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What is: Open Laboratory 2011

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


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The Open Laboratory is the annual anthology of the best writing on science blogs. Yes, this is an actual, physical book, printed on paper.

The aim of the book is twofold: first, to showcase the quality of science blogging to the audience that does not read blogs and perhaps has a negative opinion of blogs due to the anti-blog propaganda in the mainstream media, and second, to build and strengthen the science blogging community.

The idea for the compilation came from a discussion between Anton Zuiker and a representative of the online book publisher Lulu.com. They were trying to find a fun and useful way for the company to sponsor the first ScienceOnline conference (then called Triangle Science Blogging Conference). As it was late December 2006 there were only about four weeks left until the conference, so they thought there was not sufficient time to collect and publish such a book and have it ready in time for the meeting.

But I thought it could be done if the project was completely crowdsourced. I posted a call for submissions on my blog and e-mailed hundreds of science bloggers asking them to recommend either their own or other people’s best posts which they promptly did. I then asked several science blogging friends to help me read and evaluate all the entries. This narrowed the field from 218 submissions down to 62. Out of those 62 finalists, I picked 50 essays, making sure that different areas of science, as well as different formats and styles, were represented in the final version. I contacted the authors and, with huge help from Anton Zuiker on the technical side of things, put the book together and had it published just in time for the first Conference. You can buy the first edition here.

The book was an instant success – both among the bloggers and in reviews published in several media outlets and journals (including in Nature). It became obvious that this had to become an annual project. But it was also obvious that this project is too big for one person to handle alone.

Thus, for the second anthology, I asked Reed Cartwright to act as the 2007 guest editor. The number of entries doubled, so his help in setting up the technology for submission, judging and sorting the entries was invaluable. His technical skills also made the book look much better. Thus, the second book was born. You can buy it here.

In 2008, guest editor Jennifer Rohn brought her editorial skills (as well as skills in persuading several other people to help) to produce an even more professionally edited and prettier book – you can find it here.

For the 2009 edition, guest editor SciCurious refined the judging method further and the result was, again, a great improvement. You can see it for yourself here.

For the 2010 book the guest editor was Jason Goldman who brought in incredible energy into the project and had to deal with the largest pool of entries to date – 900.

The sixth edition, for which the entries are being compiled now, will be published by a real publisher – Scientific American Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Thus, some of the dates and deadline will have to change, but the result will be a professionally produced book which will also get proper marketing and will thus hopefully sell more copies than it is possible to sell via Lulu.com. This year’s editor is Jennifer Ouellette.

It is now expected by the science blogosphere that I post the full updated listing of all the submissions every Monday morning. This serves as a reminder for bloggers to submit their (and other people’s) posts, and to some extent prevents duplicate entries. But most importantly, it presents a growing listing of some of the most exciting work on science blogs. This is a weekly post where bloggers can discover each other and discover blogs they were not previously aware of. Thus it is also a promotion for all the bloggers involved.

The complete transparency of the process and the community involvement in the entire project are the biggest strength of it. Everyone in the science blogging world feels a little bit of pride in it and a little bit of ownership in it. Competition is tough, but everyone is very sportman-like when the final winners are announced in late December or early January, everyone congratulates the winners and everyone helps promote the book to their friends and families. Thus the project serves both as a glue for the community and as a means for the community to promote itself to the people outside of it, including people who are not online at all. Thus both the science and the world of blogging gain new readers from the project.

The submission form for the 2011 edition of Open Lab is now open. Any blog post written since December 1, 2010 is eligible for submission.

We accept essays, stories, poetry, cartoons/comics, and original art.

Once you are done submitting your own posts, you can start looking at the others’, including on aggregators like ScienceSeeker.org, Scienceblogging.org and Researchblogging.org.

You can buy the last five annual collections here. You can read Prefaces and Introductions to older editions here.

