New Science Magazine

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It’s called Science Illustrated and should not be confused with a magazine that was published by McGraw-Hill from about 1946 to 1949 and sold for 25 cents an issue. The present incarnation of Science Illustrated is published by the Swedish Bonnier Group and is essentially a translation of a Scandinavian science magazine. Bonnier also publishes Popular Science in the United States, and the magazine is produced by the staff of Popular Science.

Bonnier publishes Science Illustrated in all the Scandinavian languages and in Dutch. In addition, they permit five licensed editions in Greek, Latvian, Lithuanian, Icelandic, and now, with the US edition, English. Science Illustrated is the best-selling magazine in Scandinavia. The US edition is entirely or almost entirely a translation of the Danish edition. The content, however, is substantially less, because the US edition will begin with 6 issues per year, as opposed to 18 in Scandinavia and 12 in the other European countries.

I finally got hold of the first two issues, January-February and March-April, as well as the December issue of the Danish edition. The magazine is big, colorful, and well-illustrated. It has a long section of short subjects, including “Science Update” and “Ask Us,” which may consist of questions submitted by readers. The March-April issue has a number of longish articles concerning the possible extinction of penguins, the danger to artificial satellites of all the orbiting junk, the redating of the eruption of the volcano Thera, teaching orangutans to live in the wild, high-tech piracy, advances in fluorescence microscopy of biological specimens, and more. The level of the text is about that of Discover, but (although I made no direct comparison), I had the impression that Science Illustrated has more illustrations and photographs. In the sections of short subjects, however, some of the pages are very busy and might drive some readers to distraction. In addition, sometimes, when they print white letters on a black background, the ink bleeds into the letters, and the text is hard to read.

An editor in Copenhagen asked me to supply a photograph for an article on intelligent-design creationism. That article appeared in the December issue of the Scandinavian editions. Much of that issue is reproduced in the March-April issue of the US edition, but the article on intelligent-design creationism is not to be found. Evidently, they are waiting to see “the reaction” to the US edition. I could not find any future tables of contents (or anything much else about the magazine) on the Bonnier Group’s website, but I frankly hope that they do not chicken out and purge that article from the US edition.

16 Comments

I have a subscription to this magazine and am enjoying it so far. It’s bubblegum but nicely done so perfect for average folks. I’ve brought the issues into my office lobby for the children to read, setting it right next to the Bible some asshole left there. If I were a bored kid I know which one *I* would want to look at! :)

In Denmark, this has been *the* popular science magazine for some 30 years now. I wouldn’t be surprised if 95% of the local younger science community has read it as kids. Very influential, if somewhat superficial in substance.

Too light reading for me, I’m afraid. I’m glad they if they are fairly short on woo though.

A copious amount of graphics may be a spill over from the source scandinavian culture. Paper is, AFAIU, relatively cheap, on account of the fir and pine climate zone. Combined with that the paper quality you get out of such a source seems to be high. This I understand is the original reason our magazines tend to have glossy and colorful pages.

should not be confused with a magazine that … sold for 25 cents an issue

I don’t think many people will make that mistake.

Wamba caught the inaugural issue of Science Illustrated. Wamba thinks it is slick but shallow. Wamba is also concerned that features like “Ask Us” treat science as a big pile of facts, rather than as a method for uncovering truth about the natural world. Wamba also regrets that the quality of Discover magazine is heading downhill since the recent change of ownership.

Wamba tires of referring to himself in the third person, and will give up this practice in the near future.

Matt agrees that no one will mistake it for a magazine that cost 25 cents a copy. He forgot to say, but the cover price is $4.99, and he thinks that subscriptions are $20 (or $19.97 or whatever). Matt thinks that Science Illustrated is slick but not especially shallow and disagrees that Discover has deteriorated. Science is indeed a method, but it also includes a lot of interesting facts, and Matt thinks that the magazine presents interesting facts well and in context. It is also taught by him to his students that the third person and the dreaded passive voice are to be avoided, and he tires of them too.

