why we already have): I think this is quite possibly one of the best posts Erik Klemetti has ever written, and it's not even about an eruption! This is the only time you'll hear me say this, so listen up: Drill baby drill!
A glacial delta complex in western Pennsylvania: Because I'm a sucker for glacial stuff and Callan Bentley's gorgeously-illustrated posts, that's why. I freely admit to having a bit of a crush on him. His photographs are hawt. ;-)
Forensic Geology: Geoff Manaugh did an outstanding job on this post. It's fascinating in its own right, but doubly so for a forensics nerd with a passion for geology. Oh, and corporations? Ur seekrits r nawt safe frum teh geealigists.
Meteorite Monday: Carbonaceous Chondrites: Glacial Till's got a whole new series, and I've already learned something I never knew in the very first post! Being a fan of Meteorite Men and all, I'm super excited about this series, and I hope it continues for a good long time!
A quintessence of dust: Oh, Roger Ebert. This is why I love you so: "What we are left with are the cosmic shadows on the wall of Plato's cave. Ultimately the images from Hubble will give us a glimpse of conditions that existed an infinitesimal instant after the Big Bang. There will never be an image of the Big Bang itself, because it had no image. There was Nothing, and then there was Something, and all we can hope is to see that Something as soon as possible after it became." A gorgeous ode to science.
You may, at this point, wonder why Elli Goeke's amazing three-part series on metamorphic rocks isn't featured here. That's because I'm going to give it a whole day to itself here soon, but feel free to peek ahead!
So how much does a segue? A ha ha. Let's get to atheism and religion by way of a hybrid post, then, shall we?
Christianity gave birth to science – a myth?: Indeed. And Ken Perrott explains why, which will come in useful the next time some smarmy Christian dipshit lords it over you with the whole "there wouldn't be science without Christianity" bullshit. (How do you recognize a smarmy Christian dipshit? Why, by the fact they just spouted something so wildly stupid, of course.)
Ray Comfort is gonna die: And PZ Myers is there to tell him that when he does, he won't be spouting a dozen pages of come-to-Jeebus schlock. He'll be alone, just as we all are. This post is incredibly touching, personal, and insightful, with just a bit o' the firebreathing godlessness we know and love. It took courage to write this. Good thing PZ's a courageous kind of guy.
And, finally, we're on about writing. I haven't thought of a clever transition, so we'll just be on with it.
BOYCOTT DORCHESTER (with updates at bottom): Brian Keene and about a bajillion other authors got royally fucked by these assclowns. Check the imprint on that book or ebook you're about to purchase. If it's a Dorchester imprint, stay the fuck away. Do not give your business to this group of amoral assholes. That is all.
Walking the Line Between Good and Evil: The Common Thread of Heroes and Villains: If your magnum opus includes a hero or a villain, read this. Immediately.
Special Topics in Calamity Novel Repair: Part 1: If you are writing/have written/might write a novel, you need to be reading The Intern's series. Seriously. You totally do. So go thou forth and do it. Besides, she's not only knowledgeable, but hilarious.
The writing process: Speaking of hilarious but spot-bloody-on, Ed Yong's illustration of the writing process should be printed and tacked to every writer's wall for consolation, commiseration, and other reasons that may or may not begin with the letter C. We've all been there, haven't we just?
Right, then. There's that. It's enough, innit? With thanks to the folks I follow on Twitter, without whom my life would not be filled with such goodness.