This blog reached a new milestone recently. For one, the total hit count for Puff the Mutant Dragon just broke 100K. There are now over 250 people following this blog via RSS feeds, email, etc, which represents a ∞% increase on the 0 people following when I started blogging. And while these numbers are small compared to some websites and blogs, they’re also a lot more than I could have expected. So I’d really like to thank all of you who’ve spread the word on Facebook, Reddit, Digg and so forth, and I’d also like to thank Newsweek and The Browser for linking to some of my posts. The only reason this blog has been able to grow is because you spread the word. Thanks again!
The other milestone is a more personal one. I’ve now been writing this blog for roughly a year (if you take into account the ~5 months where I had to quit blogging for a while). My goals and intentions have changed a lot over that period of time. I work in the biotech industry here in San Diego. When I started blogging, however, I was at a crossroads in my career path and exploring some non-traditional science related careers like freelance writing (which is a terrible way to make a living, BTW), and I thought maybe a blog would be a good addition to my writing resume or whatever. Well, it wasn’t. And I quickly realized that blogging wasn’t useful from a career perspective. But if writing an unpaid blog doesn’t advance my interests in any material way, then — why am I still doing it?
That’s not just a rhetorical question either. There’ve been several times over the past year when I decided to quit blogging because it was taking up precious spare time. So why the hell am I still writing this stuff? Am I just crazy?
Well, yeah, I’m crazy. You have to be, to write a science blog. But aside from sheer insanity, there’s a couple other things that keep me writing. I love science and I love sharing information. And I’m frustrated with the amount of misinformation out there. I’m frustrated with the way our culture portrays science, as this geeky and hopelessly complicated enterprise that’s best left to the experts because it’s the kind of thing only an Einstein can understand.
That’s not what science is about at all. You don’t have to be a scientist to think critically about scientific hypotheses and ideas. You don’t have to be a genius to understand chemistry or physics or biology at some level. Can it get complicated? Yeah, you better believe it does, because when you’re learning science you’re learning a different way to think about your world. But that different way of thinking is well worth learning, because it will offer you insights you’d never imagined possible before. It’s like what Jesse in Breaking Bad tells this girl about what it feels like for him to get high on meth. “Just a little gas in the tank and suddenly, everything is interesting. And I wish I could make that feeling last.”
For me, science is like my crystal meth. Because it makes everything so interesting.
Looking at the traffic report, the following 6 posts are the most popular I’ve written thus far:
1) Science on Crack, 1: The chemistry of illegal drugs
2) Science on Crack, 2: Walter White & cooking crystal meth
3) Does beer make you blush? or, why race is a myth
4) From salami to soda pop: what does toxic really mean?
5) Bubonic plague in America, Part I: LA Outbreak
6) Confessions of a Creationist: the making of a serial killer
By which it seems that everyone’s favorite topics are drugs, beer, poison, germs and Creationism. I’m not sure what all those things have in common, although I’m trying to figure out (and maybe once I do I can write a short simple blog post that incorporates all of them). In the meantime, though, I’ll continue the “Chemistry of Illegal Drugs” series. And that is where, fellow nerds, I have a question for you.
I originally planned to write about coke, meth, heroin and either psilocybin or LSD. I’m reluctant to write about marijuana for a couple reasons. For one, I think it should be decriminalized (just my personal opinion and feel free to disagree), so I’m reluctant to include it in a series on “Illegal Drugs”. For another, like many of us I have some personal experience with weed dating back to a younger and more foolish period of my life. (Before you start judging me, remember our current president did the same.) But the chemistry and biochemistry and so forth is interesting. So I’m going to add a poll here as soon as I can figure out how to get WordPress to let me do that. (Update: poll added, although I nearly deleted this post by accident in the process).
The question then is this. Do you want to know a little more about the science of weed? or is LSD more your cup of tea? or would you enjoy both? Feel free to vote if you feel so moved.