Author Archive

Final thoughts on The Giant’s Shoulders

June 16, 2014

This blog carnival changed the direction of my life.

As I post some final thoughts on The Giant’s Shoulders, it is important for me to note how significant it has changed my scientific interests, my friends, and even the direction of my career.

I started blogging at Skulls in the Stars in August of 2007, and my science blogging was initially directed towards modern optical topics.  While I was researching a post on Einstein’s relativity, however, I found that there was no detailed information about Fizeau’s 1849 experiment.  I hunted down the original paper, translated it (crudely), and posted it on my blog.

Going back to the original source was something of a revelation — there was so much detail present that was lacking in any modern telling!  This led me, on a whim, to “challenge” fellow science bloggers to dig up classic works in their own fields and blog about them.  Bora Zivkovic, at that time at A Blog Around the Clock, got wind of my challenge and broadcast it far and wide, leading to a healthy number of entries in the final event.

After that, Bora suggested that I push the challenge to be a regular event, in the form of a blog carnival!  I agreed, provided that he helped manage it at first, and The Giant’s Shoulders was born.  There was some debate over the placement of the apostrophe: is it multiple science “giants” or a single, metaphorical “giant?”  We went with the latter, though folks have interpreted it either way depending on their tastes!

As I said, the carnival, and the history of science, changed the course of my writing.  I’ve always had a bit of an interest in the history, thanks to my PhD advisor Emil Wolf’s own interest in the history of optics.  Blogging about it, however, introduced me to a whole new way to look at science, and introduced me to many new friends who study science history.  Now blogging about history is one of my favorite things to do, and I believe it has made me a better scientist.

Alas, running a carnival takes a lot of work, and can take away from personal blogging.  Furthermore, with the rise of social media and the spread of blog posts through it, the need for carnivals has dropped significantly, though there are many successful ones ongoing.  In July of 2010 I welcomed Thony Christie as a co-manager of the carnival, and sometime within the next two years he took over duties completely.  Last year, he decided that it was time to wrap things up, and I agreed… so here we are.

It has been a great six years, and I would like to thank everyone who contributed to and hosted the carnival.  I would like to give special thanks to Bora Zivkovic, without whom none of this would have happened.

And, of course, I would like to express my greatest thanks to Thony Christie, who has managed and co-managed the carnival with me for so long.

The final edition of The Giant’s Shoulders can be read at my main blog.  On to bigger and better things in the history of science!

The Giant’s Shoulders #56 is out!

February 17, 2013

The 56th edition of the history of science blog carnival, The Giant’s Shoulders, is up at The Dispersal of Darwin!  In this edition, you can read about:

  • How a (sort of) believer in ancient astronauts almost became U.S. President,
  • The searchers of the dead: the unappreciated 16th people who collected and inspected the bodies of plague victims,
  • Forgeries, lies, and deception in history,
  • Charles Darwin’s geological studies,
  • Macaque and dagger in the simian space race: how espionage and science crossed paths in early space exploration,
  • and much more!

Many thanks to Michael Barton for putting together a really interesting and large carnival!

We’re still looking for more hosts for the carnival, but next month I will host The Giant’s Shoulders at my home blog Skulls in the Stars, posting on the 16th!  Submissions can be sent directly to me via email, blog comment, or twitter.

The Giant’s Shoulders #53 is out!

November 16, 2012

The 53rd edition of The Giant’s Shoulders history of science blog carnival has appeared at The Scicurious Brain!  In this edition, you can read about:

  • How politics and hurricanes have collided as far back as the 1600s,
  • The historical “invasion of the body snatchers” epidemic!
  • THE HORRIFIC CARNIVOROUS MASTODON (that never existed),
  • and much more!

Many thanks to Scicurious for putting together an excellent and lovely edition of the carnival!

The next edition will be posted on December 16th at the Contagions blog, and as always entries can be submitted to the carnival organizers (Skulls in the Stars or Renaissance Mathematicus) or directly to the carnival host.

