Popular science

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An image from the March 1883 issue of Popular Science Monthly. The article from this issue is called "Queer Phases of Animal Life", and the image is captioned "Total depravity".

Popular science (or pop-science) is interpretation of science intended for a general audience. While science journalism focuses on recent scientific developments, popular science is more broad-ranging. It may be written by professional science journalists or by scientists themselves. It is presented in many forms, including books, film and television documentaries, magazine articles, and web pages.

Role

Popular science is a bridge between scientific literature as a professional medium of scientific research, and the realms of popular political and cultural discourse. The goal of the genre is often to capture the methods and accuracy of science, while making the language more accessible. Many science-related controversies are discussed in popular science books and publications, such as the long-running debates over biological determinism and the biological components of intelligence, stirred by popular books such as The Mismeasure of Man and The Bell Curve.[1]

The purpose of scientific literature is to inform and persuade peers as to the validity of observations and conclusions and the forensic efficacy of methods. Popular science attempts to inform and convince scientific outsiders (sometimes along with scientists in other fields) of the significance of data and conclusions and to celebrate the results. Statements in scientific literature are often qualified and tentative, emphasizing that new observations and results are consistent with and similar to established knowledge wherein qualified scientists are assumed to recognize the relevance. By contrast, popular science emphasizes uniqueness and generality, taking a tone of factual authority absent from the scientific literature. Comparisons between original scientific reports, derivative science journalism and popular science typically reveal at least some level of distortion and oversimplification which can often be quite dramatic, even with politically neutral scientific topics.[2]

Popular science literature can be written by non-scientists who may have a limited understanding of the subject they are interpreting and it can be difficult for non-experts to identify misleading popular science, which may also blur the boundaries between formal science and pseudoscience.

Common threads

Some usual features[by whom?] of popular science productions include:

  • Entertainment value or personal relevance to the audience
  • Emphasis on uniqueness and radicalness
  • Exploring ideas overlooked by specialists or falling outside of established disciplines
  • Generalized, simplified science concepts
  • Presented for an audience with little or no science background, hence explaining general concepts more thoroughly
  • Synthesis of new ideas that cross multiple fields and offer new applications in other academic specialties
  • Use of metaphors and analogies to explain difficult or abstract scientific concepts

Notable English-language popularizers of science

In alphabetical order by last name:

Some sources of popular science

Science media

Science in the headlines

News on-line

News agencies:

Press

Daily newspapers

Weeklies

Fortnightlies

Monthlies

Bimonthlies

See also

Notes and references

  1. Murdz William McRae, "Introduction: Science in Culture" in The Literature of Science, pp. 1–3, 10–11
  2. Jeanne Fahnestock, "Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical Life of Scientific Facts" in The Literature of Science, pp. 17–36
  3. Dawkins, Richard (2008). The Oxford book of modern science writing. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. p. 179. ISBN 0-19-921680-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Editorial (October 1987). "Peter Medawar (obituary)". New Scientist. 116 (1581): 16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Pharyngula". Scienceblogs.com. 2011-11-04. Retrieved 2011-11-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "The Loom". Blogs.discovermagazine.com. Retrieved 2011-11-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "ABC Science". Retrieved 2012-11-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "BBC Nature". Retrieved 2014-07-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "BBC Science". Retrieved 2014-07-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science". Retrieved 2012-11-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "CASW". Retrieved 2013-01-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Science & Technology". Retrieved 2013-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "60 Minutes: Health & Science". Retrieved 2013-12-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "60 Minutes: Nature". Retrieved 2013-12-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "This Morning: HealthWatch". Retrieved 2013-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Evening News: Health". Retrieved 2013-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Sunday Morning: Nature". Retrieved 2013-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Discovery Radio Programme". Retrieved 2012-11-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Discovery Podcasts". Retrieved 2012-11-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Inside Science". Retrieved 2013-07-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Inside Science (AIP)". Retrieved 2013-08-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "ITV Science News". Retrieved 2013-08-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Leading Edge". Retrieved 2014-01-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "The Life Scientific". Retrieved 2012-12-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "MITnews:science". Retrieved 2013-07-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Nature online"
  27. "NBC Science". Retrieved 2013-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "NBC Technology". Retrieved 2013-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "NBC Health". Retrieved 2013-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Behind the Headlines ¬ Your guide to the science that makes the news"
  31. "PBS Science & Nature". Retrieved 2013-01-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "PBS NewsHour: Science". Retrieved 2013-12-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "Nova: science in the news". Retrieved 2014-05-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "CBCnews Technology & Science". Retrieved 2013-01-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. "The Ri Channel". Retrieved 2012-11-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "Science Fantastic with Michio Kaku News/Audio/Video/About/Listen Live". Talk Radio Network. Retrieved 2013-09-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "NPR Science". Retrieved 2013-01-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. "The Science Hour". Retrieved 2013-08-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. "The Science Hour Podcasts". Retrieved 2013-08-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. "Online Science"
  41. "Science Niblets". Retrieved 2012-11-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  42. "Science & Technology News – Latest in scientific breakthroughs and gadgets – VOA News". Retrieved 2012-11-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. "Science World". Retrieved 2012-11-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  44. "WIRED Science". Retrieved 2013-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  45. "WIRED Science Blogs". Retrieved 2014-05-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  46. "WIRED UK Science". Retrieved 2012-07-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  47. "Latest News from Science"

Bibliography

  • McRae, Murdo William (editor). The Literature of Science: Perspectives on Popular Scientific Writing. The University of Georgia Press: Athens, 1993. ISBN 0-8203-1506-0