I won the 3 Quarks Daily Science Prize. ‘Top quark’. Heh.

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I woke up this morning to various emails and tweets saying that I’ve just won the 3 Quarks Daily Science Prize for 2010. Monday mornings don’t usually start this promisingly!

For those who haven’t been following, this is the second of what will hopefully be a long-running competition, focusing on science writing on blogs. The winning entry was this post on the gut bacteria of Japanese people, which have borrowed sushi-digesting genes from their oceanic relatives.

It goes without saying that I’ve very grateful to all the readers who nominated posts and voted for them and to the editors of 3 Quarks Daily for organising the competition.

I’m feel very proud of this, especially because this year’s finalists included some of the finest science writers in the market and because it was judged by none other than Richard Dawkins. The latter is important, for The Selfish Gene was hugely influential to me, showing not only how incredible evolution is but how inspirational a piece of good science writing can be. Without it, I would probably be doing something else.

I also wanted to say something about writing competitions, from the perspective of someone who’s currently judging the ABSW ones, and has judged OpenLab entries in the past. These competitions, by their nature, are incredibly and necessarily subjective. There’s no SI unit for writing quality and no standard template for what the ideal, Platonic piece would look like. It’s relatively easy to sort pieces into rough categories of merit but when it comes to discerning between the top entrants at a finer level, personal opinion factors heavily into it. Which is a really roundabout way of saying that getting into the top stratum is a massive honour and I wholeheartedly congratulate all the semi-finalists and finalists for their tremendous work.

And finally, it’s worth mentioning again (given recent accusations that bloggers have the luxury of time – ha!) that most of us write our blogs in our spare moments, often getting nothing in return save a sense of satisfaction and the odd comment or so. These efforts are worth recognising and I thank the editors of 3 Quarks Daily for doing so.