Cambridge, Mass., isn’t simply the home of top research universities like MIT and Harvard. Acre for acre, the Kendall Square area around MIT boasts the highest density of academic, corporate, and startup R&D activity in the world. The Brookings Institution calls Kendall Square “today’s iconic innovation district.” All of which makes it the perfect setting for ScienceWriters2015, coming to MIT Oct. 9-13. Also, NASW and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing will host the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) in fall 2017 in San Francisco.
Sam Leith bemoans the current state of non-fiction publishing, with its fondness for sweeping "big ideas" books: "We have a flock of books arguing that the internet is either the answer to all our problems or the cause of them; we have scads of books telling us about the importance of mindfulness, or forgetfulness, or distraction, or stress." But he identifies a silver lining in "what looks like a golden age of publishing for, of all people, the university presses."
Shadi Rahimi writes that the news media and the public at large are using fewer hashtags in social media. She attributes the shift to their overuse and the ethical issues they sometimes pose: "You might have thought that by tweeting #CallMeCaitlyn last week you were guaranteed engagement. Perhaps, as the hashtag was trending up. But a quick glance at Topsy near the end of the day showed 'Caitlyn Jenner' as a keyword set on Twitter was trending higher than the hashtag."
Edward Abbey took a job at Arches National Monument in the late 1950s and a decade later produced Desert Solitaire, a meditation on the external and internal landscapes he examined that summer, Maria Popova writes: "Abbey’s writing is both a form of spiritual sustenance and a feat of conservation — for, being human and thus solipsistic, unless we appreciate the value of these experiences to our inner lives, we are rarely moved to honor their sacred value to all life."
Did last Tuesday seem like a long day? It wasn't your imagination. Tabitha M. Powledge explains why an extra second was added to that day, and others from time to time: "Leap seconds have been inserted into our timekeeping 25 times, at first nearly annually. But, also for reasons not completely understood yet, it’s happened much less frequently since 1999." Also, New York Times science writer Gina Kolata wins praise for a series on new developments in cardio medicine.
A Duke University team is spending the summer experimenting with "structured journalism," an approach that breaks down news into continuously updated data fields, Laura Hazard Owen writes. The project is led by PolitiFact founder Bill Adair, who says: “It’s hard to measure how many hours of a reporter’s time are wasted writing a paragraph about things you have written before. When we get accustomed to it, I think it will actually save reporters time and readers time.”