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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

5 Things I’ve Learned From One Year of Blogging

May 30, 2011 3 comments

Happy Anniversary! A Quantum of Knowledge went online one year ago today!

It seems like the older you get, the shorter the years get. Because it certainly doesn’t seem like a year since I started blogging.

But it has been. 312 posts. 63,000 hits. Not to shabby :)

From what I’ve read, the majority of blogs die out in the first few months after creation. So how do you keep it going?

There are a few tidbits I’ve picked up over the past year that have not only kept me blogging, but kept me loving blogging.

1. Write about what YOU find interesting.

Too often I find myself trolling the news trying to find stories that I think others might be interested in. But this inevitably causes problems.

First, if I don’t find the subject interesting, I’m not going to do a good job writing about it.

Second, you never know what people will find interesting. If you try to pick topics based on what you think people will like, you are just playing a guessing game.

Stick with what you know. Because if you write about things you like and you find fascinating, you will write great posts that people will want to read and share with their friends.

2. Post OFTEN!

It doesn’t have to be a long post. If you are busy, treat your blog like a Twitter feed. Or just post a video you thought was funny. Just post SOMETHING!

Regular posts not only keep your readers coming back, but they keep you in the habit. Just like an exercise routine, you need to keep it up regularly in order to make it a habit.

After you keep a regular schedule for a few weeks, it will be a cinch to continue posting all the time!

3. Talk about yourself

Even if you write your blog anonymously, you should still talk about yourself.

What are your personal feelings on an issue? Have you been happy or sad lately? Did you just go on vacation? If so, where to?

In my case, even though I blog about science, I’ve found that some of my most popular posts were actually about me and not science news.

Whether it be where I spent my weekend, or my Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies, people seem to like hearing about my life. And I’m happy to oblige them.

Not only that, but I’ve found that personal anecdotes do wonders when trying to explain a complicated subject. Inserting a funny personal story into a technical post makes it much more readable.

4. Don’t be afraid to take a break now and then

If you haven’t blogged in a while, it can feel like a weight on your shoulders. You start to think,

“I haven’t posted in a while. I really should…but Dancing with the Stars is on…”

And the more days you miss, you more you feel like you should blog. But when you start feeling like you should, you really don’t want to.

So my advice? It’s ok to miss a few days of blogging. It’s even ok to miss a week or two. In fact, you should probably put the blog aside on purpose every now and then so you don’t get burned out!

And if you’ve intentionally taken a break from blogging, you will soon find that you miss it. You will want to blog again.

5. Do it because you love it

“Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.”
— Richard P. Feynman

The same goes for blogging. In my case, spreading the word about good science or disparaging pseudoscience may be in the best interest of the public; but that’s not why I do it.

I do it because I love writing. I love writing about other things that I love. Science, video games and other geekery, it’s all good.

And if you enjoy the fact that you are blogging, it will show through in your posts. People will be drawn to come back and keep reading your stuff.

So that’s it. That’s what I’ve learned. I hope you all have enjoyed the blog so far, and I hope you continue to enjoy it!

Editor’s Selection!

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

From xkcd.com

And I don’t mean to toot MY own horn, but my post “Redefining the Kilogram” was chosen as an “Editor’s Selection” at ResearchBlogging.org!

Maybe I’m not too bad at this blogging thing after all. :)

 

Simple Writing Exercise Boosts Grades of Female Physics Students

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Although men and women are equal in their abilities concerning math and physics, women still seem to lag a bit when it comes to grades in the Physics classroom.

Consider the classroom of Akira Miyake from the University of Colorado. Female students got grades, on average, 10% lower than male students. A significant difference. Miyake knew that this had nothing to do with ability, so how does one fix it?

Well he tried a technique that had been shown to increase the exam scores of black students in American high schools. These students were victims of the “stereotype threat“, which is when an unfair stereotype is applied to a group to which you belong (i.e. black students do worse in school than white students). However, after utilizing a technique called “values affirmation”, the scores of the black students dramatically increased. In fact, the increase was greatest amongst the poorest students. What happened?

The technique involves a writing exercise in which the student writes a few sentences about their core values (family, religion, creativity etc.) and write why those values are important to them. The exercise takes no more than 15 minutes. This was done twice at the start of the school year, and the results show a large increase in the students scores.

