How to read the Internet every day: Science writer Megan Cartwright on the sites that converted her into a loyal reader.

What a Slate Science Writer Reads When She’s Not on PubMed

What a Slate Science Writer Reads When She’s Not on PubMed

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Aug. 5 2015 11:33 AM
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PubMed All Day, Captain Awkward All Night

Every website a Slate science writer visits more than 20 times a month.

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Illustration by Charlie Powell

What do you visit at least 20 times a month? In 20x, we ask Slatesters about their real “media diets”—the corners of the Internet that they return to every day, for better or worse.

My workday website diet is everything you’d expect from a toxicologist-slash-science writer: Over 400 visits last month to the research database PubMed. Daily dips into EurekAlert! for science press releases. Multiple trips to fact-check at MedlinePlus and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. And long stretches mining the pre-20th-century archives of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and the Lancet, figuring out how the Victorians treated bed-wetting (circumcision, hypnosis, and caustic substances up the urethra). But the moment I get home and open my laptop ...

Actually, I don’t open my laptop right away. I’m a big fan of unplugging, which means I’d be more likely to open The Goblin Emperor, or jog outside while listening to podcasts, or just sit on the porch with a cup of tea while watching squirrels destroy the mulberry bushes.

When I do open my laptop, I gravitate toward fun nerd stuff mixed with the non-science news I ignored all day.

Captain Awkward (30x/month): This nerd-slash-feminist advice column is one of the few tabs that I allow to automatically open when I launch my browser. The eponymous Captain Awkward answers questions on topics that touch on nerd and non-mainstream culture, from geek social fallacies to polyamorous parents.

Codex (60x/month): Another default tab loads with the neo-pro writer forum Codex, a benevolent dictatorship run by sci-fi writer Luc Reid. I write science fiction under my married name, Megan Chaudhuri, and Codex keeps me on top of industry gossip, networking, and writing tips.

The Mary Sue & io9 (20x/month): My tastes usually lag 10 years, but I like to know what’s going on with the staples of nerd culture: sci-fi, gaming, and comics. I used to be a pretty avid gamer (both PC and tabletop games), but when I started writing more seriously in my free time outside of grad school, I largely gave it up.

Webcomics (30x/month): I regularly visit The Order of the Stick, which started out spoofing Dungeons & Dragons but has become so much more; Hark! A Vagrant, which offers history-themed comics (including my favorite Anne of Cleves joke); and xkcd, which combines science jokes with fun visuals. I’ve also just started reading Beatrice the Biologist and the long-running Schlock Mercenary.

Podcasts (30x/month): When I’m cooking or doing chores, I love to stream podcasts from their websites using my laptop. (I have a morbid fear of using headphones while cooking—what if they catch on the pan handle?) My favorites include the sci-fi/fantasy writing podcast Writing Excuses, NPR’s Fresh Air, The Diane Rehm Show, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and Stuff Mom Never Told You. After hours spent typing and staring at a laptop screen, podcasts let my eyes relax and my brain recharge for another fascinating but intense day with PubMed.