Science writing

Lagniappe is an enjoyable and well-written blog from medicinal chemist Derek Lowe. Recent entries include: discussion of ricin, the poison recently found in the possession of suspected terrorists in London; and a set of entries about thimerosol and autism, and the political issues of doing [potentially] controversial science.

Lowe has also recently commented on the occasional serendipity and satisfaction of doing research. New indexing and search tools are revealing literature that was previously unfindable and unknown. Lowe nicely suggests that these articles are not necessarily

"groundbreaking classics, but they're still valid work ... Some paper that sits composting quietly for years can suddenly turn out to be vital for another researcher who wasn't even born when it first appeared."
It's a sort of reassuring suggestion that, while the work we produce may not become the crux of a discipline, well maybe it will become useful or thought-provoking to someone.

Lowe also points out the odd satisfaction from leaning just how complicated a subject is. The same tools that make obscure-but-useful literature accessible also tend to make a given field of study harder to grasp; it's sometimes harder to find the foundational pieces until spending a good deal of time soaking up the material. At that point, we may not be closer to really "knowing" the field, but we can at least appreciate some of its puzzles. And then we can try to contribute some of our own.