So could it work for women too? Women also suffer from the unfair stereotype that they are not as good at math/physics as men. Therefore, they don’t have as much confidence and don’t do as well. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But Miyake did an experiment. He divided his introductory Physics class into 2 groups, with equal amounts of males and females in each group.

At the start of the year, he asked Group 1 (the “values affirmation” group) to write about their core values and why they are important to them. He then separately asked Group 2 (the “control” group) to write about the values of someone else and why they might be important to another person. Both groups were told that this was an exercise in writing ability, not physics grades.

He then compared the results of the 2 groups with their final marks in the course, as well as how well they did on the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE), which is a standardized test about basic physical principles. These were the results:

As you can see, the women’s scores increased, whereas the men’s scores remained largely unchanged.

This is quite a result. With a simple writing exercise designed to instill confidence and reduce the effect of the stereotype threat, exam scores in the class increased by an average of about 5%, and about 13% for the FMCE.

So what we find is that it’s not enough to debunk the myth that men are better than women at physics, we have to get women to believe it as well. To believe in themselves.

Why am I so interested in this issue? I have written about it a couple of times. Mainly because it frustrates me. I tutored during my time in University and many more girls asked for tutoring than guys, because they didn’t do as well. This was mainly because, in my opinion, they simply didn’t have as much self-confidence when it came to the exams.

“I’m no good at Physics, I just want to pass,” was a phrase I heard more than once.

“No, you will not just pass,” I told them, “you will do well.”

But making them believe it was tough, because of all the stereotypes they no doubt encountered through their lives. So I would tell them about these kinds of studies, how girls are just as good as guys at science/math. I even told them how I came in 3rd place in my senior year research project class. 1st and 2nd place went to two girls.

So it’s an uphill battle, but progress is being made. If I ever have a daughter, you can be damn sure she will not grow up thinking that she is not as good as guys at science or math.

Who Do I Blog Like?

September 12, 2010 Leave a comment

I read about this website which analyzes the text of your blog on Blag Hag and decided it would be fun to do my blog. Here are my results:

Text Analysis:

aquantumofknowledge.wordpress.com is probably written by a male somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and upset most of the time.

Hmm…apparently I’m an old man at heart (being only 25).

Am I really upset most of the time? Yeah ok.

I am happy with the balance between personal and academic content. But 66-100 years old? Really?

If you have a blog you should give this a try. What are your results?

Categories: Me Tags: , , , , , ,

Extra! Extra! Bad Science Writing!

June 10, 2010 Leave a comment

It seems I’m not the only one who thinks Science reporting has gone way downhill.

This week, the Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Otis Brawley, wrote to CNN expressing his concern over the quality of science writing.

Dr. Otis Brawley

He cites the problem of medical conferences increasingly becoming venues for medical companies to showcase their products. Investors are always looking to put money into a potential cure to who-knows-what, so these companies over-hype their product with scientific studies.

The findings of these studies are often overblown, and then get picked up by the media. We can all relate to these sensationalized headlines…

It seems almost every week there is a headline that reads: “Chocolate Cures Cancer, study finds”. So we gorge ourselves on chocolate, until the following weak when the headline reads: “Chocolate causes Cancer, study suggests”. Scary.

Brawley thinks that the recent economic downtown has led to the layoff of many experienced science reporters, to be replaced with fresh out of school interns who don’t know ass from elbow (I paraphrase).

Enthusiastic writers latch onto the overblown claims of medical companies and report upcoming cures for breast cancer, AIDS vaccines etc.

Although not technically wrong, these goals are well into the future and in many cases have only been observed in mice or other lab animals, which unfortunately do not often translate well to human physiology. These details are, of course, left out of the newspaper article.

So the public is getting misled and getting their hopes up about new cures and treatments to every ailment under the sun.

If such a prominent physician is starting to notice the horrendous scientific reporting that has been occurring, then it is certainly time for a change.

Luckily, thanks to technology, there is a hope. One of the greatest resources for scientific news and commentary is the Blogosphere. There are innumerable science blogs out there from those more credible than yours truly, who really care about their topic of expertise and would love nothing else than for you, the layman, to read their opinions and gain some more scientific knowledge for yourself. A few of my favourites are Science-Based Medicine, Bad Astronomy and NeuroLogica.

Its all out there, and its free with your internet access. Use it.