Profile of Deborah Blum

1 minute read

The Guardian interviews my University of Wisconsin-Madison colleague and friend, Deborah Blum, on what inspires her to write about science: “Deborah Blum on science writing: I’m a neurotic over-researcher”.

Or to give you another, more recent example, consider the complex chemistry and biology of plants. It sounds like a dust-dry topic but I love being able to demonstrate that it's wholly fascinating. So stories about plants run like a theme through my Wired blog: the chemical reasons that chocolate is poisonous to dogs, the way that rice plants have an affinity for arsenic, for instance. Or the surprising way that grass plain old grass in a Texas field can in conditions of stress, actually generate hydrogen cyanide and kill cattle.
The grass story reminds me of a point that the 19th century psychologist-philosopher William James liked to make. What science shows us, time and time again, is that the real world is a fantastical, wonderful, impossibly complicated piece of work and "nature is everywhere gothic". When I'm aiming high, I like the idea of being a kind of "gothic science writer" in the best Jamesian sense!

It’s a great interview with many useful thoughts about how to take your writing to a higher level of interest and depth.