Friday, January 12, 2007

Talking physics in the social Web

I think Physics World magazine has got to be one of the best science publications out there - even if it is limited to members of the Institute of Physics who (luckily for them) get a copy in the post every month. Non-members are teased by the extracts that appear on physicsweb...

The January 2007 edition has a great selection of articles looking at modern science communication including some insightful analysis on how the so-called Web 2.0 is shaking things up. Blogs feature prominently with an article by Sean Carroll, co-contributor to reputedly the world's most popular physics blog, as well as an indepth analysis by Martin Griffiths called "Talking physics in the social Web" which makes the following points which I found very interesting:
While some may see them as vanity projects, physics blogs are starting to have a real impact on the way researchers communicate. For instance, several papers have already been published on that cite blog entries, demonstrating that blogs are becoming a bona fide channel for scientific communication.

Meanwhile, a debate about string theory that began in the blogosphere has recently been thrust into the spotlight, being widely reported in science magazines and picked up by national newspapers. The most outspoken critic of string theory, Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit, has used his blog Not Even Wrong to point out that string theory does not make predictions that can be tested by experiment, and that the status granted to the theory as the most promising approach to reconciling quantum physics with gravity diverts resources away from other alternatives.

His blog has sparked a fierce, and sometimes unexpectedly personal, debate, both in the comments posted on Not Even Wrong and on string theorists' blogs such as Luboš Motl's Reference Frame and Clifford Johnson's Asymptotia. Such slanging matches may not be typical of the level of discussion in physics departments, and cause one to wonder how much of the debate depends on the easy anonymity that such online forums offer. But, for better or worse, blogs have opened up a new form of discourse in physics that can – as it is carried out in such a public fashion – be propelled into a broader context in a way that a discussion at a conference, say, would not have been.

1 comment:

  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.