I've decided - it's time for me to come out of my pseudonymous virtual closet.
Earlier this year I attended the ScienceOnline09 conference - a conference attended by over 200 science bloggers, educators, journalists, and researchers.
One of the sessions concerned online identity and posed the question "should individual bloggers keep their online identity anonymous or pseudonymous, or should they consider it as an extension of their professional life, writing under their true identity?" Of course, each individual is different and there can be many real and valid reasons for not broadcasting one's true identity. Many people write about controversial subjects (particularly those writing on the incompatibilities or intersections of science and religion). Others simply write on topics that may conflict with their professional positions or institutional missions.
After much thought, I've decided that I do not see any of these reasons as applying to me or my writings. After the conference, Andrew, the Southern Fried Scientist, wrote an excellent piece concerning his own identity, essentially making the same arguments and coming to the same conclusion that I do here. I'll start by quoting Andrew, as I could not have said it better (it's hard to say anything better than he can say it):
"Two sessions that got me thinking about the direction of my own blog were centered around transitions in your blog as your career progresses and whether or not to maintain anonymity (and how one goes about doing that). For me, I’m using this blog as a tool to create a track record of public outreach and education, and to voice my opinions on various marine, mycological, and mundane issues. Since I’m using it as a mechanism for career building, I see no reason to be anonymous (in this case that would actually be counter-productive)."
I see this blog in very much the same light (minus the ocean and fungi). I do not write about the details of my current scientific research (that is, as a government researcher I make sure that there are no conflicts of interest between this blog and my job). I rarely talk about religion or controversial subjects these days (I have a few much older posts that delve into the subject and aren't particularly controversial, but I now try to strictly avoid it).
In fact, I think the goals of this blog and of my writings have evolved to become a critical aspect of both my professional and personal life: namely the goal of bringing the grandeur of nature and science to the masses. Most of my writings are of the general science and biology variety (such as my Adaptations of the Week), often written with the laypublic in mind.
I initially took the handle "Irradiatus" during the beginning days of widespread internet use (mid-nineties) - and I've used it ever since. I don't even recall where it came from. When I started this blog (or a version thereof under a different name many years ago), it was nothing but a mental release - just a fun, inane, ranting, and completely unread by anyone exercise in self-expression. Thus, I stuck to my handle out of habit and ease.
But no more.
Thus, I now announce that my real name is Daniel D. Brown (my name is too common to not include my middle initial).
*Cue psychologist wife: "you sound like a narcissistic crazy person." I'm not. I just thought it was a funny announcement.
I am currently a post-doctoral researcher at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (studying brain development), and sometimes an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology at Elon University. I received my Ph.D. studying the genetics of heart development in the lab of Dr. Frank Conlon at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
I have updated my "About" page if you want more information. If you link or refer to me, I don't really care which name you use. I will still be posting under my handle (much as Andrew maintains his "Southern Fried Scientist" identity), but that's mainly because my real name is lame and common. Of course, most of my regular readers know my real name already, and most of you probably could care less who I really am anyway.
You can submit your own articles that either directly or indirectly deal with Evolution by using this handy form.
If you would also like to host, check out the CoE mothership site for hosting details.
As some of you might have noticed, this site has been pretty inactive as of late. Blame that on the combination of a full-time research post-doc and a college teaching gig on top of it.
Well, now the stack of final exams are graded and it's time once again for you to indulge your selective pressure pleasure in the next Carnival of Evolution. The current biweekly installment, CoE#7, is hosted by Peter Buckland over at Forms Most Beautiful (by far one of my favorite science blogs - partially because he has an amazingly witty way with words and partially because his blog is sprinkled with posts on Heavy Metal).
I was also derelict in posting a link to Carnival of Evolution #6, hosted by Christie Lynn over at Observations of a Nerd. If you haven't read her blog yet, you must check it out. She's both hilarious and talented, with keen insight on all things nerdy.
The next installment in two weeks will be hosted by me, Irradiatus, here at biochemicalsoul on January 1st. So get your brains and fingers writing about what you enjoy and let the joys and sorrows of another semester melt away. Submit your posts here.
Also, please consider hosting an upcoming edition. If you have already done so before, you can most certainly host again. Quite a few people have begun reading this Blog Carnival, and here's hoping that the exposure will only grow. Just email me at irradiatus [at] biochemicalsoul [dot] com if you'd like to host. We have had quite an impressive list of article contributors (see the side bar to the right), so perhaps it's time that you contributors hosted as well.
I’ve had several people recently ask me about the reason for the name of this website and domain.
Let me first state that, no, I do not believe in any form of incorporeal, spiritual, immortal, or otherwise supernatural “soul.” There are many reasons that I disbelieve in a soul, but you can find a sufficient, if simple and unsophisticated, explanation of my own reasoning in this previous post.
Before I explain exactly why I call this site “biochemicalsoul,” I’d like to quote one of my favorite lines concerning the soul. These words come from Lisa Simpson – yes, that’s the yellow, animated, fictitious Lisa Simpson of Matt Groening’s creation:
“Whether or not the soul is physically real…it’s the symbol of everything fine inside us.” - Lisa Simpson
I think that quote perfectly summarizes my own usage of the word soul in my blog title. Originally, I had a website at “mychemicalsoul.com.” It was read by about five people – that’s five people that read it once, not five regular visitors. In it, I basically had compiled everything that I have produced. All my writings and rantings (most hilariously stupid and awkward – everything you can still find here pre-2008, which isn’t a far cry from what I still have going on here), all my art – ranging from sketches from junior high, to clay sculptures and wood carvings, watercolor paintings, and digital artwork and animation, and my photography. After a short while I decided “mychemicalsoul” was exceedingly lame, so I came up with the moderately less lame “biochemicalsoul.”
In essence, it was everything from my head that could be put in digital interwebbed ((yes it is a word - look it up)), ((oh, you did look it up and couldn't find it? That's what you get for relying on the internets)) form. Being the science/biology dork that I am, I wanted something pithy that embodied the above Lisa Simpson version of the soul and my own understanding of consciousness – namely that from a reductionist perspective, everything about who we are breaks down to complex synaptic networks and, ultimately, biochemistry.
Yeah yeah, I know – really it can be reduced to lower levels ending in quantum physics. But I couldn’t call it “neurobiochemisynapticquantumsoul.com.”
So my thoughts, interests, art, photography, and everything else in this site is about as good of a public display of my “soul” that I can put forth.
Note: I'm still migrating my art and photography, but some of it is available on the "art" tab.