Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Other Blogs for Historians of Science, #12: "Science Minus Details"

Historians of science have it so good, and historians of science also have it oh-so-bad. Obviously, studying and teaching the history of science is pretty awesome. However, when doing (reading, researching, 'riting) history of science we have to understand a lot of...actual science. You know, that thing we write the history of.*

*: Except those unreconstructed social-constructionist historians and sociologists of science.

Fortunately, there are other experts on science too, many of whom are more than happy to help us out in a bind. Many of these experts in science are called "scientists," or, as my friend, UW chemistry grad student, and science blogger Lee Bishop calls himself, a "professional science enthusiast." Lee's blog is helpfully called, Science Minus Details, and it offers exactly what it promises — unlike the titles of far too many historical monographs. Here is a taste, from "Dr. Licorice Explains Why Bisphenol-A is Scary".

"I recently made a chemical that smelled extremely familiar, but after numerous wafts, I couldn't quite tell what it reminded me of.

Me wafting the chemical I made.  The chemical is the tiny bit of brown oil in that small clear jar in my left hand.

This puzzle went unsolved for days until my labmate Michelle used some of the chemical and was like, "Lee, have you noticed how that chemical you made smells just like licorice?"

I was like, "OMG, you solved it!!!!"

Victory Licorice!!!

Go have a look! While you're at it, Lee also helps run Madison's own Nerd Nite, a monthly-ish gathering of...well, if you're even thinking of going, you probably have an idea of what it is already.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Environment & Society Portal

If you're on the H-Environment listserv, you probably saw the recent announcement about the Environment & Society Portal's exhibit on Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. It is a beautiful exhibit, and it inspired me to finally take some time to explore the rest of the portal. All I can say is: wow. This is an incredible resource for teaching. 

Even if environmental history is not one of your primary interests, please check this site out. Many connections with the history of science, medicine, and technology are visible on the site, making it easy to imagine how to integrate some environmental history into a history of science class, and vice versa. 
Woodcut from broadsheet: "The Great and Terrible Flood,"
January 1651, from the Portal's Multimedia Library for
environmental humanities

As more exhibits go up and more multimedia are added, I think it's going to be an exciting place to get ideas and materials for teaching. The three navigation tools––map viewer, timeline, and keyword explorer––make it easy to make new and interesting connections across time and space. Just looking at this site has made me daydream about designing my own global environmental history class. 

Anyway, I thought I would share this, since I'm not sure whether other HSM&T folks are aware of it. If you have found other websites useful for teaching (or ones you want to use in the future), or if you have specific ideas about how best to use a resource like this in the classroom, please share them in the comments! I'd love to have an ongoing discussion about this (happy hour, anyone?), but it would be nice to collect links here, as well. 
The Keyword Explorer links to articles
and multimedia throughout the Portal

Friday, May 11, 2012

From Jungle to Rainforest

This is just a quick post to share my review of Kelly Enright's The Maximum of Wilderness: The Jungle in the American Imagination, which was just posted on H-Environment, H-Net Reviews.

Becoming an H-Net reviewer is easy, and I highly recommend it. (Academic journals have a variety of book review policies. It's best to check a journal's website and contact the book review editor if you have questions.) It took several months before I was contacted to write a review, so don't delay contacting the appropriate H-Net editor if you are interested.

Writing a book review can be a rewarding experience. It allows you to take part in current scholarly discussions more rapidly than through articles or books, yet more formally than through a blog like this one. In particular, because H-Net publishes online, there is a very quick turnaround time. I also find that reviewing a book is helpful for clarifying my own ideas about the field. Because you have a responsibility to give the book a very close reading and produce a fair account, the process helps you achieve a better sense of your own interests and approaches, in addition to a deep understanding of the work you review. Of course, you also get a free* book!

*Not counting the time you spend writing!