Monthly Archives: May 2019

Why I’m giving away my carbon-tax rebate

Image: Smokestacks © Dori via CC BY-SA 3.0

Canada has a new carbon tax – far too modest, but it’s a start.  Its implementation is an awkward mosaic across the country, but in my province of New Brunswick, it’s a federal tax* that’s coupled with a rebate (or “climate action incentive”, as it’s confusing called).

The rebate, appearing as a tax credit, on my 2018 income tax return.

Here’s (roughly) how this works: Continue reading


Love, and its complexity, in a butterfly’s name

Images: The red admiral butterfly, Vanessa atalanta; © Kristian Peters, CC BY-SA 3.0. Portrait, “Vanessa”, 1868, by John Everett Millais, collection of Sudley House, Liverpool; public domain.

Last week I shipped off the final revision of my forthcoming book, The Strangest Tribute: How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels.*  You know how you just finish a piece of writing, and immediately stumble across something you wish you’d put in?  Well, the very next day, I happened to be skimming an old set of short book reviews, looking for – well, I’m not going to tell you what, because I’m keeping the idea for my next book under wraps for now.  But serendipity struck, as it does; my eye slid by, then arrested on, a one-paragraph review of Maitland Emmet’s book The Scientific Names of the British Lepidoptera: Their History and Meaning (1991).**  And from that one paragraph I learned how the butterfly genus Vanessa got its name.  It’s a fascinating story – and it explains not just the butterfly Vanessa, but every other Vanessa in the world. Continue reading

Reclaiming voice in scientific writing

Image: Western meadowlark singing, © Jim Kennedy via, CC BY 2.0

I’ve argued recently that our scientific literature is tedious to read in part because it lacks voice – those hints of individuality in vocabulary, style, and structure that show personality and mark one writer’s work as distinct from another’s.  I’ve also thought a bit about where our voicelessness comes from  Today, the obvious next question in the series: if we wanted to see scientific writing with more voice*, how could we make that happen? Continue reading

Of course you can do significance testing on simulation data!

Warning: wonkish. Also long (but there’s a handy jump).

Over the course of a career, you become accustomed to reviewers raising strange objections to your work.  As sample size builds, though, a few strange objections come up repeatedly – and that’s interesting.  Today: the bizarre notion that one shouldn’t do significance testing with simulation data. Continue reading

All the best searches find squirrels

Image: European red squirrel, © Yvonne Findlay, used by permission.

Inspired by similar exercises from Small Pond Science and The Lab and Field, I present once more a few of the more interesting search terms by which Scientist Sees Squirrel has been found.  These are all real, I swear!



“Yeah?  Well, I’m rubber, and you’re glue, bounces off me and sticks to you”.  Oh, wait – actually, that’s just the Latin name for a genus of thrushes, including that most unfortunately named of all birds, Turdus ignobilis debilisThe 12-year-old inside me is somehow disappointed (although he can console himself with this post about donkey farts). Continue reading