Help us spread the word by displaying these badges (designed by Doctor Zen):

<a href=”http://openlab.wufoo.com/forms/submission-form/”&gt<img src=”http://coturnix.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/open_lab_2011_150x100.png”&gt</a&gt

<a href=”http://openlab.wufoo.com/forms/submission-form/”&gt<img src=”http://coturnix.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/open_lab_2011_300x200.png”&gt</a&gt

Or take the Open Lab 2011 submission bookmarklet – Open Lab – and drag the link to your browser’s toolbar to have it always handy as you browse around science blogs.

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538 Refugees: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords: Lessons About Traumatic Brain Injury
538 Refugees: In the Wakefield
538 Refugees: Tales of Big Pharma: Synagis™ (Palivizumab)
538 Refugees: Science Marches On
538 Refugees: A Cure for AIDS, But at What Cost?

A Blog Around The Clock (guest post on SA Observations): Circadian clock without DNA–History and the power of metaphor
A Blog Around The Clock (guest post at SA Observations): The line between science and journalism is getting blurry….again
A Blog Around The Clock (guest post at SA Guest Blog): Me and the copperheads–or why we still don’t know if snakes secrete melatonin at night

A leaf warbler’s gleanings: Tigers Are Less Important Than Warblers

Action-Reaction: Pseudoteaching: MIT Physics

Aetiology: Pigs with Ebola Zaire: a whole new can o’ worms
Aetiology: Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS): history and implications

Almost Diamonds: Rape Myth #1: She’s Probably Lying
Almost Diamonds: Sex, Science, and Social Policy

Ambivalent Academic (guest post): An Optic Cup in a DISH

American SciCo: Science Online Will Change the World

Ancient Shore: The Beatles and the Cambrian Explosion

Anecdotes from the Archive: Protect yourself from the confidence man’s moonshine

Anna’s Bones: A Reason to Smile

Anthropology in Practice: Unraveling The Fear o’ the Jolly Roger
Anthropology in Practice: Power, Confidence, and High-Heels
Anthropology in Practice: The Social Functions of Blushing

The Artful Amoeba: Mosses That Move and the Rocks They Reveal
The Artful Amoeba: Bombardier Beetles, Bee Purple, and the Sirens of the Night

The Atavism: The origin and extinction of species

Beaker: Four Ways Patient Advocates Help Drive Research
Beaker: Setting the Record Straight on Meiosis
Beaker: Seeing is Believing

Beatrice the Biologist: Your cold symptoms are your fault

The Biology Files: Autism, RORA, and testosterone
The Biology Files: Sex, gender, and gender identity

Body Politic: Why pregnant women deserve drug trials
Body Politic: Cell phones, Cancer, and Scientific Oversimplification
Body Politic: A close look at the plastics industry’s spin on BPA

Boing Boing (Lee Billings): Incredible journey: Can we reach the stars without breaking the bank?
Boing Boing (Maggie Koerth-Baker): Nuclear energy 101: Inside the “black box” of power plants

Boundary Vision: Objectivity and ambivalence: The case of the Apollo scientists
Boundary Vision: Arsenic, cold fusion and the legitimacy of online critique

Bug Girl’s Blog: Will Brazilian Waxing Make Pubic Lice Extinct?

The Bunsen Boerner: Chemistry: this shit’s important

Clastic Detritus: The Long Beat of Rhythmic Sedimentation

Clear Sci: SOS: Save our Science – Last minute Christmas

Confusedious; a science blog: Genetic diversity and ecosystem recovery; there is more to biodiversity than species count.

Context and variation: Iron-deficiency is not something you get just for being a lady
Context and variation: Even when we want something, we need to hide it.

Cosmic Variance: Physics and the Immortality of the Soul

Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings: The danger of appealing stories: anecdata, expectations, and skepticism

The Curious Wavefunction: Better extraterrestrial communication through chemistry: What do aliens want?
The Curious Wavefunction: How can we make the International Year of Chemistry successful?
The Curious Wavefunction: Aliens, arsenic and alternative peer-review: Has science publishing become too conservative?

