Every week I post a quick Q&A with one of our bloggers on the network, so you can get to know them better. This week, I chat with Charles Q. Choi from Assignment: Impossible.
Hello! Let's start with first things first. What is the name of your blog and why did you choose that name - what does it mean?
The name of my blog is Assignment: Impossible. It comes from how I use the blog to assign myself new and perhaps undoable types of stories — all part of how I want to use it as a laboratory to experiment with science writing. Also, given that Quixote is my middle name, I do have a certain affinity with the impossible.
Where does the artwork for your banner come from, and what are you trying to convey with it?
I created the artwork myself! It's derived from a 3-D model of M.C. Escher's famous "Relativity" created by Troy Whitmer under a Creative Commons license. I want to advance toward the impossible with this blog — why not have a space to reflect that?
Tell us more about yourself - where are you from, how did you get into science?
Was born in Hong Kong but have lived in New York City for nearly all my life — I started life standing in two worlds. Am that way too professionally, standing as I do in both science and letters. My father's a landscape artist and took me with him into the forest when I was a kid to take reference photos, so I grew up loving nature, seeing it as art and seeing how it worked. Science writing was the natural job for me.
How did you get into science blogging and science writing? What were the early influences on you regarding your blogging style and topics?
I got into science blogging by coming up with the idea for "Too Hard For Science?", a series where I ask scientists for research they would think could answer key questions but might be impossible to carry out for any number of reasons, be it physical or financial or moral. That gave me the foot in the door to try any number of equally zany experiments in science writing.
In terms of my blogging style, my main influence would probably be nearly everything I've done in journalism before the blog, in the sense I want to go as far away from it as I can within reason. I originally thought of journalism as a way to later get into writing, much as Twain or Hemingway or countless others have. The problem is that while I love journalism, it's by necessity drummed out a lot of vital skills needed in writing fiction. (Making stuff up is generally frowned upon in journalism but is kind of key in fiction.)
What is your blog about? Who is your target audience, and why do you think people should read your blog?
My blog is about exploring what science journalism can be about. My target audience is anyone who wants to find something they didn't even know they were looking for before they came across my blog and who can't wait to read more. I hope people will come to read my blog because they'll find I'm writing about science in a way they haven't seen before.
Anything else interesting about you, perhaps cool hobbies?
I spend a lot of time cooped up in my home office interviewing people in faraway places, and so my escape from that involves voyaging to distant locales. I've climbed three mountains and an iceberg in Antarctica, bungee jumped in a tropical valley in Nepal, partied in Rio during Carnaval, hiked up Kilimanjaro, camped in the Outback, dug around Mayan ruins in Belize, been inside the sarcophagus of Chernobyl, and if there's a way for me to get a ticket to space, I'm there.