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Popular science


Popular science

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 1
  • Common threads 2
  • Notable English-language popularizers of science 3
  • Some sources of popular science 4
  • Science media 5
  • News on-line 6
  • Press 7
  • Related 8
  • See also 9
  • Notes and references 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • External links 12


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 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

  • ABC Science – website owned by Australian Broadcasting Corporation[7]
  • Are We Alone?Seth Shostak science radio program
  • Ask A Biologist – audio podcast program and website
  • The Best American Science and Nature Writing – book series
  • The Best American Science Writing – book series
  • The Best Science Writing Online 2012 – Scientific American showcasing more than fifty online essays [8]
  • BBC Focus – magazine
  • BBC Horizon – TV series
  • BBC Science & Nature – latest news in nature[9] and science[10]
  • BBC Sky at Night – a monthly magazine about astronomy aimed at amateur astronomers
  • BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science – website of Arizona State University[11]
  • British Science Association – providing all ages learning about the sciences; advancing public understanding; thought-provoking its many implications
  • CASW: Council for the Advancement of Science Writing – increasing public understanding of science[12]
  • CBS News – Science[13] 60 Minutes: Health/Science[14] Nature[15] This Morning: HealthWatch[16] Evening News: Health[17] Sunday Morning: Nature[18]
  • Cosmos Magazine – Australian magazine
  • Cosmos: A Personal Voyage – 1980 television series by Carl Sagan, with its companion book
  • Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey – 2014 television hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson based on the 1980 Carl Sagan series
  • Daily Planet – Canadian television series
  • Discover – magazine
  • DiscoveryBBC World Service radio programme[19] and podcasts[20]
  • Discovery Channel – cable/satellite television channel
  • Edge – online magazine exploring scientific and intellectual ideas
  • Exploratorium – museum in San Francisco
  • Frontiers of Science – comic strip
  • Guru Magazine – digital 'science-lifestyle' magazine
  • HowStuffWorks – website
  • Inside Science – BBC Radio 4 news stories keeping the audience abreast of important breakthroughs in science[21]
  • Inside Science (AIP) – syndicating research news and related topics for general audiences through the press, the TV, and the web[22]
  • Institute of Making – materials science and technology from many different perspectives
  • ITV Science News – videos, stories, and the latest live updates[23]
  • Leading Edge – BBC Radio 4 series explores the world of science, people, passions & policies; final edition celebrating Darwin's 150th anniversary[24]
  • The Life Scientific – Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work (BBC Radio 4)[25]
  • Little Atoms – weekly chat show on Resonance104.4FM in London; also podcasts
  • LiveScience – syndicating major news outlets with an online news-magazine format
  • Material World (radio programme) – weekly science magazine on BBC Radio 4
  • MITnews:science – Massachusetts Institute of Technology's recent news, featured stories, and videos[26]
  • MIT Technology Review – a magazine with authoritative journalism in clear simple language
  • Mr Science Show – radio show and podcast from China Radio International
  • MythBusters – American TV series that seeks to confirm or debunk science-related stories, urban legends, viral videos, etc.
  • The Naked Scientists – audience-interactive radio talk show
  • NASA – news, images, videos, TV, and interactive features from the unique perspective of America's space agency
  • National Geographic Society – one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world
  • Natural History – magazine of the American Museum of Natural History
  • Natural History Museum (London) – "Nature online – explore the natural world"[27]
  • NBC News – Science[28] Technology[29] Health[30]
  • New Scientist – magazine
  • NHS choices – UK health "Behind the Headlines ¬ Your guide to the science that makes the news"[31]
  • Nova – television show on PBS; PBS Science & Nature[32] PBS NewsHour: Science[33] and the Nova ScienceNow TV spinoff
  • Nova: science in the news – Australian Academy of Science making accessible, and looking behind the headlines[34]
  • The Periodic Table of Videos – a series of YouTube videos featuring chemistry professor Martyn Poliakoff
  • PLOS: Public Library of Science – available to every scientist, physician, educator and citizens at home, in school, or in a library
  • Plus – popular maths online magazine featuring the beauty and the practical; diverse topics such as art, medicine, cosmology, sport, puzzles & games
  • Popular Science – magazine
  • Popular Science (UK) – website on books and authors[35]
  • Pop Science Books – website listing new popular science books[36]
  • Popular Science Historic Film Series – short films
  • Quirks & Quarks – Canadian radio show and podcast on CBC Radio; CBCnews Technology & Science[37]
  • Radiolab – listen, read, watch; imaginative use of radio and podcast making science accessible to broad audiences
  • The Ri Channel – the Royal Institution, showcasing science videos from around the web[38]
  • Science – journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • ScienceBlogs – some of the best-known independent science bloggers within ten subject channels
  • Science FantasticMichio Kaku radio program[39]
  • Science Friday – American radio show on NPR; NPR Science[40]
  • The Science HourBBC World Service radio programme weekly digest of Discovery, Click, Health Check and Science in Action[41] and podcasts[42]
  • Science Illustrated – popular magazine with editions in other languages
  • Science in Action (radio programme) – long-running weekly broadcast on BBC World Service
  • Science Museum (London) – "Online Science"[43]
  • Science News – magazine
  • Science Niblets – online magazine[44]
  • Science World (magazine) – especially educating children and covering many aspects
  • Scientific American – magazine
  • Seed – magazine
  • Smithsonian – magazine published by the Smithsonian Institution
  • Technologist – magazine and website published by the EuroTech Universities Alliance
  • This Week in Science – American radio show and podcast
  • Morgan Freeman
  • VOA News – Voice of America's latest news in science and technology[45] and VOA's Science World[46]
  • WIRED – WIRED Science[47] WIRED Science article list[48] WIRED Science Blogs[49] WIRED UK Science[50]
  • ZSL: Institute of Zoology (London) – "Latest News from Science"[51]