Dangerous Experiments: On Beards, Biology, and Being a Real American

Deep Sea News: DON’T PANIC: Sustainable seafood and the American outlaw
Deep Sea News: How To Cuddle Your Lady Right, by Smoove A
Deep Sea News: Inside the Outside

Denim and Tweed: Evolution’s Rainbow, from sparrows’ stripes to lizard lesbianism
Denim and Tweed: An adaptive fairytale with no happy ending
Denim and Tweed: How can you tell if a plant is carnivorous? Feed it!

Design. Build. Play.: Computers and the Homeless
Design. Build. Play.: Design Fridays: That’s a big prop
Design. Build. Play.: Future of Spaceflight: No single point sollution

The Digital Cuttlefish: BART Bugs! (poem)

Dinner Party Science: Who’s afraid of the Universe?

The Dispersal of Darwin: Sir Charles?
The Dispersal of Darwin: Distilling “History of Science” to 140 characters…

Dot Physics: The Physics of a High-Speed Crash: 70 MPH vs. 85 MPH
Dot Physics: Here is an Awesome Moon Model
Dot Physics: Where Does the Carbon Come From?
Dot Physics: How To Brute Force a Car Talk Puzzler

The Dragonfly Woman: Ode to an Odonate on Valentine’s Day (poem)

Drugmonkey: Pick ‘em (poem)

Dr. Carin Bondar – Biologist With a Twist: Reflections on Biology and Motherhood: Where do Homo sapiens Fit In?
Dr. Carin Bondar – Biologist With a Twist: Mark Burnett VS Charles Darwin in an Epic Battle of Immunity

Clevelandpoetics: Dunkleosteus: three haiku (poetry)

Electron Café: Scientific Process Rage (cartoon)

Empirical Zeal: What it feels like for a sperm

Endless Forms: Woolly Bats Use a Carnivorous Roost

Endless Forms Most Beautiful: An Unlikely Heroine

Engineer Blogs: Noise of Aviation

The Euroscientist: Pivot points – The big cheese and the director’s cut
The Euroscientist: Political will closes our eyes

The Excuses I’m Going With: Up Malaria’s Sleeve
The Excuses I’m Going With: The New Madrid Seismic Zone: Much Ado About Something … Unexpected
The Excuses I’m Going With: Species Assault is a Go
The Excuses I’m Going With: Shaky Reasoning

Faraday’s Cage is where you put Schroedinger’s Cat: A shocking experience
Faraday’s Cage is where you put Schroedinger’s Cat: Moonscape Reminder: Owens Lake

The Febrile Muse: Human Papillomavirus: Driving Ms. HeLa, Henrietta Lack’s Cells
The Febrile Muse: Scientific Literacy in Children: Building the Basics

From The Lab Bench: Hiding Place for the Artsy-Scientist
From The Lab Bench: Out of Hiding: The Artsy-Scientist’s Mid-life Crisis
From The Lab Bench: We Want More Science, said the American Public
From The Lab Bench: The Science of Chocolate
From The Lab Bench: Life, Death, and Silver Bullets

Genegeek: Can sport teach science about excellence?

Genomics, Evolution and Pseudoscience: It’s time to destroy our smallpox

Georneys: Geology Word of the Week: L is for Lithosphere
Georneys: Geology Word of the Week: O is for Ophiolite
Georneys: Technology Anachronisms in Science
Georneys: A Conversation with My Dad, a Nuclear Engineer, about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in Japan
Georneys: Bee-Bop the General Exam Bear
Georneys: A Million Random Digits
Georneys: Why are there Earthquakes and Volcanoes in Japan? In Response to: Magnitude 8.9 Earthquake & Tsunami in Japan

Guardian Science Blog (Scicurious) The postdrome: migraine’s silent sister
Guardian Science Blog (Karen James): Space shuttle launch: ‘I feel the percussive roar on the skin of my face’

Highly Allochthonous: Ten million feet upon the stair
Highly Allochthonous: A flood is a disaster when people are in the way

Inside Our Lab: A Letter from the Post-doc with One Foot in the Pipeline
Inside Our Lab: If At First You Don’t Succeed …

It’s Okay To Be Smart: On Beards, Biology, and Being a Real American (also here)
It’s Okay To Be Smart: “There’s no crying in baseball” . . . the status quo of Ph.D. programs?

