At Scientific American's weekly editorial meetings, I'm often the loudmouth.
I usually try to get the last word in. When someone suggests writing a story about Google's Web-search glasses, I react from mid-viscera: "That's the worst tech idea that I've ever heard of." Maglev? A jobs program for Sputnik-era engineers. What about the manned space program? Let's not even go there.
My main responsibility at SA is neuroscience. But I also bring the median age up by about five years any time I enter the meeting room, so I've been exposed repeatedly to most of what the magazine covers, whether the topic is holographic universes or retrotransposons. That tends to make my tongue wag and my eyes roll more than they should when the editors convene.
One of the top editors noticing my willingness to readily chime in—and wishing perhaps to avoid the lengthy sidetracking that occurs as a result of my tangents—thought my energies might be better diverted toward something more constructive: like building Web traffic.
So here is my first entry for Talking Back, a personal take on things technologic, scientific and otherwise.
My goal is to share perceptions, biases and preferences—hence the name. These musings will range across the spectrum of subdisciplines, with more emphasis than not on the brain, which still occupies most of my attention. I would like to furnish second opinions, overlooked detail, even glib asides on what jumps out as I mill through the interminable flow of headlines, abstracts, interview transcripts, Twitter eructs and whatnot that assault my in-box, LCD and basal ganglia every working minute.
Naysaying will be part of it. But I also wish to avoid the tendency of too much science writing and commentary to adopt black-and-white categorizations in which a research finding is either dismissed as too trivial to notice or embraced as the latest wonder of gee-wisdom. Scrutiny is good. Science is no citadel. It only progresses by tearing itself down again and again. It is equally unnecessary, though, to bring down the force of a baseball bat to pulverize every new research finding into intellectual dust.
Talking back is what any blog should be for, not just this one. The good part here is that, unlike my colleagues in the weekly editorial meetings, you'll be able to turn me off whenever you so choose.