19 January 2011

Allow myself to introduce...myself

Hello dear reader,

Thank you for stopping by to check out my new blog, ‘+/- Science.’  It is intended as a general interest science writing blog, although the content will no doubt be colored by my own scientific interests—geoscience, chemistry, biochemistry and the like—and it may occasionally include posts that do not have an obvious connection to science.  (Although, in my opinion, connections to science, or at least the scientific method, can be found almost everywhere.)

A brief introduction…

My name is Tim Oleson.  Nice to meet you. [imaginary handshakes]

After spending a decade or so in science as a student and researcher, I’m transitioning to science writing.  Currently pursuing a Master’s degree in journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Bucky!), I was formerly a grad student in the Department of Geoscience, also at UW, where I completed an MS in 2005 and a PhD in 2009 while conducting research in the field of biogeochemistry (yes, that’s an actual field).  I never imagined myself as a career student, but that’s clearly how it turned out.  Please check out the About the Author page, if you’re interested in learning a little bit more about me.

Purpose of the blog…

I recently overheard an undergraduate say, while speaking to a classmate, that he tries to avoid real science as much as possible.  The two were discussing classes they had taken, or had considered taking, to fulfill university science requirements as painlessly as possible.

Now, I understand that everyone has his or her own interests, academic and otherwise, and perhaps the student was just being glib, but it brought a question to mind that has bugged me for some time.  At what point did learning about science become a chore akin to doing one’s taxes?  Sure, it might be fascinating to a small population (any CPAs in the crowd tonight?), but for most it’s to be endured only as long as is necessary.

Much of the beauty and (ahem) awesomeness of science lies in the satisfaction that comes from discovering the natural world for oneself.  The goal of this blog is to add another voice—hopefully a clear, knowledgeable and interesting voice—to the community of individuals and organizations whose aim is to excite public interest in and improve understanding of all things science.

What’s in a name?

I settled on the name ‘+/- Science’ for two main reasons.  First, it is an invitation to imagine how scientific research and discovery impacts our lives on a daily basis, and conversely, where we are headed if we minimize or neglect it.  Second, it is an acknowledgement that uncertainty, or error, is indisputably and unavoidably a part of the scientific process.  This error should neither be ignored nor exaggerated in the name of advancing agendas.  Rather, it should be soundly weighed when making judgments based on the preponderance of scientific evidence available.

But enough personal philosophy…like I said, my hope for the blog is to excite and inform!

I hope you enjoy ‘+/- Science.’  Please feel free to comment and make suggestions if you’re so inclined, and, of course, tweet, post, email, and link any posts to your heart’s content.  Participation is key.



  1. Excellent start, Tim. I love the section about "real" science and completely agree with it.

  2. Dearest Tim,

    We are currently in Jamaica, trying to make sense of the tectonic situation on the island. Reading your blog for the first time was grand. I look forward to your posts.


  3. Subscribed! Welcome to the Geoblogosphere!