Katie Ph.D.(ABD): A whole new RNA world
Katie Ph.D.(ABD): How do you solve a problem like a broken chromosome?
Katie Ph.D.(ABD): DNA origami gets curves

Kitchen Hacking: Blurring The Lines – Part I
Kitchen Hacking: I Want An Empty Waiting Room

Lealaps: The Dodo is Dead, Long Live the Dodo!
Lealaps: What Death Means to Primates

Labcoat Life: Should Extremely Preterm Babies Be Saved?
Labcoat Life: Science Blogs Are Good For You

Lamentations on Chemistry: On the pitfalls of science outreach to the public

Looking For Detachment: Deep Time
Looking For Detachment: Like caterpillars, crawling or marching…

The Loom: The Human Lake

The Lord Geekington: Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales

Lounge of the Lab Lemming: Dear Hypothesis

Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs: Scaphognathus crassirostris: A Pterosaur in the Historical Record?
Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs: Goertzen’s Case for the Historical Scaphognathus

Magma Cum Laude: Eruption rates at volcanoes

Mammoth Tales: Tabbert’s Sea-Mammoth

The Mother Geek: How “boner” is misleading: The science behind an erect penis
The Mother Geek: Science on the brain: Motor traffic and beads on a string

NeuroanthropologyHuman (amphibious model): living in and on the water
Neuroanthropology: ‘The last free people on the planet’
Neuroanthropology: Getting around by sound: Human echolocation

NeuroDojo: Indie spirit
NeuroDojo: Ptarmigans on ptreadmills

Neuron Culture: Free Science, One Paper at a Time

Neuropoly: The case of the man who couldn’t find the beat

NeuroPsydoctor8: Things were just simpler in the Dark Ages. Two Neuroscientific Challenges to Retributivism
NeuroPsydoctor8: Regarding Juvenile Comprehension of Miranda
NeuroPsydoctor8: Interested In Neuroethics and National Security? Well here you go:
NeuroPsydoctor8:
Y U NO (cartoon)

Neuroself: Jonah Lehrer is not a neuroscientist

Neuroskeptic: Where Papers Come From

Neurotic Physiology: Dinosaur Inspiration
Neurotic Physiology: In which Sci is WRONG, you guys. Follow up on bees and cell phones

Neurotribes: Woof! John Elder Robison, Living Boldly as a “Free-Range Aspergian”

Observations of a Nerd: Why do women cry? Obviously, it’s so they don’t get laid.
Observations of a Nerd: Reverse Bestiality: When Animals Commit Sexual Assault
Observations of a Nerd (guest-post on Nutrition Wonderland): The Truth About Organic Farming
How do you ID a dead Osama anyway?

The Occam’s Typewriter Irregulars (ricardipus): Genome sequencing, Shakespeare style
The Occam’s Typewriter Irregulars (ricardipus): Genome Assembly – a primer for the Shakespeare fan

Occ Psy Dot Com: Within boundaryless contexts, developmental relationships may positively impact upon optimism

Oh, For the Love of Science!: Zombie Ants and The Bite of Death
Oh, For the Love of Science!: Friday Weird Science GUEST POST: The distance between your testicles and your anus, ‘taint unimportant

One Small Step: A supermassive star, all by its lonesome
One Small Step: Churnalism: Bad for Science?
One Small Step: Modelling comets, kittens and the Universe

Oscillatory Thoughts: How to be a neuroscientist

Pharyngula: Dear Emma B

Phased: Black Women Perceived as Being More White Receive Judicial Leniency in the United States

PLoS Blogs Guest Blog (Delene Beeland): Saving Ethiopia’s “Church Forests”

Primate Diaries (at Times Higher Ed): Ariel casts out Caliban

Providentia: The Turing Problem (Part 1), The Turing Problem (Part 2) and The Turing Problem (Part 3) fused into a single essay.