MPW’s mind is boggled that a science magazine, even a slick, USA Today-style one, is the bestselling magazine in any country. MPW experiences for the thousandth time a mild embarassment at being American. He will keep an eye out for further information about this magazine, as he has been wondering for a while which fairly digestible popular science magazine he should subscribe to. He would welcome fellow PTers’ recommendations (and already subscribes to National Geographic, FYI).

Here is my review of it that came out in January: http://snailstales.blogspot.com/200[…]science.html

Dutchy’s not going to refer to himself in the third person because he despises it.…as of.….now. Speaking as a New Scientist subscriber and science amateur, I reckon it’s great.

While some people who do science for a living may feel the subject matter and treatment is a bit shallow or superficial, I think that’s a small and necessary sacrifice to spark people’s interest in the sciences these days. They don’t want heavy going details, or they just won’t even bother reading it.

The more young heads science can get into, the less adults in the future we’ll have trying to tell us that evolution is impossible because a 747 can’t assemble itself, or you can’t turn a frog into a human (well, unless they get kissed by a princess that is).

MPW said:

[H]e has been wondering for a while which fairly digestible popular science magazine he should subscribe to. He would welcome fellow PTers’ recommendations (and already subscribes to National Geographic, FYI).

What’s wrong with Scientific American? A digital subscription is cheap, you can usually download the latest edition before it hits the shops, and you receive free access to their archive of every issue going back to 1993.

There is a guy named Torbjörn who seldom refers to himself in third person … but is said to use fourth person now and then. (As there is no such grammatical iterative beast, we have to conclude that the poor dude may suffer from multipersonality syndrome. Or simpler, he may be blogging with handles.)

I’m going with wamba here. Sure, a pile-of-facts magazine will entice the public and draw some into research and science. However, if it never describes the research itself in more in-depth articles, it is going to be a chock for the individual and a problem for education.

As an example, I didn’t “get” formal methods until studying math at the university, and it was a rude awakening. The effort to catch up had a serious side effect too - it took considerable time before I “got” that formal methods aren’t the ideal way of doing science either.

The organism that posts under the name “Mike from Ottawa” types “thanks” to the organism, if organism it be, that posts under the name “Matt Young” for bringing this new magazine to this organism’s ‘attention’.

There is a guy named Torbjörn who seldom refers to himself in third person … but is said to use fourth person now and then. (As there is no such grammatical iterative beast . .

In Cree and Ojibway there is a fourth person. It is used in sentences like ‘Tom gave the man a ride to his house’ to identify whether the house belongs to Tom or the man. Just an item of trivia I’ve picked up.

In Cree and Ojibway there is a fourth person. It is used in sentences like ‘Tom gave the man a ride to his house’ to identify whether the house belongs to Tom or the man. Just an item of trivia I’ve picked up.

An intelligently designed language? ;)

Henry

Richard Simons:

There is a guy named Torbjörn who seldom refers to himself in third person … but is said to use fourth person now and then. (As there is no such grammatical iterative beast . .

In Cree and Ojibway there is a fourth person. It is used in sentences like ‘Tom gave the man a ride to his house’ to identify whether the house belongs to Tom or the man. Just an item of trivia I’ve picked up.

What the heck…? In Czech, we don’t call it a fourth person, but we DO have a construction that allows to differentiate between these cases. If house belongs to Tom, we would say (in rough translation) “Tom gave the man a ride to self’s house.”

As a teacher in a locale of profound scientific ignorance, I applaud even a “shallow” magazine if it can help counter the impression that many of my students have that evolution, modern cosmology, etc. are just “weird stuff” believed by a small bunch of satanic scientists.

One of the first facts that I try to get them to face (and that many can never accept) is that in the industrialized world, creationism is a very minority view, and that a significant percentage of Americans holding such beliefs makes us a laughingstock among Europeans, for instance. Anything that may help the notion sink in that theirs is the weird little insular cult subculture that the rest of the world ignores, can only help.

I read Scientific American, but I wouldn’t recommend the main articles in it for even the above-average highschooler with a casual interest in science.

In Cree and Ojibway there is a fourth person.

Just goes to show that languages are accidents of evolution. :-P

But thanks for the correction.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on March 1, 2008 9:40 PM.

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