Do New Scientist’s Headlines Make Sense?

When I was in school, I was asked to participate in a debate: “Science: A Cure Or A Disease?”. Yes, my school sucked.

Since then, I’ve been observing how the discipline of science remains largely misunderstood or not understood at all.

New Scientist has just published “13 more things that don’t make sense”, a sequel to their highly popular “13 things that don’t make sense” article in 2005. Both the articles give you a brief glimpse of phenomena that science has yet to understand and are an interesting read for knowing more about cutting-edge experiments and yet-to-be-formulated theories.

If you observe the domain of the “13 things”, they deal with

  • Issues of time, space, mind and body
  • The world beyond human sensory perception either on a micro or macro scale
  • Time spans vastly beyond that of human life

Is this surprising in the least? If you contrast how long science has been in existence compared to the universe, life on earth, and the beginning of homo sapiens, to say that nature has an unfair advantage would be a huge understatement.

On the one hand, I am happy that articles like these catch popular attention. They serve to generate interest in science among the general populace. Carl Sagan is best known for his misquoted phrase “billions and billions”, though he never uttered it in the entire Cosmos series. Catchphrases work and are sometimes justified.

On the other hand, I dislike the lame attempt at sensationalization. How many times have you heard or read “unexplained”, “mysteries”, “unanswered” in the context of science? There are no mysteries in science, only in nature.

New Scientist’s 2005 article remains the most forwarded article in the site’s history. The article’s popularity led to a popular book of the same name. If this were a non-profit organization popularizing science, I wouldn’t have written this post. In Jan 2009, it ran a cover with the title “Darwin was wrong”.

The magazine has been criticized by sci-fi writer Greg Evan:

The combination of a sensationalist bent and a lack of  basic knowledge by its writers…is rendering it unreliable often enough to constitute a real threat to the public understanding of science.

And did you notice the use of the number 13?

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  • Oh Dang! we had those Science: Curse or Boon debates too. I have never really raed the New Scientist. that and Wired fall into the same category…

    • Oh, I thought my school was the only one that indulged in such (mis)education!

  • PS: Whats with the random mixing of fonts dude??

    • Er, it is not random. Not a bug, but a feature, of the theme! 🙂

      What has happened in this post specifically, that all the typographical elements of the theme are exposed because of the length and the use of the bulleted list.

      I’m not entirely happy with this theme, and this is one of the things I would have liked to customize. But well, until something better comes along!