Punctuated Equilibrium (guest post by Cath Ennis): The scientific method, in chromo-logical order

Quantum Diaries (US LHC): Helicity, Chirality, Mass, and the Higgs

Reciprocal Space: Numb or Numbered? – great comment section to edit and include.

The Renaissance Mathematicus: The Empty Building

RRResearch: Arsenic-associated bacteria (NASA’s claims)

Rule of 6ix: On the origins of smallpox – where and when did variola virus emerge?
Rule of 6ix: An ecological perspective on bat viruses
Rule of 6ix: The ‘interactome’ of a host/pathogen triad

Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week: Tutorial 12: How to find problems to work on

Scepticemia: Rifaximin in IBS: A Quick Fix?

Sciencebase: Can we count on journal metrics?

Science Business: HSBC Takes Climate Change Research to the Bank
Science Business: One Nation, Under Geeks

Sciencesounds: Cheerleaders, Rock Stars and Science Music: The Many Faces of Science Communication

Science with Moxie: The power of rock n roll.

Scientific American Guest Blog (Jeremy Yoder): The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Natural Selection and Evolution, with a Key to Many Complicating Factors
Scientific American Guest Blog (David Manly and Lauren Reid): Good Dads and Not-So-Good Dads in the Animal Kingdom
Scientific American Guest Blog (Bradley Voytek): What Bats, Bombs and Sharks Taught Us about Hearing
Scientific American Guest Blog (R. Douglas Fields): Curing Paralysis–Again
Scientific American Guest Blog (Kristina Bjoran): Animal emotion: When objectivity fails
Scientific American Guest Blog (Khalil A. Cassimally): Superfetation: Pregnant while already pregnant
Scientific American Guest Blog (Rob Dunn): Man discovers a new life-form at a South African truck stop
Scientific American Guest Blog (Allie Wilkinson): Seafood at risk: Dispersed oil poses a long-term threat
Scientific American Guest Blog (Scicurious): Serotonin and sexual preference: Is it really that simple?
Scientific American Guest Blog (Holly Menninger): Winter stoneflies sure are supercool
Scientific American Guest Blog (Karen James): Evolution isn’t easy, even in Galapagos
Scientific American Guest Blog (Emily Willingham): Of lice and men: An itchy history
Scientific American Guest Blog (Jennifer Frazer): Excuse me, Sir. There’s a moss-animal in my Lake
Scientific American Guest Blog (Melissa C. Lott): Texas “Tea” becomes the Texas “E”?
Scientific American Guest Blog (Brian Switek): Breaking our link to the “March of Progress”
Scientific American Guest Blog (Casey Rentz): How to stop a hurricane (good luck, by the way)
Scientific American Guest Blog (Anne-Marie Hodge): Carnivore crossing: How predator species dominated mammal diversity on the Kuril Islands
Scientific American Guest Blog (Kelly Oakes): Habitable and not-so-habitable exoplanets: How the latter can tell us more about our origins than the former
Scientific American Guest Blog (Christina Agapakis): Mixed cultures: art, science, and cheese
Scientific American Guest Blog (Kathryn Clancy): I don’t have a 28-day menstrual cycle, and neither should you
Scientific American Guest Blog (Rob Dunn): The top 10 life-forms living on Lady Gaga (and you)
Scientific American Guest Blog (Marie-Claire Shanahan): An arsenic-laced bad-news letter: Who is the audience for online post-publication peer review?
Scientific American Guest Blog (Holy Bik): A plea for basic biology
Scientific American Guest Blog (Andrea Kuszewski): Could chess-boxing defuse aggression in Arizona and beyond?
Scientific American Guest Blog (Rose Eveleth): Can you hear me now? Animals all over the world are finding interesting ways to get around the human din
Scientific American Guest Blog (Rachel Nuwer): When animals attack: Death databases indicate that our fondest phobias may be misdirected
Scientific American Guest Blog (David Manly): Biting the hand that feeds: The evolution of snake venom
Scientific American Guest Blog (David Manly): The Ferret Hunters
Scientific American Guest Blog (Dan Bailey): In search of the origins of warfare in the American Southwest
Scientific American Guest Blog (Daniel Ksepka): 5 things you never knew about penguins!
Scientific American Guest Blog (Robin Ann Smith): The worms within
Scientific American Guest Blog (Jennifer Frazer): Pimp My Virus: Ocean Edition
Scientific American Guest Blog (David Manly): Ugly animals need love, too
Scientific American Guest Blog (David Manly): Mirror images: Twins and identity

