Looking for Some Feedback…

Hello, friends!

Years back, I got a compliment that was the absolute best compliment I’ve ever received.  A close friend said to me: “You make me want to go learn stuff.”

Obviously I love science and space exploration best, but on a more fundamental level I love learning.  I love opening up my mind to find that the universe is a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more complicated than I could have possibly imagined it to be.

On this blog, I want to share some of the cool space and science stuff that I’ve learned.  I also want to make it easy for you to go learn more on your own, if you want to.  As a corollary to that, I also want to make it easy for you to fact check the things I say on this blog, because there’s way too much misinformation about science out there on the Internet, and I really, really, really don’t want to add to that problem if I can help it.

So it’s a little distressing to me when I get comments asking where I got my information from.  I’ve gotten a few such comments in the last month or so, which makes me think that I need to change up the way I cite my sources.  Currently, when I have a source I want to cite, I usually say something like “According to this paper” and make the words “this paper” a hyperlink to the paper in question.

That feels like a straightforward way to do it to me, but obviously that’s not working for everybody.  Would it be better if I did a sources cited section at the end of my posts?  Or is there something else I could do to make this clearer for readers (both regular readers and new people)?

Like I said before, I do not want to be responsible for spreading misinformation on the Internet.  But also, if you read something here on Planet Pailly and want to learn more, I want to make that as easy for you as possible.  Citing my sources clearly and easily addresses both of those concerns.  So how can I do that better?  Any and all feedback is welcome!

The Peril of Being Self Educated

Hello, friends!

As many of you already know, I blog about science, but I am first and foremost a science fiction writer (fingers crossed, soon to be a published science fiction writer!).

Back in 2010, I started this blog as a way to force myself to do the kind of research that I, as an aspiring Sci-Fi author, thought that I ought to be doing.  In the beginning, I really didn’t know much about science, except for some stuff I remembered learning in school.  And most of that stuff I remembered from school turned out to be wrong or, at best, only half true.

That’s one of the reasons I love being self educated.  Writing this blog has given me an opportunity to discover and correct many of the misconceptions I once had about science.  And my Sci-Fi writing has improved as a result.  I was recently looking over one of my old manuscripts.  So many silly misconceptions are on full display in that text.  Thank God that story never got published!

Another reason I love being self educated: doing deep dives on topics that I find interesting or that I think could be useful in my stories—topics like lithium mining, Troodon intelligence, or Venus’s unknown absorber.  The kinds of topics that never seem to get covered in school or that rarely get attention from the popular press.

I have, on occasion, surprised professional scientists with just how much I know about some weirdly specific topics.  And then I’ve surprised those same scientists with how much I don’t know about more ordinary, more generalized things.  That’s the peril of being self educated.  Your knowledge is splotchy, inconsistent.  You end up with these weird gaps in your knowledge, gaps that someone with a more traditional science education would not have.

And that’s why I keep blogging: because there’s still a whole lot I don’t know, and I’m sure I still have a lot of misconceptions in my head about science, and about other things too.  One thing I didn’t anticipate when I started this blog was how valuable a resource you, dear reader, would be.  You’ve asked me questions.  You’ve challenged me.  Some of you have pointed out my mistakes and suggested new avenues of research.

For that, I just want to say thank you, and please keep it up!

Next time on Planet Pailly, what if I told you Earth is not the perfect planet for life?