Sunday, April 24, 2005

Baseball, Physics and Science Journalism

We're three weeks or so into the baseball season now, and although the Cleveland Indians are only third in the AL Central, with an unremarkable 8-11 record, I'm still enjoying the feeling of summer in the U.S. that baseball brings, and that I've blogged about before.

Much has been written about the physics of baseball, and I am certainly no expert on it myself. However, there is a fascinating article about pitching in the current issue of American Scientist, the science and technology magazine, published by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society. One of the authors, David G. Baldwin, seems like an interesting guy; according to his bio, he
"...pitched for the Washington Senators, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox during the 1960s and 1970s. Following a 16-year professional baseball career, he earned a Ph.D. in genetics and an M.S. in systems engineering from the University of Arizona."
This is exactly the opposite of the way I'm planning to do it, as soon as this rotator cuff problem eases up and my contract with the Physics Department softball team expires.

I'm a big fan of American Scientist. They do a disciplined and careful job of covering some of the most interesting issues in modern science. One reason for this is their wonderful editor, Rosalind Reid. Rosalind was the Journalist in Residence at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, when I was spending my sabbatical there in late 2003. She ran a number of fascinating seminars and workshops about various aspect of science writing, spent a lot of time talking to the scientists, and was generally a fun person to have around.

The Journalist in Residence program is a tremendous idea. Previously, I've gone on at length about the importance of serious science journalism, and I think that any way in which we can provide journalists access to scientists helps further this goal. The nice thing about the KITP program is that it also provides a forum in which scientists can learn a lot more about the process of science journalism, and science writing in general. In my experience, this helps scientists to be better writers themselves, and helps them to appreciate the processes that science journalists go through in deciding whether a story idea is interesting and topical.

Now, more than ever, with science under attack, we need opportunities, such as this, to train with our allies.
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