Seven Deadly Synapses: To Sleep, Perchance to Cause a Midair Collision
Seven Deadly Synapses: Liberally Thinking: Red Brain, Blue Brain
Seven Deadly Synapses: Iodine-131 in US Milk: Cause for Concern?
Seven Deadly Synapses: Seven Deadly Sins Sunday: Gluttony Part 3
Seven Deadly Synapses: Mother’s Little Helper, the Brainstem

Skulls in the Stars: The Saga of the Scientific Swindler! (1884-1891)
Skulls in the Stars: The birth of electromagnetism (1820)

Silvarerum: Chasing Daphnia: The Smallest Story on Earth

Sleeping with the Fishes: Self-Help for Seabirds: How to manage your time and outcompete your neighbors for maximum survival

Southern Fried Science: The Global Extinction Crisis – species area relationships, habitat loss, and population dynamics

Substantia Innominata: If you are a headbanger, you should listen to Céline Dion

Superbug: Diseases and borders: Potatoes and St. Patrick’s Day
Superbug: File Under WTF: Did the CIA Fake a Vaccination Campaign?
Superbug: E. coli: A Risk for 3 More Years From Who Knows Where

Tattooed Science: Sex and math: You can integrate my curves any day

Tetrapod Zoology: Necks for sex? No thank you, we’re sauropod dinosaurs

There and (hopefully) back again…: In the shadows of greatness

This is serious monkey business: Primate vaccines: help you to help me?
This is serious monkey business: “Bad-sad-bad” and other responses to death.
This is serious monkey business: Raison d’etre of the female undergraduate primatology blogger.
This is serious monkey business: Is habituation ethically permissible from a biocentric perspective?
This is serious monkey business: The Curious Case of the Present Hymen.

This May Hurt a Bit: “Don’t You Want to Know What I Used to Do?”

This View of Life: Elements of an Effective Public Education Toolkit
This View of Life: Narrating Science and Fear

The Thoughtful Animal: Defending Your Territory: Be Smelly, Be Fast
The Thoughtful Animal: Might Pleistocene Fido Have Been A Fox?
The Thoughtful Animal: Perseverating on Perseverative Error: What Does The “A-not-B Error” Really Tell Us About Infant Cognition?

Thoughtomics: We Are Nobody: Contingency and Convergence in Evolution

Thoughts from Kansas: Does meditation make people act more rationally?
Thoughts from Kansas: On interfaith outreach and atheists
Thoughts from Kansas: Biopunks, biohackers, and the movement to own your own DNA

The Tree of Life: The story behind the story of my new #PLoSOne paper on “Stalking the fourth domain of life”
The Tree of Life: A “work” trip to Catalina Island: USC, Wrigley, C-DEBI, dark energy biosphere, Virgin Oceanic, Deep Five, & more

Through the looking glass: What’s this public ‘engagement’ with science thing then?
Through the looking glass: A brief history of awesome

Tooth and Claw: Of Bad Odors and Good Yarns

Uncertain Principles: Science Is Not Irreducibly Complex

Uncharted Atolls: Crushing predators reinvade the Antarctic benthos

Universe: Moon Arts, Part Two: Fallen Astronaut

WhizBANG!: My Grandma’s Cure-All
WhizBANG!: An Active Study

Worst Professor Ever: Why Humanities People Should Care About Math

Yes Means Yes!: Gender Differences and Casual Sex: The New Research

YourBrainonDrugs.net: Welcome to the future of recreational drug use.





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