The Giant’s Shoulders #51 is out! Tales of Patriotic Science-Nerds, Vortex Cannons and Nuking the Goat

September 18, 2012

The 51st edition of The Giant’s Shoulders is up at the History of Geology blog!  As its title suggests, within the carnival you can read about:

  • Patriotic science nerd Thomas Jefferson, who defended America’s biological honor with a moose,
  • A very old physics demonstration which has led to some unusual possible applications: the vortex cannon,
  • The role of neurotic goats as test subjects in early nuclear testing,
  • And much more!

Many thanks to David Bressan for taking the time to host and put together an excellent history of science blog carnival!

The next edition will be hosted on October 16 at the Friends of Darwin blog.  Entries can be submitted to the carnival managers, myself (Dr. SkySkull) or ThonyC via email, or directly to the carnival host, by the 15th of October.

Looking for a host for Giant’s Shoulders #48!

June 4, 2012

Here we are, already well into June, and we don’t yet have a host for the 48th edition of the Giant’s Shoulders history of science blog carnival — the 4-year anniversary edition!  If you are interested in hosting this special edition, please let us know, either through email or comments, as soon as possible!

The Giant’s Shoulders #47 is up at The Medical Heritage Library!

May 23, 2012

A week delayed, but worth the wait:  the 47th edition of The Giant’s Shoulders history of science blog carnival is up at The Medical Heritage Library!  In this edition, you can read about:

  • the politics of Isaac Newton’s knighthood,
  • the gruesome history of eating corpses as medicine,
  • the story of  Lady Mary Montagu, who introduced smallpox innoculation to London,
  • the Great New York Starvation Challenge of 1881,
  • and much more!

A very hearty thanks to Hannah for assembling such a nice carnival!

Once again, we have run out of hosts for future editions of the carnival!  If you are willing to host a future edition (including and especially June), please let myself or ThonyC, the carnival organizers, know!  You can either send an email or leave a comment on this post.

The Giant’s Shoulders #46 is out!

April 23, 2012

Delayed a week due to technical issues, the long-awaited 46th edition of The Giant’s Shoulders history of science blog carnival is up at Providentia!  It’s a doozy, featuring things such as:

  • How Jewish leaders reacted to Darwin’s theory of evolution,
  • An astronomer who prepared years to record an event but fainted as it was happening,
  • A medieval cookbook that shares recipes on things as exotic as unicorns,
  • Emile du Chatelet, a brilliant female mathematician, and much more!

Thanks to Romeo Vitelli for hosting an excellent carnival!

The next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders will be hosted by The Medical Heritage Library and entries are due by May 15.  Entries can be submitted directly to the host blog or through blogcarnival.com, as usual.

Giant’s Shoulders #46 delayed until Monday!

April 18, 2012

Due to some technical glitches, the 46th edition of The Giant’s Shoulders, to be hosted by Romeo Vitelli at Providentia, will be posted on Monday the 23rd of April instead of its usual time on the 16th of the month.  Anyone with any other history of science posts for the month that they want to see appear in the carnival, now’s the time to submit them!

The Giant’s Shoulders #45 is out!

March 17, 2012

The Giant’s Shoulders #45, the history of science blog carnival, is up at my home blog Skulls in the Stars!

In this carnival, we encounter:

  • murderous doctors,
  • body snatchers,
  • unspeakable eye treatments,
  • and Newton’s apple tree among other things!

The next carnival will be hosted by Romeo Vitelli over at Providentia!  For the moment, entries can be submitted via blogcarnival.com or directly to the host blog.  We may migrate away from using blogcarnival in the near future, so check this site for updates!

The Giant’s Shoulders #43 is out — People, places & things!

January 17, 2012

The 43rd edition of the history of science blog carnival The Giant’s Shoulders is out today over at  The Dispersal of Darwin!  Go there to read about the people, places and things of the history of science, including:

  • Victorian poet scientists
  • Legends of “cursed” glaciers
  • A pictorial history of the mysterious wolverine (the animal, not the X-Man!)

Many thanks to Michael Barton for putting together an excellent and intriguing edition of the carnival!

We’re still desperately looking for future hosts of the carnival for the next few months!  I’m hoping, now that the holidays are behind us, that people will step forward to volunteer to host.  Please drop us a comment if you’re interested and/or send an email to one of the carnival managers.


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