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Open Lab 2012: And the Finalists Are….

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So, last night I sent out the official notifications to all the finalists selected for this year’s Open Lab anthology, and within the hour, Twitter was aflutter with folks sharing their excitement at the news. Which is great — I love bringing good news to good people — but the original plan was to make a formal announcement sometime in January. I had this post all ready to go, however, and there doesn’t seem too much point in waiting until January now, is there?

First, I’d like to reiterate something Ed Yong said on Twitter. This is an anthology comprised of a selection of 51 OF SOME of the best blog posts in 2011 — not THE 51 “best” posts. It’s a critical distinction because, let’s face it, there’s likely many gems out there that didn’t even get nominated, and there were several posts we would have loved to include but had to cut to get the count down to 51. Also, some things work great in blog format but don’t translate well to print. (I have high hopes for what might be possible with e-books in the future, however.)

I am not kidding when I say winnowing down 720 entries was an incredibly painful process. I absolutely could not have done it without the help of all the volunteer reviewers (a full thank-you list will be forthcoming later). Even so, Bora and I engaged in much mutual handwringing, particularly over the last 10-12 cuts we were forced to make.

In the end, we looked at the overall balance of the anthology and picked those that fit the bill for what was missing — humor, personal reflection, short-form, long-form, diversity of topic and writerly “voice”, etc. — but any one of those cut dozen or so “contenders” would have also made fine additions to the anthology. (And as this year’s editor, I automatically removed my own nominated post from the running; I simply couldn’t justify including it when so many other worthy posts were under consideration.) I think we ended up with a good, diverse mix, and (amazingly) an almost perfect 50/50 split in male and female bloggers, although that wasn’t by design.

So without further ado, I give you the finalists for this year’s Open Lab anthology.

1. Anthropology in Practice (Krystal D’Costa): Unraveling The Fear o’ the Jolly Roger

2. The Artful Amoeba (Jennifer Frazer): Bombardier Beetles, Bee Purple, and the Sirens of the Night

3. The Atavism: The origin and extinction of species

4. Black Ink Obelisk (Aubrey J. Sanders): Somata (poem)

5. Blogus scientificus (Alex Reshanov): Shakes on a Plane: Can Turbulence Kill You?

6. Body Horrors (Rebecca Kreston): This Ain’t Yo Momma’s Muktuk: Fermented Seal Flipper, Botulism, Being Cold & Other Joys of Arctic Living

7. Boing Boing (Lee Billings): Incredible journey: Can we reach the stars without breaking the bank?

8. Boing Boing (Maggie Koerth-Baker): Nuclear energy 101: Inside the “black box” of power plants

9. Context and variation (Kate Clancy): Menstruation is just blood and tissue you ended up not using

10. Dangerous Experiments (Joe Hanson, It’s Okay To Be Smart): On Beards, Biology, and Being a Real American

11. Deep Sea News (Miriam Goldstein): DON’T PANIC: Sustainable seafood and the American outlaw

12. Empirical Zeal: (Aatish Bhatia) What it feels like for a sperm

13. En Tequila Es Verdad (Dana Hunter): Adorers of the Good Science of Rock-breaking

14. Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Kimberly Gerson): Romeo: A Lone Wolf’s Tragedy in Three Acts

15. Expression Patterns (Eva Amsen): Make history, not vitamin C

16. The Gleaming Retort (John Rennie): Volts and Vespa: Buzzing about Photoelectric Wasps

17. Guardian Science Blog (Karen James): Space shuttle launch: ‘I feel the percussive roar on the skin of my face’

18. Highly Allochthonous (Chris Rowan): Ten million feet upon the stair

19. History of Geology (David Bressan): It’s sedimentary, my dear Watson

20. Laelaps (Brian Switek): The Dodo is Dead, Long Live the Dodo!

21. The Last Word On Nothing (Ann Finkbeiner): Science Metaphors (cont): Resonance

22. The Loom (Carl Zimmer): The Human Lake

23. Neuron Culture (David Dobbs): Free Science, One Paper at a Time

24. Neurotribes (Steve Silberman): Woof! John Elder Robison, Living Boldly as a “Free-Range Aspergian”

25. Not Exactly Rocket Science (Ed Yong): The Renaissance man: how to become a scientist over and over again

26. Observations of a Nerd (Christie Wilcox): Why do women cry? Obviously, it’s so they don’t get laid.

27. The Occam’s Typewriter Irregulars (Richard F.Wintle): Genome sequencing, Shakespeare style [combined with] Genome Assembly – a primer for the Shakespeare fan

28. Oh, For the Love of Science! (Allie Wilkinson): The distance between your testicles and your anus, ‘taint unimportant

29. Pharyngula (PZ Myers): Dear Emma B

30. PLoS Blogs Guest Blog (T. Delene Beeland): Saving Ethiopia’s “Church Forests”

31. The Primate Diaries (Eric Michael Johnson): Freedom to Riot: On the Evolution of Collective Violence

32. PsySociety (Melanie Tannenbaum): Sex and the Married Neurotic

33. Puff the Mutant Dragon (“Mutant Dragon”): Sunrise in the Garden of Dreams

34. Reciprocal Space (Stephen Curry): Joule’s Jewel

35. Sciencegeist (Matthew Hartings): I Love Gin and Tonics

36. Scientific American Guest Blog (Casey Rentz): How to stop a hurricane (good luck, by the way)

37. Scientific American Guest Blog (Cindy Doran, The Febrile Muse): Tinea Speaks Up—a Fairy Tale

38. Scientific American Guest Blog (Deborah Blum, Speakeasy Science): A View to a Kill in the Morning: Carbon Dioxide

39. Scientific American Guest Blog (Andrea Kuszewski, The Rogue Neuron): Could chess-boxing defuse aggression in Arizona and beyond?