Science media

Science in the headlines

  • Science Media Centre (UK)
  • Science Media Center (USA)
  • SMC Global Network
  • Inside Science (AIP)
  • LiveScience
  • Science360 (NSF)
  • ScienceDaily
  • Science (AAAS)
  • ScienceNews (SSP)
  • Smithsonian Science

Science gateways

  • WorldWideScience

News on-line

  • ABC (aus)
  • ABC (usa)
  • BBC
  • CBC
  • CBS
  • ITV
  • NBC
  • NPR
  • PBS
  • VOA
  • The Daily Beast
  • Huffington Post
  • International Business Times
  • Newser
  • Salon
  • Slate
  • Spiked
  • US News & World Report

News agencies:

  • Associated Press
  • EurekAlert! (AAAS)
  • Reuters


  • Remember Newspaper Science Sections? They’re Almost All Gone Christopher Zara, International Business Times

Daily newspapers

  • The Australian
  • Chicago Tribune
  • The Globe and Mail
  • The Guardian
  • The Independent
  • Los Angeles Times
  • The New York Times
  • The New Zealand Herald
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • The Sydney Morning Herald
  • The Telegraph
  • The Times
  • The Times of India
  • USA Today
  • The Washington Post


  • The Economist
  • Maclean's
  • The Nation
  • New Statesman
  • Newsweek
  • The New Yorker
  • The Spectator
  • Time
  • The Week


  • Frontline
  • National Review
  • New Republic


  • The Atlantic
  • Prospect
  • Vanity Fair


  • Harvard Magazine
  • Mother Jones


  • CitizenSci – projects, people, and perspectives fueling new frontiers for citizen science[52]
  • Citizen science
  • Citizen science – external link projects

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.  
  4. ^ Editorial (October 1987). "Peter Medawar (obituary)". New Scientist 116 (1581): 16. 
  5. ^ "Pharyngula". 2011-11-04. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  6. ^ "The Loom". Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  7. ^ "ABC Science". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  8. ^ "Best Science Writing Online 2012". Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  9. ^ "BBC Nature". Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  10. ^ "BBC Science". Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  11. ^ "BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  12. ^ "CASW". Retrieved 2013-01-04. 
  13. ^ "Science & Technology". Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  14. ^ "60 Minutes: Health & Science". Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  15. ^ "60 Minutes: Nature". Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  16. ^ "This Morning: HealthWatch". Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  17. ^ "Evening News: Health". Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  18. ^ "Sunday Morning: Nature". Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  19. ^ "Discovery Radio Programme". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  20. ^ "Discovery Podcasts". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  21. ^ "Inside Science". Retrieved 2013-07-18. 
  22. ^ "Inside Science (AIP)". Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  23. ^ "ITV Science News". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  24. ^ "Leading Edge". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  25. ^ "The Life Scientific". Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  26. ^ "MITnews:science". Retrieved 2013-07-07. 
  27. ^ "Nature online"
  28. ^ "NBC Science". Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  29. ^ "NBC Technology". Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  30. ^ "NBC Health". Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  31. ^ "Behind the Headlines ¬ Your guide to the science that makes the news"
  32. ^ "PBS Science & Nature". Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  33. ^ "PBS NewsHour: Science". Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  34. ^ "Nova: science in the news". Retrieved 2014-05-10. 
  35. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  36. ^ "Pop Science Books". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  37. ^ "CBCnews Technology & Science". Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  38. ^ "The Ri Channel". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  39. ^ "Science Fantastic with Michio Kaku News/Audio/Video/About/Listen Live". Talk Radio Network. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  40. ^ "NPR Science". Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  41. ^ "The Science Hour". Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  42. ^ "The Science Hour Podcasts". Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  43. ^ "Online Science"
  44. ^ "Science Niblets". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  45. ^ "Science & Technology News – Latest in scientific breakthroughs and gadgets – VOA News". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  46. ^ "Science World". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  47. ^ "WIRED Science". Retrieved 2013-07-17. 
  48. ^ "WIRED Science article list". Retrieved 2013-07-17. 
  49. ^ "WIRED Science Blogs". Retrieved 2014-05-10. 
  50. ^ "WIRED UK Science". Retrieved 2012-07-08. 
  51. ^ "Latest News from Science"
  52. ^ "CitizenSci". Retrieved 2013-03-01. 


  • 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

External links

  • The dictionary definition of popular science at Wiktionary

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