Jeremy Côté

Essays and Explanations

This year was a good one for me. I was able to write two posts a week on a consistent basis. The length of each piece varied, but I showed up, week after week. For that, I’m happy.

That being said, there are things I want to change in 2020.

For one thing, I became unsatisfied by the end of the year with the kinds of topics that I was covering. This might sound funny, since I’m the one who chooses what to cover on this blog! Nonetheless, the pressure of staying consistent made me rush at times to get a post out. I’m not saying that what I published was terrible. Rather, I think my goals for writing weren’t lining up with what I was actually putting out.

All this to say: 2020 will be a year in which I post less frequently.

I don’t want to fall way off my usual schedule, but I’m allowing myself to while I explore some topics behind the scenes. I want to write pieces that I’m happy with, that I’ve put my best effort into, and that I polished to a level that make the piece shine. For the last few years, my writing has been consistent, but I want 2020 to be the year I dig deeper and craft more meaningful posts.

I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like. But I have some ideas, and I want to share a few here.


I’ve long wanted to get back to doing longer explanations of some mathematical or physical idea. As a graduate student, I’ve been exposed to many different ideas, and I know that they could make good essays. The problem has been the usual one: time. If I have to rush to get two new pieces of writing out each week, I don’t have time to devote to learning new ideas and putting them together. It’s one thing to write consistently, but it’s another to take the time to get consistent input. I want to work on this in 2020, so I will let myself slow down in my output.

Explanations are the bread-and-butter of a physicist, and I want this to be reflected on the blog. I’ve been inspired by a bunch of blogs that I read to do my part in writing about science for wider audience. However, my goal is to still keep the complexity there. I don’t want to transition to handwaving explanations (see my webcomic for that!). To do this right though, I need the time to prepare good essays.

An aspect of essays in mathematics and physics that I don’t think gets the attention it deserves is the part about making diagrams and good pictures to carry around in the reader’s head. A good sketch can be the difference between understanding an idea and being completely lost. I think movement is also an interesting avenue to explore, so I will look at both of these in 2020 and focus on delivering essays that aren’t just written well, but also can be followed using the accompanying visuals.


The other aspect of my life that I’m adamant about sharing is my journey through academia. This will likely be a smaller part of the blog, but I think it’s important to highlight how physics isn’t just about the ideas. There are real people behind the work, and this makes things messy. Navigating academia is tricky, and we need to acknowledge that there are biases and privileges inherent in the system. I’m not even talking about racial and sexual biases (though of course those are present too), but also the simple fact that those who are new to academia and don’t have a family history are at a disadvantage because they don’t know how the system works.

I’m learning as I go, and I want to share this on the blog. In particular, I will have a piece about the graduate program I attended later in 2020, as well as likely a piece on applying for scholarships/funding. This is crucial information that students should be aware of and often aren’t. My hope is that I can make more students aware of this.

That’s the outlook for 2020. Expect less individual pieces, but I want to ramp up the quality. In particular, expect more depth to each post. I covered a variety of topics in 2019, but in this next year, the plan is to narrow back and write about topics in much more depth.

I thought that not showing up multiple times a week would make me not a “real” writer, but over the past years I’ve noticed that good writing isn’t just about the writing. I’ve worked on consistently writing, and I have the nailed. The other important aspects are editing, illustrating, and polishing. These will be emphasized in 2020, hopefully leading to bigger and better essays.

With that, thanks for reading, and see you soon.