40. Scientific American Guest Blog (David Manly, The Definitive Host/Lab Spaces): Mirror images: Twins and identity

41. Scientific American Guest Blog (Rob Dunn): Man discovers a new life-form at a South African truck stop

42. Scientific American Guest Blog (Jeremy Yoder, Denim and Tweed): The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Natural Selection and Evolution, with a Key to Many Complicating Factors

43. Scientific American Observations (George Musser): Free Will and Quantum Clones: How Your Choices Today Affect the Universe at its Origin

44. Skulls in the Stars (“Dr. Skyskull”): Mpemba’s baffling discovery: can hot water freeze before cold? (1969)

45. Superbug (Maryn McKenna): File Under WTF: Did the CIA Fake a Vaccination Campaign?

46. There and (hopefully) back again… (“Biochembelle”): In the shadows of greatness

47. This May Hurt A Bit (Shara Yurkiewicz): Fragmented Intimacies

48. The Thoughtful Animal (Jason Goldman): Rats, Bees, and Brains: The Death of the “Cognitive Map”

49. Uncertain Principles: Faster Than a Speeding Photon: “Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam”

50. Universe (Claire L. Evans): Moon Arts, Part Two: Fallen Astronaut

51. The White Noise (Cassie Rodenberg): How addiction feels, the honest truth


Jennifer Ouellette About the Author: Jennifer Ouellette is a science writer who loves to indulge her inner geek by finding quirky connections between physics, popular culture, and the world at large. Follow on Twitter @JenLucPiquant.

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

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  1. 1. ejwillingham 7:54 pm 12/6/2011

    What a great list. I’m happy to say that I’d read the vast majority of these before any judging took place and they’re worth reading again…and again. Thanks for taking this project on. I know it was not easy to cut some folks out.

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  2. 2. Jennifer Ouellette 7:59 pm 12/6/2011

    Emily, one of the last to be cut was one of yours. It really hurt. A lot. :)

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  3. 3. jasongoldman 8:15 pm 12/6/2011

    What a list! I know how hard the editing process is – how much more impressive, then, this awesome example of the incredible variation and diversity within the science blogosphere.

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  4. 4. Shecky R. 8:33 pm 12/6/2011

    huh, what? nothing from Sean Carroll, how can that be (biased judges no doubt)??? ;-)

    but seriously, can you maybe explain what the limiting factor is for “51″ posts — just some sort of production/financial limitation or something else?

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  5. 5. Jennifer Ouellette 8:45 pm 12/6/2011

    Open Lab has always had 50 posts and one poem. Yes, it keeps the anthology to a reasonable size. And page count/word count is even more important now that it’s being published by FSG/SciAm Books.

    Sean did have a post make it to Round 2. He asked me to remove him from consideration as well. :)

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  6. 6. edyong209 9:18 pm 12/6/2011

    I’m pretty sure that I’ve paid money for around a fifth of these ;-)

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  7. 7. KDCosta 9:42 pm 12/6/2011

    Thanks for the work you’ve done, Jennifer. Hopefully, the cover can still be a surprise ;-)

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  8. 8. kclancy 10:05 pm 12/6/2011

    Thank you Jennifer! I am flattered and honored to be among such company. And I agree with Emily, this is a pretty amazing list of posts, most of which I have read before, and look forward to reading again in this anthology. Thank you for all your hard work!

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  9. 9. mutantdragon 1:03 am 12/7/2011

    An impressive list indeed; and I feel honored to be on it (especially given the quality of the competition!) It’s remarkable to see quite how much writing talent we have in the science blogging community, and how diverse it’s become.

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  10. 10. Ricardipus 12:59 pm 12/7/2011

    Goodness me there is some amazing stuff in that list. Not quite sure how I managed to be in such elite company but thanks to everyone who slogged through the 720 entries.

    And there I was, all prepared to keep mum until January. Cat’s out of the bag now. ;)

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  11. 11. cwolverton 1:18 pm 12/7/2011

    Great collection of good writing. In the process of clicking through the list, I noticed that several of the links above are broken (specifically, 9, 19, 36, 37, 43, 48, and 51).

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  12. 12. CM doran 10:33 pm 12/7/2011

    Thank you for your reading…I am honored, truly, to be in such great company. I can’t wait to read all the finalists–have some at this point.

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  13. 13. Jennifer Ouellette 3:27 pm 12/8/2011

    Going to fix broken links now. Not sure what happened there….

    Link to this

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