Saturday, December 15, 2007

Best Science Blogs

What's the best science blog? According to the 2007 Weblog Awards, it's a tie between Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy and Steve McIntyre's Climate Audit. Over 50,000 votes were cast. When the voting officially closed, Climate Audit held a narrow lead, and Steve McIntyre's partisans began to celebrate. However, votes continued inexplicably to pour in, and eventually Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy surged into the lead. Well, actually it was quite explicable: there was a lot of cheating going on. Rather than spend days trying to sort things out, which was probably impossible anyway, Steve and Phil agreed to call it a draw.

So, voting aside, which blog is actually better? I've been reading both for quite a while. Bad Astronomy is pretty light fare. In his Intro, Phil writes
The Bad Astronomy web pages are devoted to airing out myths and misconceptions in astronomy and related topics.
He spends a lot of time on people who believe that the moon landing was a hoax, creationism, and astrology. I guess someone needs to point out this nonsense, but I find it a bit tedious after a while. Still, it's a quick read, and he intersperses it with interesting pictures of wildlife in his back yard, silly videos, etc. There's really nothing wrong with Bad Astronomy, but how it came to be a contender for Best Science Blog I have no idea.

On the other hand, Climate Audit is an amazing blog. It isn't a blog about science so much as actual science brought to you in real time. The mission of Steve's blog is to audit climate science: dig up the data, try to replicate the computations, look for mistakes, look for bad assumptions. A typical thread will start with Steve posting a few paragraphs about his attempts to replicate a calculation, and asking for help. What follows is astonishing: dozens of experts in various disciplines chime in with their ideas. Many of the big names in climate science drop in from time to time. The result is fascinating and often surprising.

I'll warn you that the going is often pretty heavy: I have a B.S. in math and a PhD in Computer Science, and some of it is not easy reading for me. But watching scientific theories being hypothesized, tested, critiqued, and modified in real time is surprisingly addictive, at least for me.

I don't know if Climate Audit is the best science blog on the web, but it's far more interesting than Bad Astronomy.

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