Physics professor writes for Wired

David Freese

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When he’s not lecturing a class on velocity and the motion of bodies, classical mechanics, the atomic nature of matter or Newton’s Laws, physics education Associate Professor Dr. Rhett Allain is writing for Wired, a monthly magazine that focuses on how emerging technology can affect culture and politics. Allain has been a part of Wired’s online blog since Sept. 14, 2010.

“I had a blog from before at ScienceBlogs, which is owned by Seed Media Group; they [have a] partnership with National Geographic now,” said Allain. “ScienceBlogs, has maybe 120 to 150 bloggers so Wired contacted me and said ‘We’re going to start our own blog section.'”

Wired was looking to create a smaller group of bloggers, branching out of ScienceBlogs, who could help specialize in specific fields of science.

“They tried to get a range of people who focus on biology, medicine, psychology, geology and physics,” said Allain. “I am the physics person.”

According to Allain, a subsection within wired.com, Wired Science, is a huge section by itself, containing several sub categories. These include: a geoscience domain called “Clastic Detritus,” run by Brian Romans of Virginia Tech; “Neuron Culture” run by David Dobbs; a section dedicated to disease outbreaks called “Superbug” run by Maryn McKenna; a genetics blog titled “Genetic Future” run by Daniel MacArthur, and more. Allain has his own section as well called “Dot Physics.”  

When blogging online, readers rarely shy away from commenting on scientific theories and sometimes give generous criticism or written slander.

“People are going to criticize you,” said Allain. “That’s a given, especially when you have something that becomes popular because lots of different people read it and are going to comment on it. They’re not always positive comments.”

Allain does admit that some complaints can be legitimate and help him improve his own work.

“I recently did a calculation of how fast rain would fall and I made the assumption that raindrops were raindrop-shaped, but it appears that’s not true,” said Allain. “So that’s a legitimate complaint and I agree with that.”

Allain understands that the average audience may not be well versed in the mechanics of advanced physics, he tries to voice his work in a way that anyone understand and walk away with new knowledge.

“I definitely focus more on what we call classical mechanics, which deals with forces and motion,” said Allain.

Allain has posted reports on topics ranging from “Why Do Mirrors Reverse Left and Right?” to “Can Bird Poop Crack a Windshield?” Some topics are more complicated than others, but Allain keeps his writings generic in order to maintain a larger audience and “engage with non-science people.”

In a recent article, “Do Artists Need Math,” Allain addressed the idea of college students who question their curriculum and ask, “Why do I have to take these courses?”

“I think that education should be about exploring the different aspects of what makes us human, which art is a part of that, science, music, literature; all of those things are very important,” said Allain.

Wired does not pressure Allain to post by deadlines, which allows him to enjoy science blogs and use his research for class assignments as well.

According to Allain, Wired has given him access to writing, a medium he never wants to lose.

“I just enjoy science blogs,” said Allain. “I enjoy talking to people so I would be okay with moving to another medium, but I still want to write. I always want to write.”

For more information on Wired or “Dot Physics,” contact Rhett Allain at 985-549-2894. “Dot Physics” can be viewed online at www.wired.com/wiredscience/

 

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Physics professor writes for Wired