Friday, April 01, 2005

Scientific American

Back to New England, and three-and-a-half months of accumulated mail and magazines. Paper magazines. Real magazines I can hold in my hands.

Of course, I have been reading Science and Nature every week on the web, but with the dial-up line I had in Exuma, it wasn't easy. Now I get to browse to my heart's content, picking up stories I missed.

And there's Scientific American, a magazine I have subscribed to since November 1959. I was a graduate student in physics at the time and my new spouse gave me a subscription to the magazine for my birthday.

During the intervening years, geology was revolutionized by the theory of plate tectonics, the big bang theory for the origin of the universe was substantially verified, spectacular progress was made in understanding the molecular basis of life, computers permeated every aspect of science and society, humans left footprints (and tire tracks) on the moon and sent probes to the outer reaches of the solar system, the human genome was sequenced -- to mention just a few things that transpired in science. Throughout it all, Scientific American kept me (and thousands like me, both scientists and nonscientists) authoritatively informed.

The authoritativeness of Scientific American stems from the fact that the articles are written by the experts who did the work. Scientific specialists are not usually noted for the lucidity of their prose, so credit most go to the editors who skillfully insure that the words that reach the pages are in plain English. Secondly, the magazine's graphics are simply the best there are.

The contribution of this fine magazine to science education is seldom acknowledged. I am one reader and educator who would like to say "Thanks."