Field of Science

Review of the Year

The time of the year has arrived, where we all collectively look back, and go, what the hell was that ?
 I remember starting this year, with the absolute certainty that it was going to be terrible. VAT increases, job losses, public service cuts. 2010 was a year of extreme worry.
My Blogger traffic statistics hates 2010 so much that it has been completely expunged from the timeline.

But the traffic statistics also tell another story.
When I started this blog, nearly five years ago, it was purely as a revision aid, to help me set down my thoughts about certain subjects that I was studying. I didn't seek readership, and naturally I didn't get any, Then I started my PhD, and promptly forgot the damn thing existed.
Then in November 2010, I found myself directed to "science of blogging", and once again , enthused, I decided to start a blog. And then I found that Memoirs of a Defective Brain was still here. Everything was just as I left it, even though it had been such a long time. All of the posts that I published, all of the drafts that I intended to publish, but never did. I blew out the cobwebs, tightened up the site design, and started writing posts for research blogging, and for the MolBio carnival.
And something weird happened. People actually started reading. Every spike in my pageview statistics correlated with a spike in dopamine.  Of course finding the time to write the kind of blog posts I wanted was (and still is) time consuming. Nevertheless, when the Blogmaster solicited applications for new bloggers to join field of science, I signed up. Probably one of my best decisions ever.
That big spike in my stats in August came from a collaboration of multiple bloggers, where we each discussed the question "Are we doomed ?", and we got some excellent and creative posts about how dangerous viruses, Uncontrolled populations, Incredible Human Stupidity, and the universe is in general trying to kill us. I drew a silly comic where everyone had funny legs.
And since then , I've managed to keep a minimum of about 1,000 page views per month. My proudest achievement has my series on the history of scarlet fever. These have been in the works for a very long time, with many spare moments reading centuries old papers on scarlet fever and streptococci finally paying off. I learned about characters like Johann Weyer, Daniel Sennert and of course Thomas Sydenham, all of whom were interesting in their own right, and each of whom played a role in the History of Scarlet Fever.
And the process of researching and writing for this weblog has helped me innovate my own research, and those of my colleagues. But that's a story I'd like to tell another day, when I (or my colleagues) publish on it.
But it was not all happiness and blog writing. In the wider world, the year was not always so great.

Greece was caught out on it's tax returns, revealing the fragility of the european constitution, and bringing us to the precipice. We still don't know whether the european single market will collapse, and what effect that will have on the UK, but it's out of our hands, since we vacated our seat at the table.
Riots and protests have erupted worldwide. And when these riots turned up on my doorstep, I was surprised, worried and (shamefully) slightly thrilled.
But that same swell of global anger has shaken the foundations of governments worldwide. The Arab spring is the story of the year, with the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan revolutions toppling dictators. And every blow was filmed, tweeted and blogged. The power of protest had been demonstrated, and suddenly others worldwide found their voice. If they weren't happy about the way things were, there was something they could do about it. Suddenly financial centres worldwide began to attract occupiers. The idea of popular revolution, remixed and spread throughout the world.
And this is why I have hope for the next year. As hard as times get, humanities propensity for innovation will prevail. The ability to take one idea, re-assess it, improve it and develop and progress is our greatest strength.
And I can show one event that demonstrated this incredible ingenuity, of people taking one idea, and making it their own.

So what do we expect for 2012 ?

More posts on Scarlet Fever's History. You can look forward to learning about great doctors, like Francis Russell Elkington, and Robert Storr.
More Phylomon ! I have been lacking in inspiration lately, but next year I hope to start drawing more bacteria.
And of course, we can expect the giant space god of the Mayans to come down and say "Hey, you guys need a new calendar ? We heard your last one ran out".
And London 2012 will be so bad that the world will end out of sheer embarrassment.

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