wHAT kIND oF dOCTOR dID YOU SAY YOU WERE AGAIN?
The Governor of Washington promised me a tour of his state’s LIGO facility. I’m definitely going to hold him to that.
So – I’m a scientist. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time featured Death Mountain, a completely unrealistic volcano, but a volcano nonetheless. Combine that with parents that did all they could to encourage me/stop me melting things inside their house and get outside instead, an amazing pair of teachers at school, and a strong penchant for mischief, and boom, you’ve got yourself a volcanologist. Well, eventually. It took an MSci in geology (I hate rocks, but I love lava) and a PhD to get there, but I did it – and it was worth it just to be the strangest doctor of them all.
Yes, Doctor Who is incredible. Yes, I want a TARDIS more than anything.
It was a little bit unconventional. I went into a bit of self-imposed exile in New Zealand, a beautiful country at the (proverbial and literal) end of the world. I managed to simulate a mysterious eruption hundreds of years old, which was neat. There were artificial volcanoes built in New York; weird machines in Germany; puppies in an Arizona desert; helicopters in Japan.
An old friend and I made it to the top of Mount Fuji, at the height of the Perseids meteor shower, moments before the Sun rose and (hypothetically) saved our frigid souls from (not quite) death. It was glorious, confusing and full of all those things you call “emotions.” An experience, it all was.
I absolutely love science. So much so that, these days, I work for I Fucking Love Science as their Science & Policy Writer. I’m a Contributor to Forbes, where I somehow link the yakuza to science, and my work has appeared elsewhere, most often in Earther, Discover and WIRED. Don't get me wrong: research was fun – and terrifying, and weird, and wonderful and utterly exhausting – but after realizing that volcanoes and geoscience alone wasn’t the only science I was enthralled by, I jumped into science writing.
I’m always available for freelancing, as long as you can promise me the science is nothing less than delicious. Same for science consultancy, which I do for Outrageous Acts of Science, and for lecturing on science communication, which Imperial College – my old academic stomping ground – and UCL graciously let me do from time to time.
Sometimes, I appear at festivals (like Cheltenham’s annual foray), in schools and on stages in an attempt to make science funny. It’s like free therapy, in public. I’d recommend it.
Over the last few years, I’ve covered every kind of science imaginable, from bizarre quantum spookiness at the margins of black holes and the neurology of psychopathy to the artificial intelligence that invents itself. Stories on volcanoes, climate change, earthquakes, hurricanes, asteroids, dinosaurs and escaped animal tales always bring me disproportionate amounts of joy. Volcanoes and climate change are, if you'll excuse the pun, the hot topics I cover the most, though - but give me any kind of science, and I’ll endeavour to explain it to anyone who’s not a scientist. I'm also pretty efficient at squeezing science out of pop culture moments.
I also try to do all I can to highlight those defending research, and to show up those attacking it. I have the dubious honour of being one of the very first liberal snowflakes, which to me always sounded rather adorable.
Science is a marvel of the modern age, but there’s no point in writing about it if there’s no science left to report. So, from representatives to the governors of states, from Al Gore to Bill Gates, from Nobel prize winners to NASA’s new class of astronauts, from those behind the March for Science to upcoming Women in STEM, from the scientists running for Congress, from former members of the Environmental Protection Agency – they’ve been showcased.
So far, my articles have embarrassingly been read 270 million times. Every day’s a school day – but I’m doing my best to do something awesome. I’m also writing a book, because I clearly miss writing a thesis or something.
Direct all hate mail here. If you happen to be a delightful science-flavored snowflake too, the same applies. You can also find me on Twitter, fending off trolls, pushing back snark, and telling scientists and writers how cool they are.