The Alder Grove

"In my sleep thought that I was standing in an alder grove of the straightest and fairest trees which the heart of man could think of or imagine."

Feeding the Trolls

So, starting this year I decided to live life in a more honest fashion. It started with actually admitting, publicly, to being an atheist. And boy, did it go public...after Richard Dawkins retweeted my post about it. For a long time I stayed in the comfort of past pagan beliefs but never with an actual deity involved. That has never been a part of the picture, only a kind of nebulous "connective energy" in the natural world. But the world of science communicators along with Christopher Hitchens - The Four Horsemen - chipped away at that for a while and the cart was finally tipped over by Prof. Lawrence Krauss, as I've talked about in previous posts. My life hasn't been the same since, in a good way. Or at least an interesting way.

I don't do things in half-measures. And I respect those scientists, who are not only on the forefront of research, but those who spend their time communicating science to the public. The ones who are best at it, make you feel like you are a part of the conversation. Prof. Krauss had Mariette DiChristina on his last live ASU Origins broadcast this spring and she summed it up perfectly when she said the secret to communicating science isn't dumbing it down or making it's about inviting people in.

This year I am volunteering at The World Science Festival, co-founded by Brian Greene. Prof. Greene is an absolutely fantastic teacher of complex subjects who taught me, via his online classroom on World Science U, all about Special Relativity. It was weird and wonderful and he taught it SO well that I was captivated by it. After that I am going down to Washington DC to party with 30,000 or so of my new closest friends at The Reason Rally then continue the party with the scientists speaking at the event. That is what this year is bringing my way. And maybe, just maybe, next year will bring me to the ASU cruise with Prof. Krauss and Prof. Dawkins as we talk evolution and so much more whilst in the Amazon. 8 days with two people who absolutely changed my life and to whom I am so incredibly grateful that they put themselves out there, challenging those who would try and throttle scientific discovery and those who would undermine education. The abuse that they take from the public astounds me...both that people find it acceptable to malign those who push the science's boundaries and push against ignorance and intolerance. I am also amazed by how they handle the rancor that they get deluged with on the internet.

I dove headfirst into "discussing" matters with science trolls, creationists and IDers this year. Frankly, if I am now a part of this community than I'm in all the way. That people have no problem advertising their ignorance to the wide world of the internet is amazing. More than that though, it has deepened my respect for those who do this every single day. And have been for years, decades even! I honestly don't know how they can deal with the level of stupidity I've seen and not want to shake people. I asked Prof. Krauss about it on Twitter...

First of all, the fact that he puts up with me on Twitter is astonishing. I tend to...get uppity with people on his Twitter feed. It just sort of seems to happen. What can I say? He and Hitch have been a "bad" influence on me, lol. But even more than putting up with me, every so often we have snippets of conversation. And when he's had his live ASU events (which I adore), a lot of the time he uses a question that I tweet in. Last time, the event with Mariette, he actually mentioned me by name. I appreciate the fact that while he started to call me "a frequent twit", he changed it to "tweeter". I mean, both of those could be accurate. :) He's just so wonderful at making these events feel like an actual conversation more than a kind of staged event. I hope he knows just how much some of us appreciate everything that he does and the amount of time he spends doing this at the expense of his actual research.

So, just be warned internet trolls. You mess with "my" scientists - you and I have a problem. And even though I know that it is sometimes a useless argument, I feel it necessary to have the conversation because of others who may stumble across comment threads, and who might believe incorrect information on either a subject or a person. So bring it on.