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Science Online 2012: Pirate Branding, Life as a Sperm, and Scheming Fireflies

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

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This book has taken up residence on my bookshelf alongside my well-loved copy of Mushrooms of Colorado and my sexy black 50's-era ex-University of Nebraska microscope.

The Best Science Writing Online 2012 — an anthology of the best science blog posts of last year — was released this week. As one of 51 contributors, it’s my first publication in an actual, paper, book-shelf-based book, and I’m still in a bit of shock.

Editor Jennifer Ouellette explains over at her blog how this anthology came to be and links to some early feedback; if you want to get your hands on a copy, you can find one over at Amazon.

I contributed a eulogy to to one of my former Animal Behavior professors at Cornell, the great Thomas Eisner, whose fascinating lectures on the way animals use chemicals and light to mess with each other made a lasting impression.

When I read of his death in the New York Times, I felt compelled to dig my notes out of the dusty recesses of my “storage locker” (er, stack of dusty banker’s boxes stuffed in corner of spare bedroom) to share some lesser-known Eisner tidbits that sitting in his lectures provided access to. It begins with the story of his pet thrush Sybil, whose taste buds led him to discover a dark firefly secret. The post is called “Bombardier Beetles, Bee Purple, and the Sirens of the Night”, and you can read it online here (with bonus videos not available in paper form!).

There are many other interesting contributions to the anthology. For instance, there’s the story of the guy who found a new species at a South African truck stop, an exploration of what it feels like to (presumably briefly) be a sperm, and a post on pirates’ remarkably effective Jolly-Roger-based branding campaign.

Check it out!
Jennifer Frazer About the Author: Jennifer Frazer is a AAAS Science Journalism Award-winning science writer. She has degrees in biology, plant pathology/mycology, and science writing, and has spent many happy hours studying life in situ. Follow on Twitter @JenniferFrazer.

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

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